Raven and Chickadee

Navigation Menu

Exploring Cedar Mesa

Exploring Cedar Mesa

Posted by on Nov 8, 2013 in Gallery, Travel, Utah | 6 comments

Our hike to House On Fire sparked our interest in exploring more of Cedar Mesa. Located in southeastern Utah, this 50-mile long plateau encompasses the small and smaller towns of Blanding (population 3,500) and Bluff (population 320). This sparsely populated area is home to the Navajo, Ute, ranchers, a handful of artists, and hardy souls who search the canyons and mesas for ancient Anasazi dwellings and artifacts.

After five days without water or electric hook-ups in Goblin Valley and Natural Bridges National Monument, we were ready for a bit of civilization (laundry, plenty of water for showers, and electricity for our computers). We chose Blanding as our home base for exploring Cedar Mesa, and found a nice place to stay at The Blue Mountain RV Park for three nights—a mere 40 miles from our campsite in Natural Bridges (love those short travel days). Peaceful and dark (two of our most sought after attributes, wherever we camp), the park also boasts a fine trading post stocked with jewelry, rugs, and baskets made by Native Americans in the Four Corners area. The owners, Duke and Rose (now in their 80’s) have been trading with the local Indians since 1959. Their taste is excellent; none of the made-for-tourist junk that fills too many shops in the Southwest. I really wanted a green turquoise necklace and earrings that would have perfectly matched a beautiful green turquoise and silver bracelet that I bought 25 years ago in Santa Fe—but the steep increase in the price of silver and turquoise over the past couple of decades stopped me. Glad I bought that bracelet when I did.

There’s not much to Blanding; the town is DRY (and I’m not referring to the desert location). This is another locale where you need to BYOB (while you’re at it, bring your own food, too).

Highlights of our time exploring Cedar Mesa:

Edge of the Cedars Museum: Just a couple of miles from the RV park in Blanding, this Utah State Park has the largest collection of Anasazi pottery and artifacts in the Four Corners Region. Most museums have more items squirreled away in storage than they have on display; this museum is unique in that all of their storage is visible, with a very cool computer program to access information on each piece.

Valley of the Gods: A 17-mile drive through magnificent red rock formations; somewhat like a smaller version of Monument Valley (and according to many people, more beautiful). According to Navajo legend, the rock formations are places of power in which spirits reside. The imposing monoliths are Navajo warriors frozen in stone, who can be appealed to for protection (45 miles from Blanding; 20 miles from Bluff).

Sand Island Petroglyphs: Only four miles from Bluff, it’s an easy walk to this accessible 70-foot long panel of petroglyphs that are between 800 and 2500 years old.

Wolfman Petroglyph Panel: A few miles from Bluff, and only about a mile hike round trip—involves some scrambling, and a tight squeeze through boulders. This is a wonderful petroglyph panel, considered to be one of the finest in the Southwest. We especially liked the owl image.

Monarch Cave Ruins: Absolutely spectacular Anasazi cliff dwelling in a shaded canyon overlooking a small pool below. A moderate one-mile hike through a narrow canyon leads to the ruin, and then there’s an insanely steep climb up into the main ruin—but coming down was far worse (Eric went for it, while I stayed below). Walking among the ruins, discovering shards of pottery, tiny corncobs, and metates (grinding stones), it was easy to imagine life in this ancient village.

Bluff, Utah: We realized that most everything we were doing (except for visiting the museum) involved driving to Bluff. Next time, we’re staying in Bluff (the BLM campground at Sand Island, or perhaps Cadillac Ranch in Bluff). It’s a unique town in a beautiful setting, with a vibrant community of artists—the weekend we were there they were celebrating the Bluff Arts Festival, with local artists offering free workshops.

Exploring Cedar Mesa

Blue Mountain RV Park Trading Post

Campsite Blue Mountain RV Park

Edge Of The Cedars State Park

Anasazi Canteen

Macaw Feather Ceremonial Sash, 1150 A.D.

Patiently Waiting (Ha!)

