New hiking trail along Hole in the Rock route
by Easton Bowring
A new portion of the historic Hole in the Rock Pioneer Trail is now open for hikers and sightseers. Sitting at the most northern part of the San Juan County portion of the trail, this 1.8 miles is all that is left of the natural path going through the cedars on Cedar Mesa.
The trailhead starts at the intersection of Hwy 95 and 275 (where the road to Natural Bridges National Monument leaves Hwy 95).
The trail consists of a total of 2.2 miles, including 1.8 miles of the pioneer trail and a .4-mile trail that connects the trail to Hwy 261. Hikers can start at either end.
An information kiosk is located at both ends of the pioneer trail.
It all started in 1879 when pioneers set out from Escalante, UT in hopes to find a faster route to what is now known as Bluff.
The route taken by the Mormon trailblazers is a historical landmark now known as the Hole in the Rock Trail.
Several portions of the trail have been preserved, including San Juan Hill and Salvation Knoll.
This portion of the trail sends hikers through the middle of the cedar forest and across Grand Gulch, with views of the Bears Ears in the background.
Old tree stumps and branches cut by the pioneers still line the pathway.
One famous part of the trail is a rock drop off and embankment that formed the path for hand carts and wagons to cross the head of Grand Gulch.
Lamont Crabtree, who has spent the last 30 years retracing and documenting the Hole in the Rock Trail, said, “It is intact. You can see the hard work of the pioneers. You are walking where they walked and it’s also beautiful cedar forest.”
This trail has been known to hikers and ATV riders since the early 1960’s, but was recently preserved with the help of Crabtree, the Hole in the Rock Foundation, San Juan County officials, ATV enthusiasts, and the Bureau of Land Management.
Crabtree states, “There is something special about that stretch. Out of everything out there, it has to be in the top few of my favorites.”