Start: Aztec Butte Trailhead
Distance: 1.2 miles; out-and-back
Maps: USGS Musselman Arch and Upheaval Dome; Trails Illustrated Island in the Sky
Finding the trailhead: Drive 6.5 miles south of the Island in the Sky Visitor Center and turn right (west) onto Upheaval Dome Road. Go another 0.8 mile and turn right (north) into the Aztec Butte Parking Area.
Trailhead GPS: 38.393502, -109.882051
This is a great hike, but it can be deceptively difficult. The first two-thirds of the trail are well defined and on packed sand, but near the end of the hike, you follow cairns as you climb about 200 feet up a difficult slickrock slope. The climb up the slickrock slope to the top of the butte is more difficult than ascending Whale Rock, and there are no handrails. Make sure you have appropriate shoes, and be careful.
Once on top you can see ancestral Puebloan structures called granaries—several one- and two-room structures on the upper butte and two more on the lower butte. Don’t touch or enter any of these structures. You can also enjoy some great vistas, particularly the view toward the headwall of massive Trail Canyon to the northwest.
On the way back you can climb up and around the top of a similar butte between Aztec Butte and the trailhead. If you want to take this option, watch for a trail veering off to the west just before you start going around the other, unnamed butte.