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Anasazi Ruins (Mule Canyon) - Cedar Mesa Hiking, Utah
Anasazi Ruins hikes is about discovery and appreciation. There are many famous ruins such as Citadel and Monarch Cave that are kept in relative secrecy to retain its integrity and archeological value. I will honor this unsung code, and will not discuss how to get to these 800 year+ old ruins. If you insist on finding these ruins off the Comb’s Ridge shadow, I suggest you visit the local BLM Office near Comb Ridge, depending on your intentions, the officers may provide you with the detail about these ruins. Do not let the deadpanned rangers to dicourage you, they need to size up your character before letting go these rare locations. (Monticello Field Office, 365 North Main, Monticello, Utah)
In 2007, we tried to find Citadel on our own and succeeded in taking a good look at it from the canyon’s rim. We didn’t get onto the citadel because we got lost… but had a backup GPS working and got back to the car safely (but dead tired). So be prepared to trek some really wild terrain and come prepared. It’s really easy to get disoriented since the trails are intertwined with path created by cattle.
As a primer for the ruins, I suggest the Mule Canyon hike. The main attraction of Mule Canyon is the “House of Fire” that can be seen under the cliffs on your right hand side when entering the canyon. The two and half mile roundtrip was an easy one way in/one way out into the canyon. This ruin was one of the most beautiful ruins I have ever encountered. You can venture past the “House of Fire” to explore additional ruins during the next 4 miles. We were able to spot another ruin about a mile past the “House of Fire” perched high above the canyon floor but it was difficult to access.
Finding the trailhead was easy – the parking lot is located on HWY 95. From Blanding, travel south on HWY 191 for 3 miles to the junction of 191 and 95, then travel west 19 miles on HWY 95 to mile marker 102. Take the San Juan County Road 263 and park on the side of the road. There are 2 sections of the Mule Canyons, the 1st stop houses the “House of Fire” ruin and is about 0.3 miles from the highway. The 2nd stop is about half a mile down the road; you can park next to the bridge. We also explored the 2nd Mule Canyon but ran for our life when a flash flood swept toward us. Since it was the 1st time we encountered a flash flood, Mary & I actually stood in front of the bubbling water wondered where in the world is the hole in the ground to take in all the water…until the water boiled over then we realized it’s a FLASH FLOOD with a wave of brownness approaching fast! Needless to say, we ran like hell for the next mile.
If you enjoyed Mule Canyon then consider visiting the Butler Wash Indian Ruins about 8 miles east of Mule Canyon on 95. There is a developed trail leading to a spectacular ruin. Unfortunately you can only look at it across the canyon. Climbing into the ruins is forbidden.
Tips: watch for flash flood! When wet, make sure your vehicle can make it out of the dirt road; the road to these trailheads has some steep climbs.
Length (round-trip): ~3-8 miles
Elevation: ~3000 Feet
Elevation Change: ~10 feet (trailhead to the canyon entrance)
Difficulty: Easy - Moderate
Rating: 8 out of 10
1) Valley of Gods is a stretch of dirt road connecting HWY 163 & 261 near Mexican Hat / Blanding, Utah. It resembles Monument Valley and offers hiking and climbing opportunities. The vista is spectacular; a must drive. You can spend an hour or a week within the ‘valley’.
2) Monument Valley is a landmark not to be missed. It is vast, desolate and requires at least one night stay to appreciate the area. It is not really a valley but a wide area dotted with behemoth of sandstone sculptures; these are true monuments of nature. The drive itself is exhilarating if you are short on time. The road is impassible if there are any precipitation expected. Many movies are filmed here.
Both Valley and Gods and Monument valley are good stops if you are traveling from Moab, UT to Page, AZ.
3) Natural Bridge Monument is a good stopover to see some natural arches. It is near the intersection of HWY 261 and 95 near Blanding, Utah.
4) Petrified Forest National Park - a must stop for anyone who can't get enough of the geological wonders. But please take only pictures & nothing else other than memories.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Canyon Overlook) off HWY 95, Utah
Technically, this is not ‘day hike’ since 20 mins is all you need to walk the perimeter of this outlook. However, I like to share this place with everyone since it has some of best sceneries/vista in Utah, and not very much visited. This is merely an overlook on HWY 95 midway between Torrrey (Hanksville) and Blanding, Utah. It’s easy to miss the entrance, if you Google, you will see a large hairpin bend in the road within the Glen Canyon Nation Recreation Area. If you are traveling south bound, as soon as you enter the Glen Canyon area, pay attention to a climb up a steep slope, the turnoff for the overlook is right at the top of the climb. If you started to descent or traveled across a bridge, then you have gone too far.
There is a 270 degree panoramic view of Utah when you are at the top.
Tips: watch the kids and don’t let them get to close to the edge, there are no railing here and the rocks are flaky.
Length (round-trip): ~.25 miles
Elevation: ~4600 Feet
Elevation Change: 0 feet (you are at the summit)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Canyon De Chelly - AZ
This well known Canyon & it's signature Spider Rocks sits on Navajo land. So access to the floor of the canyon is restricted and there is only one National Park trail leading down into the canyon. We have visited this canyon twice both taking the National Park trail and the use of a Navajo guide. We were fortunate to befriend with one of the most experience story telling guide in the area. Unlike other trips we've taken, the ride in his SUV turned out to be an enlightening experience; we were totally awestruck by the depth of his knowledge. We learned that during a visit by the Navajo nation to Mongolia & Northern China, they were totally shocked to learn that they could understand what the local villagers were saying... The world is pretty small indeed. We later learned that he was the guide for celebrities such as Jet Lee & AZ Senator McCain & family. Contact us for the guide's name and information.
Tips: use a guide to learn about the history of this area.