Bullet Canyon, Utah

I’d never heard of Bullet Canyon before 2021. When we started planning a trip to Utah from May 4-11, we had 2 days to fill at the beginning of the trip, with many options. We were looking to explore some Native American historical sights, and preferably ones that were off the beaten path. Shannon had heard about Bullet canyon years ago through conversations with the park rangers at Mesa Verde. Jailhouse ruin and perfect Kiva were exactly what we had in mind, so we decided to check it out. Man, were we glad we did!

Lots of hiking up and down rock faces.

We had read about the hike, and watched a few you tube videos. It looked incredible! It was also listed as “ strenuous” . It’s hard to have any context for what that means when you’re reading it before you can get there and see for yourself. It was steep in places, and we did some rock climbing with packs on. There was a place to cross the top of a tall rock face with a strait drop, and some tricky footing. And it was hot. Sweltering hot, and very dry ( as you’d expect in the desert). It mentions in several places that it’s “not for beginners”

The hike goes in and out of Bullet Wash

We had also read that we should bring water with us for the 6.5 mile hike in, and that there was a spring once you reached Jailhouse ruin. We each had 1 liter of water, having discovered at the trailhead that our back up extra liter had sprung a leak on the drive in. There was no water source at the trailhead to be able to refill, but we knew we’d at least be able to refill at the spring at Jailhouse. Also, on the hike in, in the first mile or so, we passed many rock holes that had water in them. Small pools of water in fact which was very encouraging. It’s just that we didn’t need any water yet when we saw them.

About halfway there, we met up with 2 other hikers coming back from Jailhouse and Perfect Kiva. They asked us how much water we had and asked if we’d also read that there’s a spring there. We told them yes, we’d expected to find a spring there. They shook their heads and said that there’s not a spring, but rather a small puddle. They said they hoped we’d be able to get enough water out of it for the hike back because it looked to them to be dwindling. We stopped and had a serious chat about whether or not to continue. We definitely did not have enough water to hike another 3 miles in, and 6.5 miles out the next day. Plus we had 2 dehydrated meals to prepare. We decided to carry on.

There are 3-4 campsites at the base of Jailhouse ruin

By the time we got to the campsites to unload all of our gear, we were completely out of water and were a little overheated. I sat down in the shade and Shannon went to try to find that puddle of water. When he re-appeared an hour later, with a full water bottle, I could have cried from relief. Until he said “well, it’s from a puddle. We’ll need to boil it. As I walked up to it a frog sort of slid into it, and it smells like rotten eggs” Um… excuse me? Turns out he wasn’t kidding. I’ll post a video he took of our only water source on instagram. We had our water filter, and iodine tablets, and the camp stove and a small can of propane. By this we were able to treat it all 3 ways. I am very happy to report that we survived, mostly un-scathed.

Once we were sufficiently re-hydrated, we left our campsite to go and find Jailhouse Ruin. The bits of broken pottery all around our campsite had gotten us excited. It took some time to figure out exactly where it was situated. It was actually right above our campsite on a rock face that we had to climb to access. We were instantly rewarded with an unbelievably amazing experience at jailhouse ruin

Jailhouse ruin is named so due to a small window that has sticks across it that look like bars on the windows of old jail houses.
Jailhouse ruin was also full of these small corncobs, and more broken pottery pieces

Once we’d had our fill of Jailhouse, we set out to find Perfect Kiva. Shannon had it marked on a GPS device and it still wasn’t easy to find. It was about 1/4-1/2 miles past Jailhouse ruin, and way up on a rock face, tucked back in a corner. It was equally as thrilling to see and explore.

Perfect Kiva has a wooden ladder that descends down into a hollowed out cellar

People have asked us if we took any of the pieces of pottery home. It was very tempting to pocket some of it because it’s fairly small and would be easy to do. There are laminated pamphlets around that do a good job of explaining all of the reasons why you should leave them there for others to enjoy. So we left them there.

The divets in the rock may have been from grinding corn.

Once we got back to our campsite, we’d finished all of the water in the water bottles again, and had to get more. Shannon ended up filling up the sleeves of his rain jacket and tying them off at the wrists to save the 1/2 mile trip to the puddle, which he’d already made 3 or 4 times. We spent the next couple of hours filtering, and boiling water into every available receptacle. By the time we went to sleep, we almost had enough for the hike out. We’d agreed to get an early start to try to beat the heat, and it was an excellent idea. The hike out, being earlier in the day, was much cooler. We managed to find the watchtower ruin we’d missed on the way in also.

Watchtower ruin

We had a great time on this hike, in spite of struggling to keep up our water supply. Being able to explore Native American historic sites and artifacts was an awesome adventure! We highly recommend this experience.

2 thoughts on “Bullet Canyon, Utah

  1. Pingback: Comb Ridge, Utah: Moab man, The Big Crane, and Double Stack Ruin. | Heads East, Tails West

  2. Pingback: Floating the Green River, Part 1 – Heads East, Tails West

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