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Cheesbox Canyon

  • The Hype

    Cheesbox canyon offers a mixture of scenic formations and narrows to sate the needs of canyoneers from all backgrounds. Named for the nearby Cheesebox Butte (looks just like your cheesebox at home right?) it cuts through Cedar Mesa sandstone to drain into White Canyon. You will find a few rappels and a few swims when if done at the right time of year may make you smell of cheese afterwards! Relatively short approach and exit.

    Getting There

    Access via Cheesebox Road (San Juan County Rd 227A) ~0.5 miles past mile mark 68 on Utah Hwy 95. This road is a high clearance 2wd with deep sand at the start where it crosses White Canyon. It mellows afterwards. Several good camp spots are along the way. Gravel Canyon can also be accessed from this road. Drive ~8 miles to a slick rock patio (UTM 12S 0579941 mE 4169946 mN). The canyon exit ends here - this is a good car spot. Drive on 2.9 miles to the trail head (UTM 12S 0582171 mE 4173679 mN).

    Follow cairns down through the crypto and juniper forest to the start of the shallow canyon sandstone. You will cross this drainage heading east then turn south to hike around a point to turn east again and cross another small drainage. You may be tempted to drop in here. The cairns and path will lead you on along the east side of the drainage to a mild down climb to a point where the drainage you are following meets with the main Cheesbox canyon (UTM 12 S 0582702 m E 4172940 m N). This is about 0.8 miles.

    The Canyon - Rating: 3B III   Longest Rap: 40'   # of Raps: 3

    From the entrance you the canyon will constrict to narrows in about 0.4 miles. A down climb will drop you into a wade or possibly a short cold swim. Narrows continue for another half mile where the canyon opens up again. Once open you will find yourself on a shelf that will spread out to the left where eventually there will be a second narrows accessible via some boulders that form a type of room at the bottom. The canyon continues with 6-8ft narrows and rooms. At some point the narrows will spit you out at a large boulder where if you follow to the left and a rappel will drop you down another 40' or so into a new narrows section. Eventually this opens up to a wide flat all sand stone 3/4 room with high walls on both sides. Rappel off the boulder on the left into another section of narrows. These have some 200+ yd swim sections. The canyon opens again for 0.5 miles or so where you will come to the final set of narrows that you can avoid if you traverse left. But why miss out on a swim in the rejuvenating waters of the Cheesebox! The exit will be shortly after this final swim.

    The Exit

    The canyon will offer some points to exit up the sandstone layers after the final narrows (UTM 12S 580562mE 4169694mN). The canyon has 3 layers. Traverse up the two closely spaced layers where it spreads out. Cairns and a trail through the crypto can be found at this point to approach a section in the third layer that recedes away to the north forming a steep gulley. At the top of this, you will recognize Found Mesa to the north and you can work your way across the marked trail to the road and slick rock patio where you may have spotted your car.

    Red Tape

    No permits required.
  • Access via Cheesebox Road (San Juan County Rd 227A) ~0.5 miles past mile mark 68 on Utah Hwy 95. This road is a high clearance 2wd with deep sand at the start where it crosses White Canyon. It mellows afterwards. Several good camp spots are along the way. Gravel Canyon can also be accessed from this road. Drive ~8 miles to a slick rock patio (UTM 12S 0579941 mE 4169946 mN). The canyon exit ends here - this is a good car spot. Drive on 2.9 miles to the trail head (UTM 12S 0582171 mE 4173679 mN).

    Follow cairns down through the crypto and juniper forest to the start of the shallow canyon sandstone. You will cross this drainage heading east then turn south to hike around a point to turn east again and cross another small drainage. You may be tempted to drop in here. The cairns and path will lead you on along the east side of the drainage to a mild down climb to a point where the drainage you are following meets with the main Cheesbox canyon (UTM 12 S 0582702 m E 4172940 m N). This is about 0.8 miles.
  • From the entrance you the canyon will constrict to narrows in about 0.4 miles. A down climb will drop you into a wade or possibly a short cold swim. Narrows continue for another half mile where the canyon opens up again. Once open you will find yourself on a shelf that will spread out to the left where eventually there will be a second narrows accessible via some boulders that form a type of room at the bottom. The canyon continues with 6-8ft narrows and rooms. At some point the narrows will spit you out at a large boulder where if you follow to the left and a rappel will drop you down another 40' or so into a new narrows section. Eventually this opens up to a wide flat all sand stone 3/4 room with high walls on both sides. Rappel off the boulder on the left into another section of narrows. These have some 200+ yd swim sections. The canyon opens again for 0.5 miles or so where you will come to the final set of narrows that you can avoid if you traverse left. But why miss out on a swim in the rejuvenating waters of the Cheesebox! The exit will be shortly after this final swim.
  • The canyon will offer some points to exit up the sandstone layers after the final narrows (UTM 12S 580562mE 4169694mN). The canyon has 3 layers. Traverse up the two closely spaced layers where it spreads out. Cairns and a trail through the crypto can be found at this point to approach a section in the third layer that recedes away to the north forming a steep gulley. At the top of this, you will recognize Found Mesa to the north and you can work your way across the marked trail to the road and slick rock patio where you may have spotted your car.
  • No permits required.

Condition Reports for Cheesbox Canyon

  1. Austin Farnworth
    October 28, 2017
    Austin Farnworth

    Difficulty:

    Easy

    Skill Level:

    Beginner

    Water:

    Swimming required

    Thermal:

    1-3mm wetsuit

    Group Size:

    5 people

    Total Time:

    1 hour 5 hours


    Quite a few swims including two long hallway swims. The last swim before the exit is filthy beyond description and our skin and gear reeked afterwords. We were uncomfortable in 3mm wet-suits so bring thicker if you plan to do it anytime soon.

    Posted Oct 30, 2017
  2. Steven Christensen
    Oct 22, 2013
    Steven Christensen

    Difficulty:

    NA

    Skill Level:

    NA

    Water:

    NA

    Thermal:

    NA

    Group Size:

    NA

    Total Time:

    NA


    We went through 10/12 - water was clean and cold. 3-4 swims. longest 200 yd

    Posted Oct 22, 2013
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