Perhaps the second most popular entry into the Grand Gulch complex is via Bullet Canyon. Bullet Canyon is more rugged than Grand Gulch and has some scrambling sections. The route is 7.5 miles long, class 3, and there are many archeological sites, as well as good campsites and some water. The route isn’t recommended if there is snow or ice around in winter.
An ancient potsherd we found in Bullet Canyon. It is probably 1000 year old. It was upside down and looked like a stone until we picked it up. We put it back exactly where we found it.
This area can be reached from the east from Blanding and along Highway 95, from the west and Hite along Highway 95, or from the south via Highway 261 and Mexican Hat, or Highway 47 north from Bluff. Make sure to have a good roadmap before heading into this area. The closest town with gas is Blanding, about 40 miles away from the upper trailheads.
The Kane Gulch Ranger Station is located four miles south of the Highway 95/Highway 261 junction and is right near mile marker 29, and just about everyone stops here for information. It is also necessary to stop here for overnight permits for the high season.
From the Kane Gulch Ranger Station, drive south along Highway 261 to just south of mile marker 22. Turn west (right) and drive to the trailhead which is reached after 1.1 miles.
Hiking in Bullet Canyon during a rainstorm.
From the trailhead, locate the trail dropping over the rim to the south and into Bullet Canyon. It is a short and steep trail to the bottom. Follow the drainage down canyon. The walking is easy at first, and keep on eye out on the north rim for the Lookout Tower Ruin. This ruin is different from any found in Grand Gulch, and was likely to watch any people or invaders trying to access Bullet Canyon.
As you continue down canyon, it will slowly become steeper and more rugged. There is one section of slickrock and a bit of scrambling. One source says a rope is needed for packs here, but we did it with no problems, and so did out four and six year old hiking companions.
Not far below the slickrock is a long and steep boulder-strewn section of the canyon. Some routefinding is required, so be on the lookout for cairns marking the right route. After this seemingly long section, the canyon flattens out and becomes more gentle.
Around Jailhouse Spring, keep the map handy so you can visit Jailhouse and Perfect Kiva Ruins, which are about five miles from the trailhead. These are some of the best ruins in the Grand Gulch complex. I hate to admit it, but the first time we hiked up Bullet Canyon, we walked right by them since we didn’t have the map out. Make sure you don’t make the same mistake!
The Perfect Kiva ruin in Bullet Canyon.
Perfect Kiva is in a hidden alcove, so keep an eye out for it. Jailhouse Ruin is about 0.2 miles down canyon from Perfect Kiva, and instead of descending back into the canyon from Perfect Kiva, you can walk the slickrock bench around to Jail House Ruin.
Below the Jailhouse and Perfect Kiva Ruins, the canyon is mostly flat except for one short steep section. The confluence with Grand Gulch is about 2.5 miles below these ruins. Just below the confluence are some nice campsites. If you look around you will notice many high ruins around.
From the confluence, you have many choices. You can return the same way, or head up or down Grand Gulch. There are many possibilities. We went down Kane and eixited Bullet on a three day trip (22.8 miles), but there are many possibilities. See the main Bullet Canyon Page for more ideas.
This is the slickrock ledges section of the canyon.
A good pair of boots and plenty of water is required. Also have a good map. This is especially important if you are using Bullet Canyon as an exit route from Grand Gulch.