The South Fork of Mule Creek is a
great hike. It's
a fairly easy hiking trail that is easy to access. The trail is easy to
find and follow and is never too rough or steep. There is often water
available along the trail and, to top it all off,
it's the home to many accessible Anasazi ruins.
The South Fork Mule
trail is very easy to access. It is a short distance off UT 95 between
Blanding, UT and Natural Bridges National
This kiva is a good example of the typical construction of
these unique Anasazi structures.
Monument. To get to the
trailhead take UT 95 to about mile 102.5 where you will turn north onto
San Juan County Road #263. This is a well maintained gravel road that
is suitable for all vehicles. Just follow the road for about 1/4 mile
to where the road dips down to cross the South Fork Mule Canyon. At
point the canyon
is quite shallow and there are good parking places along the sides of
the road. There is additional parking and suitable camping found
along the road and it is only a short distance to the North Fork Mule
After parking along
you will easily find the tail that leads down to the canyon bottom.
There is a BLM registration kiosk at the trailhead and the South Fork
Mule Canyon is in the BLM fee area so you will need to pay the modest
Called by some the "Wall Ruins", these ruins are
in a short steep
side canyon to South Fork Mule Canyon. Located on the north side of the
canyon, this side canyon is about 4 miles in from the trailhead.
here the trail is obvious as it heads across the broad flat
canyon bottom heading up. At this point the canyon is shallow
with poorly defined, low canyon walls. Hiking is easy but rather boring
for the first 15 or 20 minutes after which the canyon quickly gets
deeper with steep cliff walls rising on both sides.
After no more than
of hiking you can begin to spot the ruins that are scattered throughout
the canyon. The ruins are mostly found in the alcoves located along the
ledges on the north side of the canyon. The Cedar Mesa sandstone that
makes up most
of the exposed rock in South Fork Mule Canyon easily erodes into these
south facing alcoves making them ideal locations for dwellings.
ruins you find will mostly be Mesa Verdean in style although the
Kayenta influence can be seen in a few places. While there was Anasazi
occupation of this
area for many years, most of the ruins date from the Pueblo II - Pueblo
III period. One of the most photographed ruins in the area is
the "House on Fire" Ruin
which is one
of the first ruins you will
hole in South Fork Mule Canyon
encounter when hiking the South Fork Mule
As you hike up the
keep a close eye on the ledges that appear above you. These are the
places to find the ruins so look up for the ruins. The tail works its
way up the canyon until it peters out near the steep head of the
canyon. There is
a significant side canyon that enters the South Fork Mule Canyon about
4 miles from the trail head. If you travel up this canyon you will be
able to view the remains of an interesting ruin that are on the cliff
wall. Sometimes called the "Wall Ruin" the structures are not found in
a typical alcove setting.
There are many ruins throughout the South Fork of Mule
are located on the south facing walls of the canyon where many alcoves
have been eroded into the rock layers. These ruins are fairly high
above the canyon floor and are easily spotted if you pay attention.
I have never
tried to hike
out of the South Fork Mule Canyon and have read differing accounts of
the practicality of doing so. It seems like a great loop hike could be
made by hiking out of the South Fork and into the North Fork
for the return. However, this could prove to be a
difficult or impossible task
as both the South and North Forks are very steep in their upper ends.
South Fork Mule
part of the large collections of Anasazi ruins found in the Mule Canyon
drainage. Mule Canyon begins on Cedar Mesa north of Hwy 95. The canyon
begins with the two forks, the South and North forks. each of these is
about 4 miles in length and the two come together a short distance
above the point where Mule Canyon passes under Hwy 95. Below the
Highway there are ruins in the canyon and on the canyon rim. Most
notably, the Cave
Canyon Tower Ruins
sit on the rim a short distance below the
It's likely that
much of the
mesa top was occupied and there are the remains of many surface ruins
in the area. one of them, the Mule
has been developed into a fine roadside
interpretive ruin. The lower sections of Mule Canyon drain into Comb
Wash and the ruins in this section of the canyon can be accessed from
the lower end.
In summary, the
Mule Canyon is a great place to visit. The trail is easily accessible,
easy to hike and full of interesting sites. Since the hike is an
in-and-out hike it can be as long as you like to fit any time schedule.
I highly recommend this hike for all Anasazi Country visitors.