Trips & Trails: Beef Basin

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If you’re into the high desert and historic Native American ruins, the 94 easy miles of Beef Basin Road is just the trail for you.

Located southwest of Moab and northwest of Monticello, Beef Basin is circled by amazing places to explore in their own right including; The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, Manti-La Sal National Forest, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Beef Basin Road is easily accessible, (aside from inclement weather and the winter months) but the best time to travel this road is summer through fall. If your plan is to explore the Native American ruins dotting the area, you’ll need at least three days and be prepared to do a lot of hiking, climbing, and scrambling to access them. Fuel is not readily available and the drive to and from Beef Basin Road will easily take a third of your fuel supply. Bringing extra fuel, water, and being self-sufficient is key.


The southern Utah area was inhabited by the Ancestral Puebloan people – also known as the Anasazi in the 11th and 12th centuries and the structures that mark the landscape around Beef Basin were parts of larger cities that included; watchtowers, farmhouses, granaries, kivas, and in some cases massive cliff dwellings that housed groups of people. The Anasazi were hunter-gatherers and you can find evidence of arrow tips, clay pots, and other artifacts near their structures.

Photo:    Fun Treks

If you go:

Please understand that collecting or removing artifacts or defacing or vandalizing structures is prohibited. We shouldn’t have to tell you this, but every year we see more and more areas closed due to people not heeding these regulations.

The Beef Basin area is also rich with Biological Soil Crust, which is a living organism that aides in carbon and nitrogen fixation and soil stabilization. It is important to avoid walking on this crust as you will kill it and create more soil erosion in the process.

There are only two roads into or out of Beef Basin. The easiest is Beef Basin Road – also known as San Juan County Road (CR)104 or Forest Service Road (FS)093. This is the most accessible and can probably be completed with a stock 4×4.

The second, and admittedly more difficult route, is via the Elephant Hill 4WD Trail through the Needles in Canyonlands National Park which ascends out of Bobby’s Hole. This is a challenging but fun trail for 4×4 vehicles with high-clearance.


Time: 9+ hours

Distance: 94 miles

Fuel: Gas is available in Moab or Monticello. Even if you fill up there, it’s advisable to bring supplementary fuel along just in case.

Highest elevation: 8,225 feet

Water: Plan for one gallon of water per person per day. More if you visit during the summer months.

Permits: Permits are not required

Other considerations: It is advisable to check in with the National Forest Service to find out about road conditions. Check with Monticello Ranger District (435) 587-2041 for more information.

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Header image: Anthony Sicola

Photo by Brett Willhelm


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