Cliff Dwellings and Sites

Ancestral Puebloan dwellings in Bears Ears Country
Hiking to cliff dwellings puts you in the footsteps of past lives. Your mind will wonder at just how the Ancestral Puebloan people built these structures high on cliffs and what their day-to-day life was like. Plus, the drives and hikes to each of these dwellings will take you to remote and stunning terrain. There are hundreds upon hundreds of ruins and cliff dwellings in the area, which is also collectively part of the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway.

Travel with Respect

The sites are artifacts and should be treated with respect. Don’t climb throughout them unless it’s specified that you can, leave what you find, and don’t carve on the walls or rocks. Always "Respect and Protect." Some destinations require a day use permit from the Bureau of Land Management. Dogs are allowed in most areas, and signs will designate if they must be kept on leash. Please review our travel advisory.

Cliff Dwellings and Ruins

In addition to the GPS coordinates* below, detailed maps to some hard-to-find cliff dwellings can be found at area visitors centers.

Mule Canyon Sites
Read: Exploring Mule Canyon
(Parking 37.540177, -109.742857)

House on Fire
Read: Exploring Mule Canyon
(37.542504, -109.730760; Parking 37.537314, -109.732772) 

Within the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument, the House on Fire is one of the region's most popular cliff dwellings that's right along Highway 95 between Blanding and Natural Bridges in the South Fork of Mule Canyon. It's a one-quarter mile drive on well-maintained native-surface road. It's called House on Fire because at certain times of days the lighting makes it looks like there's a glow to it, with smoke and flames coming out of it. It's really popular with photographers. It's short hike, 3 miles round trip with little elevation so it's good for the whole family.

Time your trip to House on Fire by arriving to the trailhead with enough time to hike the 1.5 miles and hit the ruin approximately late morning, depending on the season. You’ll never forget this magical place lit ablaze with sunlight reflecting off red-orange rock. You’ll also remember the mystery and the wonderment you feel gazing upon ancient structures, pictographs, and petroglyphs.

The Mule Canyon/House on Fire trailhead requires a $2.00 per person permit at trailhead if not purchased in advance at Kane Gulch Ranger Station. Beginning in March 2018, advance reservations for overnight trips in the Bears Ears area may be obtained on recreation.gov or the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. Please visit the BLM Cedar Mesa Permits webpage for more information. 

Butler Wash
.5 mile hike to "cliff dwelling" overlook
(37.522797100, -109.633673400)

Cave Towers Site
Read: Exploring Mule Canyon
.5 mile Rough road access, .25 mile hike
(Parking 37.528938, -109.733040)

River House Site
Read: The History of River House (And How to Experience it Today)
(37.222791, -109.687882)

Salvation Knoll Historic Site
A short but steep hike
(Parking 37.564787, -109.818655)

Arch Canyon 
2.75 miles native surface road; expect to hike last .25 mile
(Parking 37.546072, -109.668667)

Bears Ears National Monument includes two tiny satellite units that protect Doll House and Moon House sites. Located in Dark Canyon and Cedar Mesa respectively, these famous sites were already subject to access restrictions prior to the national monument designation." Visitors should note that both Doll House and Moon House are difficult to reach and that extensive planning, preparedness and prior permit from the BLM are required to visit.

Other Nearby Sites

Three-Kiva Site
Drive 9 miles off pavement on a gravel road. Sections of the road are very steep and slippery when wet.  It is also subject to frequent wash-outs and crosses the stream many times as it goes through the bottom of Montezuma canyon.  If there has been bad weather, travel the road with caution.  
(route: CR 146/446, then 7.25 miles on CR 146; parking 37.565095, -109.252037)

Bradford Site
Additional 2.37 miles beyond Three-Kiva Site
(Parking 37.585967, -109.269137)

*Always double-check coordinates before setting out

 

Additional Ancestral Puebloan History Nearby