Hike the Aztec Butte Trail and you can gain an impressive view near the top of the butte in Canyonlands National Park. Check out ancient Puebloan granaries and ponder what life was like in this incredible landscape thousands of years ago. Here's how to add it to your Canyonlands National Park bucket list.
Located in the Island of the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park, Aztec Butte Trail is easily accessible to all vehicles. Simply drive 6.5 miles south of the Visitor Center and turn right onto Upheaval Dome Road. Head approximately 0.8 miles down the road until you see the Aztec Butte Trail parking area on your right.
Although this trail is short, it ascends a rather steep slick rock slope (the butte proper) that can be a little difficult to navigate. Take a GPS with the trail uploaded to stay on track and look for cairns (piles of small rocks) to guide the way.
Here’s a look at additional practical trail information to help you plan your hike.
Round-trip distance: 1.7 miles
Elevation gain: 262 feet
Difficulty: Easy to moderate. Moderate if you have never hiked up steep slick rock before.
Estimated Time: 1.5 hours
Dogs allowed?: No
Pro Tip: Bring sturdy footwear. Select shoes or boots with a good tread to stick to the smooth sandstone.
First, make your way across the sandy trail over a bushy desert landscape. Can you smell the juniper trees and pinyon pines? You’ll see a faint cut-off trail on your left, save that short spur trail for the way back.
Continue onwards until you reach Aztec Butte, the trail cuts steeply up the slick rock. You may find you’ll need to use your hands in a few places, but take your time and you should be fine. From here, it’s a little difficult to navigate but continue east until you reach a small, faint trail in the rocks.
Cairns lead the way towards the top of the butte to circumnavigate the impressive rock formation. Here you’ll find two ancient Puebloan Granaries just to the northeast. This is where the ancient Puebloan people would store food and grain.
From here, you’ll feel like a bird on a perch. There’s plenty of gorgeous desert scenery to see along the way. Enjoy the stunning views of Trail Canyon out to the northwest.
Make your way back towards the car and take the spur trail off to your right to an unnamed butte to gain even more beautiful views. Again, the trail turns to slick rock, but once you get the hang of walking up steep sandstone, it is pretty fun to scramble around.
Aztec Butte is conveniently located near other awesome areas of interest in Island of the Sky. Here’s a look at what to check out nearby:
Now you’re ready to hike to the top of Aztec Butte and discover the unique and mystifying history of this area. The ancient Puebloans are a fascinating, highly-developed culture that dates back to 100 AD.