Aztec Butte

Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Ut

Historical Significance, Amazing Views, and Short Scrambling

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 2 miles
Elevation Gain: 260 ft
Approximate Hiking Time: 1-2.5 hr
Features: Granaries
Nearest Town: Moab, Ut

Panoramic views of Island in the Sky treat the hikers who climbs to the top of Aztec Butte.  Scrambling is required to reach the top, but the views are amazing.  Not interested in scrambling?  You can still see the granaries without needing to climb to the top of Aztec Butte.

  • Trail Condition 75% 75%
  • Usage 75% 75%
  • Trail Head Easy to Find 100% 100%
  • Kid Friendly 35% 35%

Hike Highlights

1. Granaries

The first butte has 2 granaries that are very well preserved.  Plus it’s easier to climb than Aztec Butte!

2. Scrambling

If you like a more challenging hike this is your hike!  You’ll climb up slick rock with a small climb to the top of Aztec Butte.  Just be prepared for the crab walk/scoot down…

3. Landscape Views

Aztec Butte offers incredible panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.  It is especially pretty in the winter, but remember your ice cleats.

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Hike Overview

Trailhead Directions

Canyonlands Island in the Sky district is located north of Moab.  To get there, head north out of Moab on US191.  Turn left onto UT313 and follow the road until you reach the Canyonlands National Park entrance booths.

Once inside the park follow the Grand Viewpoint Road to the fork.  At the fork turn right onto Upheaval Dome Road.  The trailhead for Aztec Butte will be about 0.8 miles on the right.

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Hike Details

The trail drops from the parking lot to the main trail and then heads across an open area where you slowly gain elevation heading towards Aztec Butte.  It skirts a smaller butte that goes to 2 granaries which can be explored either on the way to or from Aztec Butte.  

About 0.5 miles from the trailhead the trail starts to climb the steep slickrock towards the top of Aztec Butte.  Follow the cairns to find the path to the top.  There are 2 paths of cairns which makes the trail a bit confusing, but follow the set that heads to the right as you’re facing the butte.  The trail that heads left would take you to another granary looking structure, but requires some really steep scrambling and you can see the structure from the trail anyways.  

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As you follow the trail up to the top of Aztec Butte there are a couple areas that require small scrambles (using hands and feet) to climb to the top.  They are about 3-6 vertical feet so not too bad overall, but they do require crab walking or scooting on the way down.  It is almost always easier climbing up then it is getting down! 

A trail runs around the top of Aztec Butte which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding Canyonlands landscape.  If you’re comfortable to make the scramble to the top of the butte the views are definitely a reward. 

Canyonlands Aztec Butte Views
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Once you’re done exploring the top of Aztec Butte climb back down to the main trail and head back to the smaller butte. 

Follow the signs that point towards the granaries at the top of the butte.  While a little step up is required to get to the top of the butte, it’s pretty easy compared to the climb to Aztec Butte. 

When you get to the top, follow the trail until you reach the informational sign about the granaries.  From the sign follow the path down from the top of the butte.  The path is located about 7 ft to the left as you face the sign and wasn’t very well marked.  From here a narrow path drops down to a ledge containing the 2 granaries. 

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They are in great condition, but should not be entered in order to protect them for future visitors. 

Finally, return down the same trail for 0.3 miles to the trailhead.

Why is this hike moderate?

The trail to Aztec Butte requires scrambling over a couple drop offs to reach the top of the Butte.  It is also necessary to follow cairns over the slickrock to get to the top. 

Heading to the granaries on the small butte is more of an easy hike when completed alone.

More to Choose From: Hike-Utah!

Check out this and more hikes in Canyonlands National Park.

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