Self-Guided Hiking Tours

USA | Red Rocks: Bluff and Moab, Utah

This is the Canyonlands hike you've been dreaming about!

USA
  • Monument Valley, on the Arizona/Utah border, has beautiful rock formations like this one. This photo was taken during a hiking tour with Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures.
  • canyonlands self-guided
  • Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah. This photo was taken during a permitted hiking tour with Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures.
  • Arizona Tour
  • Arizona Tour
  • Hiking in Arizona with Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures.

Trip Highlights:

  • Enjoy moderately strenuous hiking through some of the most spectacular desert landscapes on the planet.
  • Snap photos of natural sandstone arches, whimsical rock formations, dinosaur tracks, and more.
  • Raft on the San Juan River with side trips to view ancient cliff dwellings and historic rock art dating back 2,000 years.
  • Savor the aroma of piñon, juniper and desert sage as you explore some of our favorite walks in the Canyonlands.

There is no place on earth like the desert canyonlands of southeast Utah. Petrified sand sculpted by the forces of weather and time provides the medium that gives life to whimsical rock formations, precipitous cliffs, natural stone arches, and serpentine canyons. People from all over the world travel to this unique landscape to witness the play of light on naturally formed rock sculptures with names like Delicate Arch, Gooney Bird Rock, the Three Gossips, and the Tower of Babel. Other locations evoke a sense of mystery as well, places with names like Poison Spider Mesa, Fiery Furnace, and Moonflower Canyon.

Our 8-day hotel based hiking tour in the canyonlands begins in the tiny desert outpost of Bluff, Utah. Tucked neatly against an 80-mile long monocline called Comb Ridge, Bluff is the perfect jumping off point for a unique corner of Utah that is rich in archaeological treasures. The Comb Ridge complex contains some of the best preserved cliff dwellings, rock art, and artifacts produced by the Ancient Puebloan people (the Anasazi) living 650 to 2000 years ago. One of the best places to view these ancient artifacts is along the banks of the San Juan River, a major tributary of the mighty Colorado River. Our trusted raft guides regale you with stories as you float down the San Juan, with side hikes to visit some of these ancient cliff dwellings, ruins, and rock art. We’ve also included two short half-day hikes to rarely visited ruins and rock art panels just outside of Bluff. Both hikes are unmarked, so basic route finding adds a sense of adventure.

The following day begins with a very special loop hike in Natural Bridges National Monument. Savor the smell of sun-warmed piñon, juniper, and sage as you walk to three of the most impressive natural bridges found anywhere in the US. After this amazing hike, continue your drive north to the outdoor adventure capital of Moab, and check in to a wonderful B&B located in a quiet neighborhood off the bustling main street.

Seated on the cottonwood-shaded banks of the Colorado River, Moab is a quintessential desert oasis, with bright sunshine, good restaurants, and a vibrant downtown shopping district. There are tons of outdoor activities and millions of things to see, including visits to Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, and the three distinct districts of the Maze, Needles, and Island in the Sky of Canyonlands National Park.

You spend two nights in Moab in a comfortable B&B. During the day, follow our maps and hike descriptions to some of the finest canyons, sandstone arches, and rock formations outside of town. You see famous buttes like Monitor and Merrimac, named for their resemblance to the first ironclad ships by the same name that fought during the American Civil War. You see the Fisher Towers, sandstone towers with a petrified stucco of caked red mud resembling Antoni Gaudi creations, as well as dinosaur tracks and pictographs and petroglyphs that grace the sandstone boulders and cliffs near town.

Your last two evenings are spent along the banks of the Colorado River in a very well-appointed ranch/spa resort 17 miles outside of Moab offering the true flavor of the American Southwest.

Trip Itinerary

Choose from our standard itinerary or customize the trek by adding or subtracting days. We are happy to offer harder or gentler hikes where possible.

Arrive with your own car, or touch down at the Grand Junction airport in Colorado and transfer to Bluff. The drive from Grand Junction to Bluff is about 3.5 hours. Check into your hotel. Do some sightseeing if time permits.

You may also want to stop along the way to visit an archaeological site known as Newspaper Rock. Boasting more than 650 petroglyphs inscribed by Puebloan people living 650 to 2000 years ago. Follow a slick rock loop trail, which offers a superb overview of Canyonlands National Park. Continue to the quiet village of Bluff and check into your hotel. This will add 30 minutes to your drive.

Distance: 2.5 miles.

Local raft guides treat you to a raft journey on the San Juan River to the border town of Mexican Hat. Pausing along calm sections of the river, you hike to ancient cliff dwellings and marvel at rock art leftover from ancient civilizations. Return to Bluff.

Embark on two short, but unique hikes today, Monarch Cave and the Procession Panel. Monarch Cave has some of the more interesting ruins found in the Comb Ridge complex, and the Procession Panel is rarely visited and among the few petroglyph panels known that offers distance perspective. These are both “trail-less” hikes, although you will find cairns on the slickrock and a well-worn path in the dirt.

Distance: 5 miles.

Enter the Natural Bridges National Monument. This hike is a rarity in the desert, in that it is a loop hike of moderate length, but with driving it takes the full day. The trail passes by and beneath three of canyon country’s most impressive natural bridges. You have company as far as the first sipapu, but will likely be alone for the rest of the walk. Continue with a drive to Moab, and your wonderful bed and breakfast where you stay for two nights.

Distance: 8 miles.

Start in a nearby canyon with vertical sandstone walls and a bubbling perennial stream. Follow the canyon to a natural sandstone arch with a placid pool below (depending on the time of year). A picnic lunch is an option, or there are two restaurants located between your proposed morning and afternoon hikes.

Distance: 4 miles.

Return toward Moab in the afternoon and follow the Colorado River to another famous trailhead. This trail is popular and fairly short, but you hike to a very special sandstone arch. The route is mostly slickrock with some good trail sections, Moki steps, and a small ladder and cables. Return to Moab.

Distance: 3 miles.

Our first proposal is perhaps a little longer than a half day, so bring a picnic or plan on a later lunch. You spend the morning on a subloop of the famous Monitor and Merrimac trail. Lots of slickrock hiking, significant fossil beds, and historic structures add spice to this trail. Spend the night at a well-appointed ranch spa resort.

Distance: 7.5 miles.

Spend the day hiking beneath sandstone towers plucked straight from outer space. The deep red color of the rock, combined with lumpy formations of caked petrified mud, look like something from a Mars movie set. A film museum at one of your optional lunch spots offers the full story. Pack a lunch and enjoy the overlook into Onion Creek and Castle Valley. Enjoy your time at the towers before returning to the ranch for an afternoon of relaxation.

Distance: 4.5 miles.

Red Rocks: Bluff and Moab, Utah | USA

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Travel and the Coronavirus for Ryder-Walker Guests

Ryder-Walker is monitoring the coronavirus outbreak and acknowledges that there is growing uncertainty about the safety of traveling right now. Currently, our guided and self-guided treks are on schedule to run. Should travel restrictions be implemented by local or global authorities we will post updates on this link.

For more information please visit the websites of the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.