Posted by on Dec 17, 2015 in Gallery, Utah | 32 comments

Idon’t know what it is about Cedar Mesa, but almost every time we set out on a hike there, we get lost. Not so lost that we can’t find our way back. But lost enough that we end up hiking miles out of our way. My sense of direction is admittedly abysmal. Eric, however, has a terrific sense of direction. It just doesn’t seem to work well on this seventy-mile long plateau in the remote southeastern corner of Utah.

We first visited Cedar Mesa two years ago, and were captivated by the landscape and the incredible ruins hidden in the isolated canyons. Every hike is an adventure, with the enticing possibility of discovering Ancient Puebloan dwellings and rock art. Many sites have never been excavated or mapped—Cedar Mesa attracts relatively few visitors, and it’s awe-inspiring to think how few people have laid eyes on this splendor.

This time, we explored with our friends Henry and Loretta (AKA Yahoo Ramblers), whom we first met two winters ago in Florida. They’ve since taken to the road full-time, and we met up with them in Bluff. “Cedar Mesa is spectacular!” we told them, and we invited them to hike with us. Without going into the painful details, I’ll just say that on two of the three hikes we did together, we got lost. They were excellent trail companions and good sports. Although we were all exhausted at the end of our adventures, we had lots of laughs along the way, and we found some incredible ruins. (I think we’re still friends, although they left town before we could convince them to hike with us one more day. You can read their hilarious account about our adventures together here.)

Getting lost on Cedar Mesa really isn’t all that hard to do. There are no decent maps, no definitive guidebooks, and no established trails. This is not like visiting Mesa Verde, or Chaco Canyon, or Betatakin. The best you can hope for are rock cairns left by helpful souls, and occasionally, a randomly placed BLM trail marker. Directions to ruins and petroglyphs gleaned from the Internet are often frustratingly vague. And believe me, when you’re surrounded by an expanse of sandstone, canyons, and washes that extend to the horizon in all directions, everything looks confusingly similar.

Any directions we managed to scrounge went something like this: Drive approximately three miles to a wide spot in the road and park. (Where does the three miles begin? At the turnoff? After the gate? Which side of the road?) Cross the wash. (Where? It’s all thick brush, deep mud, and steep walls.) Head toward the horizon. (Seriously? There’s nothing but horizon!) Look for the rock waterfall and turn east. (We’ve passed several rock waterfalls—which one?)

You’re on your own when you’re hiking on Cedar Mesa. If you get yourself in, you had better be prepared to get yourself out. There’s no cell phone coverage, help is many miles away, and you’ll probably not see anyone else on the trail. We didn’t. Except for the unsuspecting friends we brought along.

Here, in no particular order, are some of our favorite places that we’ve discovered in our two trips to Cedar Mesa: Procession Panel, Wolfman Petroglyph, Monarch Cave Ruin, Fallen Roof Ruin, and House On Fire Ruin (we posted about this hike here, and our previous visit to Cedar Mesa here.). Oh, and don’t miss the drive through the Valley of the Gods. You can’t get lost there. There are many more spectacular hikes to do and interesting ruins to find on Cedar Mesa. We’ll be back.

About the campground: We spent five peaceful nights at Cadillac Ranch RV Park in Bluff. It’s a great location for exploring many of the ruins on Cedar Mesa. The facilities could use a makeover, but the setting is lovely and the campground has full hook-ups, spacious pull-through sites, good Verizon coverage, dark night skies, and beautiful views of the canyon, especially if you score one of the sites at the far end of the row.

Next Up: Aztec Ruins National Monument

Lost On Cedar Mesa: Bluff, Utah

Hiking In Butler Wash

Squeezing Through The Rocks

Along The Trail

Wolfman Petroglyph Panel

Beautifully Preserved Petroglyphs

A Moment Of Contemplation

Bushwhacking Through The Wash

Heading Toward The Horizon

Consulting The Directions Yet Again

In Search Of Procession Panel

Eric And Henry Leading The Way

Seriously, We're In The Wrong Place?

A Long Steep Climb

Almost There

Hallelujah, We Found It!

Trying To Figure Out The Meaning

Ancient Images Of Elk And Hunters

Late Autumn On The Mesa

Sliding Down The Embankment

A Little Help Back Up The Other Side

A Confusing Moment On The Trail

Reaching Fabulous Monarch Cave Ruins

Lovely Monarch Cave Ruins

The View From Monarch Cave Ruins

Cottonwoods In Autumn Finery

Ancient Corncobs And Grinding Stone

Handprints From Long Ago

Sculpted Rock On Cedar Mesa

Unnamed Ruins In North Mule Canyon

In The Wrong Canyon, Still Had A Good Time

Granary Tucked Beneath The Cliff

Finding Our Way To Fallen Roof Ruins

Following The Cairns

A Steep Climb Up Sandstone

Spectacular Fallen Roof Ruins

Taking A Closer Look

I Think This Roof Is Still Falling!

