North Caineville Mesa Septentrional Route | Cainville

Hiking North Caineville Mesa Septentrional Route - Cainville Hiking North Caineville Mesa Septentrional Route

Cainville

Overview

RATING: Moderate Hike
MAPS: FACTORY BUTTE, UT

Sat

A slight chance of rain showers before noon, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 75. West southwest wind 5 to 13 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

75 | 53

Sun

Sunny, with a high near 79.

79 | 50

Mon

Sunny, with a high near 82.

82 | 51

Tue

Sunny, with a high near 87.

87 | 56

Wed

Sunny, with a high near 89.

89 | 59

View Full Weather Details
SEASON: Late Fall, Early Spring. Can be done in the winter if roads and route are dry/snow free.
GEAR: Standard Hiking Gear
WATER: None, bring all you need.

Sat

A slight chance of rain showers before noon, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 75. West southwest wind 5 to 13 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

75 | 53

Sun

Sunny, with a high near 79.

79 | 50

Mon

Sunny, with a high near 82.

82 | 51

Tue

Sunny, with a high near 87.

87 | 56

Wed

Sunny, with a high near 89.

89 | 59

View Full Weather Details
Arch in a boulder on the way up.

Arch in a boulder on the way up.

For whatever reason, I have always been fascinated with North and South Cainville Mesa's. The towering formations are both steeped in history and really iconic landmarks that can be seen from many areas around Capitol Reef and the southern San Rafael Swell.

The first route I did was the North Caineville Mesa South Route. It is tough, but I thought rewarding. Then I heard of a second route that at the time people were calling the North Caineville Mesa North Route. It is also a bit tough, but an equally rewarding route in my opinion. Well, then I heard of ANOTHER route on the very northern end of the formation! To avoid confusion with the other north route, I'll call this one the septentrional route.

This route, like the others, is a historic route likely put in and used by sheep men in the mid-1900s. This route is, also like the others, a fair bit of effort, but I think a very rewarding route. Because it climbs the very north end of the formation, it has an entirely different view of the surrounding desert than the other routes.

History Note: Though the trail that is followed to the top was likely put in for sheep men in the mid-1900s, this is the only route up I have done that shows signs of Native Americans using the route as well. Right at the top are several chippings and arrowhead pieces. Within a short walk of reaching the top, other arrowheads were visible. I assume Native Americans had found this way to the top and hunted game that perhaps inhabited it. Very fascinating!
Difficulty: I would rate this as a moderate route. It requires good navigation skills or GPS to get to the base of the old trail. Following the trail up requires a keen eye to spot cairns and the faint social trail in places. This seemed like the most gradual of the trails up, with several sweeping zigzags. The last cliff band might require a little scrambling, but my 6-year-old didn't give it any pause. The dog needed a boost in a spot or two.
Badlands near where the trail starts up.

Badlands near where the trail starts up.

Getting There

Note: Reaching the trailhead passes through stunning grey and red badlands. Though beautiful, the roads very quickly become impassable with any moisture. Stay out of here if the roads are damp, storms or threatening, or if the roads are frozen in the winter but might thaw out during the day.
Road Note: The road to the trailhead is generally good, but with a few rough spots. High clearance required, true high clearance 4x4 can be required in certain conditions.

Reaching the trailhead starts at mile post 97.95 on UT-24 which is about 18 miles west of Hanksville, or 30 miles east of Torrey on UT-24.

  • Mile Post 97.95 - Turn north on the good dirt road signed for Cathedral Valley. Reset your odometer. ( 12S 497878mE 4242881mN / N38° 20' 03" W111° 01' 27" )
  • 0.26 miles - Side road on the left. Stay right. ( 12S 497644mE 4243202mN / N38° 20' 13" W111° 01' 37" )
  • 0.7 miles - Minor side road on the left. Stay right. ( 12S 497589mE 4243885mN / N38° 20' 35" W111° 01' 39" )
  • 2.5 miles - Junction. Go right as the road goes up the wash bottom. The road goes through grey badlands with one particularly bad spot about a mile before the trailhead. ( 12S 497601mE 4246712mN / N38° 22' 07" W111° 01' 39" )
  • 7.0 miles - Trailhead at a very non-descript spot. You may be able to see vehicle tracks on the right. A steep dirt hill and small cliff band is visible to the east (right). The trailhead is directly below a spot where a small north allows easy passage over this first ridge. ( 12S 501950mE 4250898mN / N38° 24' 23" W110° 58' 40" )
  • 8.0 miles - Side road on the right. This side road goes about 1000' to the trailhead but the road is steep, narrow, and rutted. You may want to walk this last bit. If driven, it ends at a nice campsite just before becoming an ATV track. ( 12S 502801mE 4252304mN / N38° 25' 08" W110° 58' 04" )
Views of the badlands and San Rafael Swell Beyond from the route.

Views of the badlands and San Rafael Swell Beyond from the route.

Route

From the trailhead, spot the steep dirt and boulder slope angling up south to the shortest cliff band at the top of North Cainville Mesa. The old trail works up that dirt slope. Getting to the base requires heading east and a bit southeast across the bumpy moonscape. The detached mesa north of the main North Cainville Mesa is unnamed, but quite dramatic during the hike.

Because there are no rocks for cairns, and footprints wash out with heavy rain, there isn't a trail that we could find. Simply keep an eye on the dirt slope and head toward it. You should hit a wide wash after about 10 minutes (1/2 mile or so) that has some rocks strewn along it in spots. Head up the wide wash. It will head in the direction you want to go, and soon has some cairns to reassure you that you are heading in the right direction.

When the wash hits the base of North Cainville Mesa, look for cairns and the trail. The trail angles up left out of the wash and begins climbing the slope. Just a few minutes up, the trail passes a large boulder with an arch in it. This is a good landmark that you are on the right path.

Initially, the trail is pretty easy to follow, but soon narrows and requires a close eye to spot cairns and prints that mark the trail. Keep working up. If you lose the trail, it is worth taking a few minutes to re-find it. We tried to take a shortcut on the way down, and it was much more difficult than if we had stayed on the trail.

As the trail gets up 3/4 or more of the way up, it crosses a very deep gully. Not far above this crossing, the cairns and social trail got too thin for us to follow, but the short cliff band and notch are easy to shoot for, mostly heading straight up.

The notch appears to have had some blasting done to widen it and make it easier. There is a lot of loose rock at its base, the actual climb up through the notch is pretty easy.

Once on top, the expanse of North Cainville Mesa is to the south, with the Henry Mountains in the distance. Hiking to either the east or west side give a neat perspective on the badlands surrounding the mesa. The high point of the mesa is to the west. Be sure to pay attention to where the route down is for when you come back!


Maps

Route / 3.04 miles / Elevation Range 5,017 - 6,001 ft.
Printable Maps:
8.0 miles - Side Road on the right.

12S 502802mE 4252303mN

N38° 25' 08" W110° 58' 04"

Trailhead

12S 502971mE 4252135mN

N38° 25' 03" W110° 57' 57"

Big Wash

12S 503565mE 4251795mN

N38° 24' 52" W110° 57' 33"

Trail

12S 503795mE 4251580mN

N38° 24' 45" W110° 57' 23"

Arch Boulder

12S 503828mE 4251517mN

N38° 24' 43" W110° 57' 22"

Deep Gully Crossing

12S 504011mE 4251119mN

N38° 24' 30" W110° 57' 15"

Top

12S 504133mE 4250965mN

N38° 24' 25" W110° 57' 10"

Highpoint

12S 503264mE 4250685mN

N38° 24' 16" W110° 57' 45"

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