Mansard Trail is located just east of Kanab, Utah on the north side of the Vermillion Cliffs Subdivision. The trail is between five and six miles round trip with over a 1000 foot elevation gain, making it a bit more on the challenging side. There is very little shade along the trail so it is best to start early during the warmer months.
There are a series of yellow street signs throughout the neighborhood reading “Mansard Trail” that direct vehicles to a dirt road at the back of the subdivision. The dirt road is accessible via any passenger vehicle, though it may be unpassible when wet. The road splits into a Y shape, with the left path leading to the water tower and the right leading to the trailhead. The road spills into a wide dirt parking area flanking the trailhead.
The trail begins with a steep, roughly one mile ascent up a sandy slope which brings hikers to the top of the Vermillion Cliffs. It winds up a series of gradual switchbacks before reaching a 6 foot scramble. Children and dogs will likely need a lift during this portion of the route, though it is the only real obstacle along the trail.
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After the scramble, hikers cross a long plateau to the base of the white cliffs. The trail flattens out here but the sand becomes deeper. Near the base of the cliffs, the path joins a jeep road for a short time. This road leads hikers to the giant alcove full of unique petroglyphs.
The alcove offers an incredible view of the red and white cliffs in the area. The petroglyphs are etched across the floor of the alcove, half buried beneath the rich red sand. The imagery is unlike other panels in the area, giving off a supernatural alien vibe. Figures are tall with long stretched bodies drawn beside circular, clock-like images. Hikers should avoid stepping on the petroglyphs despite their location. Digging is also prohibited, so the sand level may help determine which glyphs will be visible during the visit. The area is monitored by video surveillance.
This trail is definitely one of my favorites, partially because of the incredible rock art and partially due to the breathtaking views from the alcove. Be sure to bring plenty of water no matter the season, a good camera, and allow for plenty of extra time to soak in the incredible scenery.
Written by Lauren Kehoe