3. House on Fire
There are so many ancestral puebloan dwellings in the Four Corners region of southeastern Utah it’s hard to know where to begin, especially with the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument. A good place to start is S.R. 95, a rolling and scenic byway that from Blanding, Utah, on the east, rises up over the Comb Ridge of the Shash Jaa unit before approaching some of this remote and rugged area’s most accessible hikes. A stop at the Butler Wash overlook is a good introduction (1 mile, round-trip, with interpretive signage by the Friends of Cedar Mesa), but give yourself a couple of hours to hit the South Fork of Mule Canyon, on county road 263, east of the well-marked Mule Canyon turnoff and just before mile marker 102.
Drive this dirt road to the fee box ($2/person) then continue about a quarter mile to the trailhead for Mule Canyon. The mile to House on Fire trail is mostly flat, but it crisscrosses a sandy and rocky wash and is mostly exposed; hike with care and be sure to carry plenty of water. The ruin itself is not marked, so keep your head up and watch for the distinctive rock dwelling on the right. (Additional ruins exist further up the canyon.) When visiting ancient ruins, always practice Respect and Protect principles. Do not climb in or on ruins. Do not move rocks or anything else. While they have lasted for hundreds of years, they are fragile. Instead, notice the ancient thumb prints in the adobe mortar and the assembly of stones and imagine eeking out a life in this remote territory in a sea of canyons in the heart of the Colorado Plateau.
Travel Tips: The House on Fire “effect” occurs late morning, and is best photographed from some very specific locations as the light bounces off the canyon wall. The wonder of the ruins, however, can be experienced any time of day.