Aztec Butte, Utah and the start of Canyonlands NP White Rim 4×4 Road

SOTA summit: Aztec Butte, Canyonlands NP, Utah  W7U/SU-058

Activation Date: March 21st, 2019

Unique: Yes, number 158

Call sign used: W6PNG

Portable operation: Yes

Radio: KX3

Antenna: EndFed

Band/Modes used: 40mSSB

Hike:  ~0.6 miles and ~150ft ascent.  (<–click left for GaiaPro track etc)

Hike and AZ profile:

  • Easy trail but last part is slick rock.
  • Small “trees” on summit.
  • Spectacular deep canyon views

Recommend: Yes, pretty easy!

Solo operation: No with Rico M

Cell Coverage: Excellent

Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2019


Screen Shot 2019-04-21 at 6.30.27 PM
Aztec Butte, Canyonlands NP, south east Utah
Screen Shot 2019-04-21 at 6.29.29 PM
Green River left, Colorado River right and Island in the Sky district with Aztec Butte

We are improvising our schedule.

Our morning wet exploration of Arches NP and the town of Moab has us looking for drivable, indoor things. Driving north then west we climb into the Island in the Sky district. It’s a huge mesa carved from the sandstone rock by the Green and Colorado rivers that have sculpted something I would begin to deeply appreciate over the next few days and in some respects begin to question if its better/grander than the Grand Canyon. Canyonlands is one of Utah’s best kept secrets and we head over to consult with it’s rangers on the possible conditions of our planned 100 mile drive along the White Rim Trail. He’s young and I’m not entirely sure he’s ever been on the White Rim Trail but more probably never driven it. His words, not mine; “its easy peasy!”. That doesn’t quite jive with what I’ve heard from other rangers but I let it be, walking over to acquire yet another Deneen mug. I’ve become quite selective in the style but ultimately succumb and this time bring home one I rather like.

Aztec Butte, here we come

Feeling buoyed by the conversation and seeing sunshine we’re tackling Aztec Butte.

It’s a very uninspiring bump in the landscape but as is often the case a little effort and scrambling reveals stunning views. Maybe a 150 feet up on this side but probably 2,500 ft down on the other side. Look east and we see snow capped mountains behind Moab. It’s worth it and Rico is assigned to sentry duty to watch the progress of grey clouds possibly heading our way.

Easy trail to Aztec Butte
Universal cairns trace an invisible trail over what could easily be very slick when wet
View from Aztec Butte east over Moab to a wonderful set of snow cap mountains
Looking down from the other side of Aztec Butte into deep canyons. Stunning!

I’m struggling, 20 minutes, two contacts

I’m struggling and growing concerned about my progress having nabbed two contacts in 20 minutes (thanks Ken K6HPX and Todd KH2TJ).

Heavy clouds seem to form over the confluence of the Green and Colorado River and sneak slowly our way. Mid week and someone is calling CQ from a mountain top in Washington and I’m up to three. Looking at my sneaky cloud’s journey, I’m resigned to not reaching my minimum four contacts when I’m surprised to hear “standby for another operator” and I’m at four.

I’m out of here as the rain and the steep slick rock up are a bad mix..

Again, “standby for another operator” and Daryl is calling “Paul, its Daryl WW7D, how are you?” and with that I have my five contacts and 3 are summit to summits.

Safely past the slick section and we are then doused in rain.

Aztec Butte (back left) and a couple of pots of gold

Shaffer Canyon today and 36 hours hence

We stop and look down into Shaffer Canyon and I’m awed by the red wet sandy switchbacks that claim to be a road.

That’s us in 36 hours.

Start of 100 mile White Rim Trail rapidly descending down Shaffer Canyon. “Easy Peasy” is the rangers description.


White Rim Trail in Shaffer Canyon
First stop after descending switch backs from rim 36 hours after Aztec Butte


Winter bonus, a nice touch

Rules vary between associations and we are past the cut of date for California, my home association. Logging the activation I was surprised to see that a week on and presumably through March 31st, Utah’s winter bonus is in play and my paltry 2 activation points has swelled to 5 when the winter bonus is added in.

I like it!




  1. Nice photos Paul. Can’t say I’d fancy a trip down that track even in the best of 4×4’s. Well done the activation and on making the right decision on when to get back down. It can certainly be tempting to stay too long on summits. I know… I am often guilty of that!

    73, Gerald G4OIG / G8CXK


  2. I am with Easy Peasy! you did not have to chain up in the mud, it was a trail run and lots of great snaps! 73 thanks for sharing! AK6Q


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