Aztec Butte: Great Little Hike in Canyonlands

aztec butte canyonlands

Aztec Butte is a wonderful short hike in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park that requires scrambling up two different buttes providing incredible panoramic views of the landscape as well as some ancestral Puebloan ruins.

Getting There

Map of Aztec Butte trail

Aztec Butte is located in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands, which is about 45 minutes away from Moab and about 2 hours from the Needles District. From Island in the Sky Road, turn onto Upheaval Dome Road and the trailhead will be on your right.


Aztec Butte Trailhead

The trailhead has a small parking lot but it rarely fills because few people know about this hike. It’s one of the few hikes that go away from the main rim of the canyon. The full hike is a 1.2-mile out-and-back trail.

Lower Butte

Aztec Butte trail fork for the lower butte

The hike is flat and goes through some grasslands until you reach a fork in the road at 0.3 miles. Going left will lead to the lower butte.

Some light scrambling is required to get to the top of the butte. I had to use my hands for balance a few times. It’s really not much climbing at all.

slickrock on Aztec Butte trail

At the top of the butte, a trail leads to the northern edge.

Trail to edge of butte in Aztec Butte hike
Edge of lower butte on Aztec Butte hike

This butte provides some great views of the plateau, with the canyons behind.

If you go to this point, the hike is 0.5 miles one-way.


Informational sign about ancient pantry ruins on Aztec Butte hike

A sign discusses a small granary used by ancestral Puebloans probably about 1,000 years ago. Another scramble down the hillside leads to the granary.

Granary ruins on Aztec Butte hike in Canyonlands

Remember: do not touch or climb into any ruins.

Aztec Butte

Aztec Butte hike Canyonlands

Returning to the fork, it’s just a short walk to get to the larger butte, Aztec Butte.

This requires more strenuous scrambling to get to the top. It’s fun, but you definitely have to be able to exert yourself, using your hands and feet, to get to the top.

Once on top, you can walk across the flat butte to the other end. Along the way, you’ll pass more ruins, of which I neglected to take a photo.

From here, you can see the main road as well as the main portion of Canyonlands carved by the Colorado River.

View from Aztec Butte in Canyonlands

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The best part of the hike is the view of the canyon on the other end of Aztec Butte. I believe the canyon is called Trail Canyon. It’s located on the North side (the “backside”) of the Island in the Sky.

I didn’t research this hike at all before I went, so I was quite surprised to run into this canyon. I just loved it.

View of Trail Canyon from Aztec Butte Canyonlands

Because I didn’t research the hike, I missed out on the fact that if I would have climbed down the butte a little bit, I could have found some little caves on the backside. Oh well, next time!

View of lower butte from Aztec Butte
Looking down on Lower Butte from Aztec Butte

Going down the butte on the way back was just a little tricky to navigate. I hiked it alone while my buddy slept in that morning, and there was NO ONE at all nearby, so I was concerned I might sprain an ankle or something and get stranded out there. Luckily, everything turned out fine for me!

Is Aztec Butte Worth It?

Yes! This might be my favorite day hike in Island in the Sky District, though the White Rim Trail and Upheaval Dome are also great. As long as you can scramble, you’ll enjoy it as well.

Things to do Nearby

Canyonlands is also pretty close to Arches National Park and Moab. There are so many things you can see and do in the area that it can be difficult to know what to choose.

Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid crowds. We have a detailed itinerary for Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times.


ARCHES & CANYONLANDS TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about Arches National Park & Canyonlands National Park, check out our Arches Homepage and our Canyonlands Homepage

ARCHES: Don’t miss all that Arches has to offer including hiking to Delicate Arch, and visiting Devil’s Garden, Fiery Furnace, & the Windows

CANYONLANDS: Visit the different areas of Canyonlands with our easy guide including the Island in the Sky District, the Needles District, and Horseshoe Canyon. Check out some amazing viewpoints, as well as, Mesa Arch, ancient ruins, and Native American rock art

MOAB: Explore the adventurous Moab area including Corona Arch, Gemini Bridges, and Dead Horse Point State Park.  Consider taking a jeep ride, a horseback ride, rafting down the Colorado River, or taking a scenic drive and exploring Potash Road

WHERE TO EAT: Don’t miss the best places to eat in Moab, Arches, & Canyonlands

WHERE TO STAY: Learn all about where to stay when visiting Moab, Arches, & Canyonlands

WATCH: Enjoy videos of gorgeous Arches National Park & Canyonlands National Park while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Moab, Arches, & Canyonlands YouTube Playlist


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