Bluff, Utah: Established 650 A.D.

Twin Rocks Trading Post

Welcome To The Trading Post

Reward At The End Of A Long Day

Nice Site At Cadillac Ranch RV Park

In The Valley Of The Gods

Rollercoaster Road

A Miniature Monument Valley

Lost On Cedar Mesa: Bluff, Utah
Hiking In Butler Wash
Squeezing Through The Rocks
Along The Trail
Wolfman Petroglyph Panel
Beautifully Preserved Petroglyphs
A Moment Of Contemplation
Bushwhacking Through The Wash
Heading Toward The Horizon
Consulting The Directions Yet Again
In Search Of Procession Panel
Eric And Henry Leading The Way
Seriously, We're In The Wrong Place?
A Long Steep Climb
Almost There
Hallelujah, We Found It!
Trying To Figure Out The Meaning
Ancient Images Of Elk And Hunters
Late Autumn On The Mesa
Sliding Down The Embankment
A Little Help Back Up The Other Side
A Confusing Moment On The Trail
Reaching Fabulous Monarch Cave Ruins
Lovely Monarch Cave Ruins
The View From Monarch Cave Ruins
Cottonwoods In Autumn Finery
Ancient Corncobs And Grinding Stone
Handprints From Long Ago
Sculpted Rock On Cedar Mesa
Unnamed Ruins In North Mule Canyon
In The Wrong Canyon, Still Had A Good Time
Granary Tucked Beneath The Cliff
Finding Our Way To Fallen Roof Ruins
Following The Cairns
A Steep Climb Up Sandstone
Spectacular Fallen Roof Ruins
Taking A Closer Look
I Think This Roof Is Still Falling!
Bluff, Utah: Established 650 A.D.
Twin Rocks Trading Post
Welcome To The Trading Post
Reward At The End Of A Long Day
Nice Site At Cadillac Ranch RV Park
In The Valley Of The Gods
Rollercoaster Road
A Miniature Monument Valley
Lost On Cedar Mesa: Bluff, Utah thumbnail
Hiking In Butler Wash thumbnail
Squeezing Through The Rocks thumbnail
Along The Trail thumbnail
Wolfman Petroglyph Panel thumbnail
Beautifully Preserved Petroglyphs thumbnail
A Moment Of Contemplation thumbnail
Bushwhacking Through The Wash thumbnail
Heading Toward The Horizon thumbnail
Consulting The Directions Yet Again thumbnail
In Search Of Procession Panel thumbnail
Eric And Henry Leading The Way thumbnail
Seriously, We're In The Wrong Place? thumbnail
A Long Steep Climb thumbnail
Almost There thumbnail
Hallelujah, We Found It! thumbnail
Trying To Figure Out The Meaning thumbnail
Ancient Images Of Elk And Hunters thumbnail
Late Autumn On The Mesa thumbnail
Sliding Down The Embankment thumbnail
A Little Help Back Up The Other Side thumbnail
A Confusing Moment On The Trail thumbnail
Reaching Fabulous Monarch Cave Ruins thumbnail
Lovely Monarch Cave Ruins thumbnail
The View From Monarch Cave Ruins thumbnail
Cottonwoods In Autumn Finery thumbnail
Ancient Corncobs And Grinding Stone thumbnail
Handprints From Long Ago thumbnail
Sculpted Rock On Cedar Mesa thumbnail
Unnamed Ruins In North Mule Canyon thumbnail
In The Wrong Canyon, Still Had A Good Time thumbnail
Granary Tucked Beneath The Cliff thumbnail
Finding Our Way To Fallen Roof Ruins thumbnail
Following The Cairns thumbnail
A Steep Climb Up Sandstone thumbnail
Spectacular Fallen Roof Ruins thumbnail
Taking A Closer Look thumbnail
I Think This Roof Is Still Falling! thumbnail
Bluff, Utah: Established 650 A.D. thumbnail
Twin Rocks Trading Post thumbnail
Welcome To The Trading Post thumbnail
Reward At The End Of A Long Day thumbnail
Nice Site At Cadillac Ranch RV Park thumbnail
In The Valley Of The Gods thumbnail
Rollercoaster Road thumbnail
A Miniature Monument Valley thumbnail