I’ve been darned near obsessed with the Cedar Mesa area after my four-day backpacking trip through the Grand Gulch last spring. I had wanted to explore the gulch for years so I was thrilled to finally find a partner as enthused about the trip as me. A bartender at the Moab Brewery once warned me to never enter the Grand Gulch alone so I hadn’t. Apparently funny things happen down there – many of angry spirits I was warned.
Having spent Thanksgiving in Moab, I headed further south to do a little exploring in Road Canyon. Fallen Roof Ruin is one of the most beautifully photographed ruins in Cedar Mesa thanks to the large sandstone slabs that have fallen from the roof of the ruin creating a curiously patterned roof. The ruins in Road Canyon are fairly easy to access, which was perfect since I had little 14-week old Kangaroo dog with me and I didn’t want to push his developing joints much further than 3 or 4 miles.
Many other websites provide detailed directions to Fallen Roof Ruin so there is really no need to describe that here. All I can say is that I made it to the unmarked trailhead in a low-clearance Subaru Imprezza. There were a few sketchy sections, but nothing I felt my little RubyToo couldn’t handle.
It was the day after Thanksgiving and I didn’t see a soul on the dirt road leading to the trailhead, which I admit is a little disconcerting when you are a woman traveling alone into an unmarked canyon. My desert orienteering skills are getting better and better, but it is easy to get confused or disoriented in the maze-like canyons characteristic of southern Utah.
Driving through the Cedar Mesa area, all you can see is the flat, sage-brush and juniper filled mesa top so it is hard to believe that such a labyrinth of canyons exists below the mesa below and that these canyons hold one of the highest concentrations of archeological sites in the entire country. Even more surprising is the fact that this area has very little wilderness protection and these sacred cultural places are constantly at risk by oil and gas exploration as well as by off-road vehicle use and disrespectful visitors. Several citizen’s groups, such as the Friends of Cedar Mesa, are urging congress to provide more protection for the Cedar Mesa area.
The cairn marked trail quickly drops into Road Canyon and Fallen Roof Ruin comes up very quickly on your right (to the north). To be honest, I blew by the ruins at my first go because I was reading another hiker’s description and his estimates of time and distance were greatly overestimated.
I quickly passed a granary and knew I had gone too far since Fallen Roof Ruin was supposed to be the first ruin seen in the canyon. I continued down canyon anyway because the canyon was gorgeous and I was curious what the view would be like around the next corner and the next corner and the next. I scrambled up to a different set of ruins before backtracking and spotting Fallen Roof Ruin.
The sun was getting low when I first climbed up the ruins so the light was just starting to hit the bottom of the ruins making capturing a great photo difficult. I think the best time to photograph Fallen Roof Ruin would be anytime on a cloudy day or during mid-morning before the light reaches the ruin.
I was slightly disappointed to not find any potsherds or corn cobs at the site. Perhaps I wasn’t looking closely enough since my visit was rather brief. Roo was tied to a tree down below to make sure he didn’t disturb the site and he didn’t like that one bit!
The hike back to the car took a mere 30 minutes and I was then able to make it to Monument Valley for the sunset. I would definitely like to return to Road Canyon and hike the entirety of the canyon and also visit the Citadel although I have no idea where it is since people on the Internets are doing a nice job of keeping its location a secret which I think is great! From reading other hiker’s reports, Road Canyon is just filled with petroglyphs and ruins and its remoteness makes it even more exciting.