The Citadel Ruins sit high above Road Canyon in Cedar Mesa & Bears Ears National Monument. This easy 2 mile trail leads you to one of the most impressive and well-preserved ruins in the area, that both dogs and kids can hike to as well. A citadel is a fortress that commands a city and used in defense during an attack. It leaves you to wonder, what could the Puebloan's have possibly been trying to defend themselves from? Other Native Americans? These ruins are close to 800 years old, and we'll never really know the answer to this, nor the reason the inhabitants disappeared.
The Seven Kivas Ruin is located in Cedar Mesa, off Cigarette Springs Road. A kiva is a subterranean ceremonial chamber, and have been central to Native spiritual traditions since ancient times. The interesting thing about kivas, is that one of them could serve a single family. To have seven kivas in one area meant this site was used for something very sacred. There are very few ruins in this area, so when a ceremony would happen, families would have to travel far to reach this site. The other interesting part is that these kivas are located under a shallow, exposed alcove - exposed to the harsh weather conditions. In the bottom of each kiva was a sipapu, or small hole or depression which symbolized the portal through which the original humans first entered the world.
Comb Ridge is a 90-mile long Navajo sandstone ridge (or monocline) running North to South, and is home to many ancestral ruins and petroglyphs that date back around 800 years old. Comb Ridge itself has a gentle eastern facing slopes, while the west side has "teeth" that jut out and above the ridge line. Each of these "teeth" contain drainages that lead to the San Juan River. The Puebloans' lived, farmed in this area, and left behind a massive amount of ruins and artifacts. Drought, overpopulation, diminishing resources, erosion, and conflict eventually brought an end to this era.
The Butler Wash Ruins are only a 20 minute drive West of Blanding, UT and is only 1 mile RT, so it makes for a great "get-out-and-stretch-your-legs" hike. This is more of a walk, rather than a hike. It is a popular archeological site, and viewing these ruins from the overlook can often be crowded. It's a great place for kids and dogs to get out and walk as well, but keep in mind the day time temperatures are often hot and can easily burn paws. Carry at least 1 water bottle with you here. The best time of day for photos are morning to mid-day so that the light shines on the ruins.
Fish and Owl Canyons, located in the Cedar Mesa area of Bears Ears National Monument, is a popular loop hike for backpackers looking to discover ancient ruins and kivas, hike through desert terrain, visit Neville's Arch, and explore two scenic, deep canyons. This area is recommended for intermediate to advanced backpackers due to the distance, rugged terrain, light route finding and scrambling.
In between Natural Bridges National Monument and Blanding, Utah lies Mule Canyon, home to the famous "House on Fire" ruins. Southeast Utah is also home to the most numerous and varied collection of ruins, spread over a remote area of about 30 X 25 miles. Besides hundreds of ruins, mostly cliff dwellings, the Cedar Mesa area contains many petroglyphs and pictographs, all between 800 - 2000 years old from the Anasazi and Pueblo Indians. Most are found in canyons, where water was easily accessible and conditions were cooler in summer months. All land is public, managed by the BLM, and as of December 28, 2016 is now protected under the Bears Ears National Monument.
On day two of our trip to Southeastern Utah, we drove from our camp at Goosenecks State Park 45 minutes North to Natural Bridges National Monument. After visiting Monument Valley, it was time for a change of scenery and we wanted to get some miles in hiking through water, canyons, and under bridges, and to visit Utah's first national monument. Natural Bridges covers a small area of SE Utah, and is therefore very remote and not close to any of "Utah's Mighty Five" National parks. Despite being near many other amazing places in this part of the state such as White Canyon, Mule Canyon, Cedar Mesa, Grand Gulch, and the LaSal Mountains. Unlike Arches National Park which has over 2,000 arches, there are only three bridges at Natural Bridges. This park also contains cliff dwellings, pictographs, petroglyphs, and white canyon sandstone.