French Cabin in the Maze District

French Cabin, Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
French Cabin

There isn’t a whole lot of hiking on top of the Orange Cliffs in the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, but there are a few things to see (mostly overlooks, which are well worth seeing in their own right).  An oft-visited attraction is French Cabin, built by an oil prospector in the 1920s.  It’s not far off NP-633, so it’s worth a quick stop if you happen to be driving by.

Observation Rock & Cleopatra's Chair from the French Cabin Parking Area, Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Observation Rock & Cleopatra’s Chair from the French Cabin Parking Area

Quick Stats

Round Trip Length: Up to 0.4 miles Trail Type: Out & back Elevation Gain: 38ft. Pets: No Fees: None

French Cabin wasn’t built by anyone French.  I’d guess it received its title from nearby French Spring, which was named for Basque sheepherders in the 1880s.  In the 1920s, a certain T.C. Conley wasn’t typically involved in prospecting; instead, he tended to promote others’ claims to investors.  However, he traveled out to the Maze District to prospect some oil for himself, building the cabin a short distance above the spring.  T.C. Conley used “wildcat” techniques – in other words, explosives – to drill several wells.  While he found quite a few deposits of solidified oil (elaterite), he never struck it rich in the Maze.

Sign marking the turnoff for French Cabin, Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Sign marking the turnoff for French Cabin

The cabin is located 0.1 miles down a sideroad off NP-633.  I’d read that the road was probably 2WD friendly as long as we had high clearance, but we decided not to risk it.  So we parked near the road entrance and walked in.

Hiking up the road to French Cabin, Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Hiking up the road

Once at the parking area, it’s likely the first thing you’ll see is an old boiler.  This provided power for T.C. Conley’s oil drilling rig.  Beyond this are excellent views to Observation Rock, Cleopatra’s Chair, and the La Sal Mountains.

The old boiler by French Cabin, Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The old boiler

Turning right, the cabin and other associated historical junk are just on the other side of some trees.  There are actually three separate structures (L-R as though looking from the parking area): A building half-buried in the ground; a round metal building (mostly fallen down at this point); and French Cabin.

The shack set into the ground near French Cabin, Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The shack set into the ground

The cabin has been stabilized in recent years.  I expect the new wood was fairly fresh in November 2022, and by now, it would be much harder to separate old from new.  But at the time, it was pretty obvious.

I'm not sure if you can see the moon to the left of the roof of French Cabin, Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
I’m not sure if you can see the moon to the left of the roof

Inside was a little bit torn up, but I could still make out what appeared to be either a bunkbed or some kind of cabinet.

Inside French Cabin, Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Inside French Cabin

That’s about all there is to see, so it’s not a 30-minutes-minimum kind of attraction.  But it’s still a fun little stop not too far from Hans Flat!

Icicles on French Cabin, Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Icicles on French Cabin

Round Trip Trail Length: Varies.  With quite a bit of walking around, and including walking the road, I hiked a total of 0.4 miles.

Elevation Gain: Minimal, though you will find yourself walking downhill to get to the cabin (my GPS read 38ft. (6,633ft. to 6,614ft.)

Facilities: None.  Closest restrooms are at Hans Flat; closest water is in Goblin Valley State Park, more than 45 miles away.

Fees: None

The collapsed metal building by French Canyon, Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The collapsed metal building

Trail Notes: French Cabin is actually located in the Orange Cliffs District of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.  But since it’s managed by the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, the rules are consistent with many national parks (one important variation: Pets are not permitted, even on roads or in vehicles).  The cabin faces south, so photos are better in the late fall/winter than in the summer.  Also, I visited in the morning, so you can see what lighting conditions are like at that time of day.

Side view of French Cabin, Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Side view

Trail ★

Road ★

Signs ★

Scenery ★

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★

Overall Rating: ★

The La Sal Mountains from French Cabin Parking Area, Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The La Sal Mountains

GPS Coordinates for French Cabin

Beginning of French Cabin Road: 38.2374530°, -110.1512360° (38°14.24718′, -110°09.07416′ / 38°14’14.8308″, -110°09’04.4496″) (6,615ft.) (0.0)

Parking area: 38.2380440°, -110.1501440° (38°14.28264′, -110°09.00864′ / 38°14’16.9584″, -110°09’00.5184″) (6,611ft.) (456ft.)

French Cabin: 38.2377780°, -110.1501190° (38°14.26668′, -110°09.00714′ / 38°14’16.0008″, -110°09’00.4284″) (6,610ft.) (0.11)

Boiler: 38.2384420°, -110.1498250° (38°14.30652′, -110°08.98950′ / 38°14’18.3912″, -110°08’59.3700″) (6,609ft.) (0.26)

End: 38.2374500°, -110.1512330° (38°14.24700′, -110°09.07398′ / 38°14’14.8200″, -110°09’04.4388″) (6,615ft.) (0.42)

Exploring French Cabin, Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Exploring French Cabin

The gpx file for French Cabin can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.

Download GPX File size: 10.6 KB Downloaded 10 times

(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website.  Thanks!)

Sign marking the parking area for French Cabin, Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Sign marking the parking area

Getting to French Cabin

From the Hans Flat Ranger Station, drive NP-633 for 2.2 miles.  A small sign on the right points to the sideroad on the left.  Turn left onto this sideroad for 0.1 miles to a small parking area.  I either did or could have traveled both of these roads in my 2WD van at the time I visited.  However, I’d recommend 4×4 for a couple of hills shortly after leaving Hans Flat.

Visual route map and elevation profile for my hike up the French Cabin Road and to the cabin, Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Visual route map and elevation profile for my hike up the French Cabin Road and to the cabin

Today’s Featured Product!

I’m a huge fan of this book on Canyonlands National Park.  Besides an incredible breadth of jeep roads and trails, the author includes detailed directions and some fun history about the area.  Buy your copy here.

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