Four-Wheel Tour of Beef Basin in Southeast Utah

Located just to the south of Canyonlands National Park on the east side of the Colorado River in the Canyon Rims Recreation Area is an area known as Beef Basin. This is a great four-wheel drive trip that can either be driven as a loop ending and starting at Elephant Hill in the Park or as an out and back to the ruins. It is possible to drive this route in a day but you may want to spend a couple of days to take in the natural scenery and the vast number of Native American Indian Ruins available along the way.


There are several ways to get to Beef Basin with the most direct route starting within Canyonlands National Park in the Needles District with a drive over Elephant Hill. The route then goes out through Devils Lane and leaves the Park as the route enters Bobby’s Hole which can be impassable in wet conditions. Once out of Bobby’s Hole you enter Ruin Park and are at this point actually in Beef Basin.

An easier route into Beef Basin starts outside of the Park along Utah State Highway 211 along the way into the Needles District. Prior to passing by the two Sixshooter Peaks, a sign on the south side of the road will indicate the route into Beef Basin:

  • Follow the road along the east side of Bridger Jack Mesa past Cathedral Butte and Boundary Butte. Shortly after entering the Manti-La Sal National Forest a sign will point you towards the Beef Basin Road which leads west.
  • During wet conditions this next part of the road can be extremely muddy and difficult to drive. Farther down the road rocky conditions may warrant shifting into four-wheel drive as you enter into the Canyon Rims Recreation Area.
  • Once you are in the Recreation Area a fork in the road will either take you to Ruin Park with the right fork or to a loop route to the left with numerous Indian Ruins. This route into the Basin requires less four-wheel driving than the Elephant Hill starting point and also offers some excellent views of the Needles within the Park.

What To See And Do

Now that the fun of driving into the Basin is over, there are lots of Native American Indian Ruins to see. The aptly named Ruin Park contains several ruins requiring only short hikes. Take every side road that leads off of the main road and you’ll find a ruin. The loop route mentioned above also has numerous ruins worth checking out: again take every side road off of the main route and you’ll find a ruin. Hiking distances vary but are never very far. There are also some good camping spots located along this loop and hiking through the forest will reveal remains of smaller ruins. Literally this area is loaded with Indian ruins. As with all Native American Indian Historical Sites, look but don’t touch so these national treasures can be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

Whether the Beef Basin tour is done as a loop or done as an out and back to Ruin Park, expect to drive approximately 100 to 130 miles depending on how far you go on the out and back or the number of side roads you take. If you enter from Elephant Hill you will get to see a lot of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park up close. If you enter from Bridger Jack Mesa you will see a lot of the Needles from a distance, either way the views are spectacular. And with the added benefit of numerous Native American Indian Ruins along the way, Beef Basin is a tour definitely worth getting off the beaten path for.