Solar Marker Sculpture At Museum

Sand Island (Petroglyph panel on left, BLM campground on right)

Elk And Other Petroglyphs

Wild Petroglyph

Horse And Rider Petroglyph

Bluff Utah

Old Green Truck In Bluff

Front Porch Of Comb Ridge Coffee Shop

Art In The Coffee Shop

Old Wagon

Twin Rocks Trading Post, Bluff

Bluff Artist Kyle Bauman

Woven Willow Wall Hanging

Earth Oven

Bluff Restaurant

Road Through Valley Of The Gods I

Road Through Valley Of The Gods II

Rock Cairn To Nowhere

Stone God

Beginning Hike To Wolfman Petroglyphs

Trail To Wolfman Petroglyph Panel

Tight Squeeze

Viewing The Petroglyphs Above

Wolfman Petroglyph Panel

Owl And Other Petroglyphs

Trail To Monarch Cave Ruins

Monarch Cave Ruins

Monarch Cave Ruins Up Close

Eric In The Ruins

Sliding, The Only Way Down

Fall Colors In The Canyon

Detail Of Ruins

Ancient Metate, Potsherds, Corncobs

Handprint Pictographs

Exploring Cedar Mesa
Blue Mountain RV Park Trading Post
Campsite Blue Mountain RV Park
Edge Of The Cedars State Park
Anasazi Canteen
Macaw Feather Ceremonial Sash, 1150 A.D.
Patiently Waiting (Ha!)
Solar Marker Sculpture At Museum
Sand Island (Petroglyph panel on left, BLM campground on right)
Elk And Other Petroglyphs
Wild Petroglyph
Horse And Rider Petroglyph
Bluff Utah
Old Green Truck In Bluff
Front Porch Of Comb Ridge Coffee Shop
Art In The Coffee Shop
Old Wagon
Twin Rocks Trading Post, Bluff
Bluff Artist Kyle Bauman
Woven Willow Wall Hanging
Earth Oven
Bluff Restaurant
Road Through Valley Of The Gods I
Road Through Valley Of The Gods II
Rock Cairn To Nowhere
Stone God
Beginning Hike To Wolfman Petroglyphs
Trail To Wolfman Petroglyph Panel
Tight Squeeze
Viewing The Petroglyphs Above
Wolfman Petroglyph Panel
Owl And Other Petroglyphs
Trail To Monarch Cave Ruins
Monarch Cave Ruins
Monarch Cave Ruins Up Close
Eric In The Ruins
Sliding, The Only Way Down
Fall Colors In The Canyon
Detail Of Ruins
Ancient Metate, Potsherds, Corncobs
Handprint Pictographs
Exploring Cedar Mesa  thumbnail
Blue Mountain RV Park Trading Post  thumbnail
Campsite Blue Mountain RV Park  thumbnail
Edge Of The Cedars State Park  thumbnail
Anasazi Canteen  thumbnail
Macaw Feather Ceremonial Sash, 1150 A.D. thumbnail
Patiently Waiting (Ha!)  thumbnail
Solar Marker Sculpture At Museum thumbnail
Sand Island (Petroglyph panel on left, BLM campground on right) thumbnail
Elk And Other Petroglyphs  thumbnail
Wild Petroglyph  thumbnail
Horse And Rider Petroglyph  thumbnail
Bluff Utah  thumbnail
Old Green Truck In Bluff  thumbnail
Front Porch Of Comb Ridge Coffee Shop  thumbnail
Art In The Coffee Shop  thumbnail
Old Wagon thumbnail
Twin Rocks Trading Post, Bluff thumbnail
Bluff Artist Kyle Bauman  thumbnail
Woven Willow Wall Hanging  thumbnail
Earth Oven thumbnail
Bluff Restaurant  thumbnail
Road Through Valley Of The Gods I  thumbnail
Road Through Valley Of The Gods II  thumbnail
Rock Cairn To Nowhere  thumbnail
Stone God  thumbnail
Beginning Hike To Wolfman Petroglyphs  thumbnail
Trail To Wolfman Petroglyph Panel  thumbnail
Tight Squeeze  thumbnail
Viewing The Petroglyphs Above  thumbnail
Wolfman Petroglyph Panel  thumbnail
Owl And Other Petroglyphs  thumbnail
Trail To Monarch Cave Ruins  thumbnail
Monarch Cave Ruins  thumbnail
Monarch Cave Ruins Up Close  thumbnail
Eric In The Ruins  thumbnail
Sliding, The Only Way Down  thumbnail
Fall Colors In The Canyon  thumbnail
Detail Of Ruins  thumbnail
Ancient Metate, Potsherds, Corncobs  thumbnail
Handprint Pictographs  thumbnail

 

 

 

Read More

Lost On Cedar Mesa: Bluff, Utah

Lost On Cedar Mesa: Bluff, Utah

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

Read More