Itinerary - Hole in the Rock Pioneer Trail, 4X4 Required


After the Mormon Pioneers settled Salt Lake City in Utah and began to spread out, their Prophet sent 200+ people on a “mission” to tame the wild country of Southeastern Utah. Traversing this treacherous land of rock canyons, formations, bluffs, and rivers had never been done before by wagon. At the end (or beginning) of today you will have a stop at Bluff Fort. This was the first settlement in this corner of the state. Some of the original foundations and buildings are still standing and usable today.

The new visitor center is amazing with short movies depicting the treacherous trek of the pioneers down the Hole In The Rock, an 1100 foot descent to the river, and then their impossible crossing of the Canyonlands to arrive at what is now Bluff, Utah or Bluff Fort. You will be amazed! A great shopping center for souvenirs and goodies, too.

From Bluff Fort you will travel west on Highway 163 about 7 miles. The best way is go to and enter San Juan Hill, Mexican Hat, Utah, or River House Ruin, Mexican Hat, Utah, then click on “Directions” and it will draw you a blue line directly from where you are. After you go through Comb Ridge and the big rock cut you will turn left at the bottom of the ravine and head south following the old wagon trail. This is where the moderate 4 wheel drive is needed as you travel along the creek bed. Before you get to the San Juan River the trail splits and you will want to follow it to the left up the small rocky switchback. You will need 4 wheel drive to climb over the rocky path, just go slow. San Juan Hill is across the cattle guard and then to your left. After San Juan Hill you will continue east along the river.

When you get to the river you will cross about 100 yards of pure slick rock terrain and you will not see any trail but just continue east along the river and just where it gets very narrow heading downhill you will see where the trail re-appears again below in the sand. The River House Ruin is about 1⁄4 mile from there.

After the River House Ruin, if you are on ATV’s or vehicles that you don’t care if they get scratched badly from the brush, you can continue east about 1⁄2 mile more until you come to a barbed wire fence where you can’t continue any farther. Park there and step over the fence and walk about 200 yards farther up along the river and you will see the amazing petroglyphs that stretch along the cliff face to your upper left for about 50 yards. Dinner in Bluff at the Dukes Bistro or Twin Rocks Café and Trading Post is always a treat at the end of your day. From here you will return to your lodging for the evening and sit around the campfire.