Petrified Forest National Park is a remarkable place where visitors make new discoveries at every turn. World-famous for its plentiful and beautiful petrified wood, the park is in northeast Arizona in the spectacular Painted Desert. The park is split by Interstate 40 which makes it very easy to access. Interstate travelers can have an amazing visit in an hour while those who have more time will find many interesting experiences.
Ruins and rock art are plentiful in SE Utah and these roadside ruins are a place to stretch your legs, enjoy the incredible natural surroundings, and visit ancient cliff dwellings, ruins, and rock art.
Southeast Utah was once populated by the Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi) who lived in interconnected communities spread across the four corners area. Once numbering in the tens of thousands, these first residents left the ruins and rock art that fascinate us today. National parks and monuments like Mesa Verde, Hovenweep, and Chaco Canyon offer well-developed explorations of cliff dwellings and rock art. However, many smaller sites are easily accessed and offer a less-developed experience to visitors.
Kane Gulch is the most popular entrance into Grand Gulch which is the large canyon system that bisects Cedar Mesa. Cedar Mesa is the best place to find undeveloped archeological sites in wild settings and Grand Gulch offers amazing canyon-hiking and Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) explorations. Kane Gulch is the most up-canyon entry point for exploring Grand Gulch and the majority of backpack trips into Grand Gulch use the Kane Gulch trail.
Junction Ruin is probably the most visited ruin in Grand Gulch. It’s an interesting Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) site located in Grand Gulch right at the junction with Kane Gulch. Kane Gulch is the most popular access to Grand Gulch so it stands to reason that Junction Ruin the most visited ruin in the canyon. The trail to the ruin is easy and Junction Ruin is a great place to get exposed to the Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) ruins of Grand Gulch
Turkey Pen ruin is a well-known Anasazi ruin in Grand Gulch. It’s an easily accessible Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) site located a short distance down canyon from Junction Ruin. Junction Ruin gets its name because it sits at the intersection of Grand Gulch and Kane Gulch. The Kane Gulch trail provides easy access, making it easy to visit both Turkey Pen Ruin and Junction Ruin in a single-day hike. However, it’s even better if you can visit as part of a multi-day backpacking trip.
The Mule Canyon Ruin, also known as the Mule Canyon Indian Ruin, is a fully developed and restored Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) ruin located on Utah 95, southwest of Blanding, UT. Utah 95 is a primary route through SE Utah’s canyon country and even hurried travelers can get a better understanding of the area and its earliest inhabitants by visiting.
Mule Canyon is located on the north end of Cedar Mesa about 20 miles west of Blanding, UT. Mule Creek cuts a deep canyon through the mesa as it travels eastward to empty into Comb Wash. The approximately 12 mile long drainage begins above 7,800 ft and drops to 4,800 ft in Comb Wash. Utah 95 runs close to Mule Canyon for most of it’s length and the highway provides easy access to a number of Mule Canyon hikes.
7 Kiva Ruin is in Road Canyon which is a significant canyon draining eastward off of Cedar Mesa. Road Canyon is a very popular with hikers because it offers excellent scenic, wilderness and archaeological experiences. 7 Kiva Ruin is a well-known site that is listed or referenced in all of the Cedar Mesa Hiking Guides listed in our guide book reviews. The most detailed instructions on how to find 7 Kiva Ruin are found in Peter Tessoni’s A Hiking Guide To Cedar Mesa.
Lime Canyon is located on Cedar Mesa in southeastern Utah. Lime Creek begins at an elevation of 6,600 ft on the mesa top and quickly cuts into the rock layers. It creates a canyon that runs toward the southeast and drops to 4,150 ft where it joins the San Juan River less than 20 miles from its beginning.
Johns Canyon originates on top of Cedar Mesa at 6,600 ft. from there it slashes down through Cedar Mesa for about 12 miles until it reaches the San Juan River at 3,850 ft. There are three distinct sections of Johns Canyon. The upper section is typical Cedar Mesa canyon terrain. The middle stretch gets broad and flat with a road through it and the lower canyon entrenches again. While all sections have attractions, this article focuses on the upper section of the canyon.