Aztec Butte, Island in the Sky: Aztec Butte Trailhead, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Aztec Butte - 1.4 miles
Island in the Sky: Aztec Butte Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||1.4 miles (add .25 miles roundtrip to reach the Granaries)|
|Start-End Elevation:||6,088' - 6,314' (max elevation on butte)|
|Elevation Change:||+226' net elevation gain (+272' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Aztec Butte - 1.4 Miles Round-Trip
The Aztec Butte Trailhead is located 7.3 miles from the Island in the Sky visitor center in Canyonlands National Park. This colorful sandstone butte rises prominently over expansive brush flats with exceptional views across the Island Mesa, adjacent buttes and Spring Canyon.
About 2000 years ago, ancestral Puebloans began to rely more on domesticated animals and agriculture for food. Successful cultural epicenters like that of Mesa Verde expanded throughout Utah, with settlements arriving in the Canyonlands area by 1200 AD.
Here they lived year-round in small villages and grew maize, beans and squash. They built sealed stone structures called granaries to protect and preserve their harvests. Excellent examples of this ingenuity can be found in the Aztec Butte vicinity:
The trail reaches the first butte and wraps to an anonymously marked spur (.3 miles : 6,103’) that leads to a pair of granaries. These granaries are arguably of greater interest than the structure at the end of the main trail, and an ideal choice for those with limited time or abilities.
Follow the spur on a short climb to the butte top, where it levels off on a west-facing rim. The trail apparently ends here, but hop down to the sandstone bench just below it, where you’ll find two well-preserved granaries tucked just below the rim (6,145').
The main trail continues to the base of the far butte (.42 miles : 6,120’), where you’ll begin a short but challenging climb up steep slickrock to the top (.62 miles : 6,305’). Portions of this climb require 3-4 points of contact, as will the descent.
Once on top, a .2 mile loop leads to a fairly simple stone structure that’s backed by rangy views across Trail Canyon.
- N38 23.608 W109 52.915 — 0.0 miles : Aztec Butte Trailhead
- N38 23.739 W109 52.667 — .3 miles : Spur trail up to granaries
- N38 23.816 W109 52.599 — .42 miles : Base of butte and steep slickrock climb
- N38 23.829 W109 52.494 — .6 miles : Reach butte top, begin loop
- N38 23.845 W109 52.427 — .72 miles : Stone structure
- N38 23.716 W109 52.797 — Granaries
- The short slickrock climb (.2 miles) to the top of Aztec Butte can be impassable when wet, or for those with limited abilities. The granaries located on the first butte are fairly easy to reach, and arguably of much greater interest.
- The granaries are best lit in the mid-late afternoon. Views from both buttes are exceptional just about any time of day.
Directions to Trailhead
The Aztec Butte Trailhead is located 7.3 miles from the Island in the Sky Visitor Center on Upheaval Dome Road.
Canyonlands National Park
2282 SW Resource Blvd
Moab, UT 84532
Island in the Sky District: 435.259.4712
Backcountry Reservation Office: 435.259.4351
Park Administration: 435.719.2100