Exploring in Bluff, Pt. 3 of 3

Bluff, UT

Toward the end of our week in Bluff we headed back up on Cedar Mesa to explore Shieks Canyon.  To get to the trailhead you follow the directions to the more popular Bullet Canyon Trailhead (between mm 21 and mm 22 on UT 261).  Once at that trailhead, continue following the maintained dirt road (it turns right at the trailhead) for another mile and a half.  At the “T” in the road turn left for another mile to the parking area.

It is a bit confusing at this point because the road continues, but a small sign said to park behind the sign due to road damage.  When we hiked the road we found that we could have continued in the Jeep for another half mile to where the road ends.

The actual trailhead is not well-defined, as cattle have grazed here so there are trails all over the place.  The best thing to do is just follow the road to the end, where the actual trail veers off to your left.  But we hiked what looked to be a main trail until we came to the edge of the canyon.  OK, so how do we get down the steep cliff?  We flipped a coin and turned to our right.  After hiking about a half mile without success we flipped that coin again and hiked back to the left.  A short distance from where we first came to the canyon (and two miles later), we found the trail going down into it.  Just a short distance down into the canyon we came to the ruins we were seeking.

Yellow House Ruins above

The Yellow House Ruins site holds three structures, the largest being a semi-circular, yellow walled dwelling with a perfect, original and unrestored ceiling made of large logs crossed by smaller sticks at right angles.  The gaps are filled with adobe.  The ties are made from the Yucca plant.

The yellow ties are in fine shape

We hiked further down the canyon but found it to be rough going.  Our legs were a bit tired from a long hike the previous day and the search for the canyon, so we decided to turn around and return to the Jeep.  Another 2.5 miles down to the bottom of the canyon is the Green Mask Ruin.  We’ll try that another time.

The trail is a bit challenging

Our final day in Bluff was Founder’s Day, a celebration of the arrival of Mormon pioneers who arrived to settle the town in April of 1880.  One of the events was a parade through town.  Although small in numbers, the participants (many were relatives of the original settlers) were very enthusiastic.

The organizers advertised that two bands would be participating.

Local Country and Western group

They had no ID but must be from the high school in Blanding

Replica of handcarts pulled by Mormon pioneers

Three local hermits who came to town to enjoy the festivities!

Basket weaving demonstration at the Twin Rocks Trading Post

Our original plans had us leaving Bluff and heading north for a two week stay in Moab.  But we have been to Moab many times and were both anxious to spend some time at our new home in Boulder City, so we cancelled Moab and headed back to Nevada.

The San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff, AZ

After a long drive of almost 450 miles we arrived at our house and quickly backed the motorhome into its new spot.

It fit into the space perfectly, even with the slides out.

We plan to spend the next few weeks here while we settle in.  Then we’ll hop back into the motorhome for a summer trip east to visit family.

But remember, there are many, many hiking opportunities around the Las Vegas area, so we’ll still be lacing up the boots for some exploration.

More on that later . . .

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Exploring in Bluff, Pt. 2 of 3

Bluff, UT

The nimble hiker recently read about a beautiful canyon located west of the town of Blanding, which is 20 miles north of Bluff.  Arch Canyon has three large arches and a number of ancient ruins.  We didn’t go into the canyon, instead driving around it to check out the great view from above.  To get there we drove north from Bluff on US 191 for 22 miles.  We then turned west on UT 95 and drove 19.4 miles to the right turn for the Mule Canyon Trailhead.  After turning off of hwy 95 follow Co. Rd 263 past the trailhead for South Mule Canyon and House On Fire Ruins. Continue for about a mile until just after you cross the North Fork of Mule Canyon and stay left at the fork.  Stay on this road until mile 5.2 where you will reach another fork- stay right on the more well used road and continue to 6.4 miles where you will reach another fork.  If you’re worried about clearance, you can park here and walk the final .2 miles to the overlook, otherwise turn on this road and continue to the parking area.  A narrow point jutting out of the edge of the canyon provides a great viewpoint of the beauty below.

Can you see someone on the point?

Crop the above photo and you can see John a little more clearly

There is a bit of a drop off on the path leading out to the point, but an Eagle Scout project installed a nice ladder allowing easy navigation past that barrier.

The view on the right

The view on the left

See the arch across the canyon to the right of Pam?

Oh, there it is…Cathedral Arch

Lunch with a view

After getting our fill of the gorgeous canyon, we drove back down the road to the bridge that crosses the north fork of Mule Canyon.  On the west side of the bridge is a trailhead to hike up the wash into the canyon.  North Mule Canyon isn’t as popular as South Mule Canyon so we had the place to ourselves.  There are at least six different ruins along the first three miles.

Hiking up North Mule Canyon

About two miles up the wash we passed a granary above us on the cliff to our right.  This granary was our indication to begin watching the north wall for the ruins we were seeking.  But the ruins are hidden as you go up the wash, so we missed them and ended up extending our hike more than a mile.  We finally realized that we had missed them at 3.3 miles and turned around.  Going back down the wash we spotted them as we rounded a bend.  While small in size, the ruins are impressive for the wooden roof still in good condition over one of the rooms.  There are two other alcoves with ruins right near by.

Very well preserved structure with a Kiva in the front

We have one more hike and a parade to talk about to finish our visit to Bluff.  But that will have to wait until the next post.

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Exploring in Bluff, Pt. 1 of 3

Bluff, UT

During our week stay in Bluff we re-visited some places we had been on previous visits and found some new places to explore.  Steve and MonaLiza arrived here mid-week and joined us on a visit to San Juan Hill, a spot famous in Mormon history where a group of pioneers took their wagons up and over a steep rocky outcropping on their way to settling Bluff.  Dave and Sue followed in their Jeep, along with a very excited Lewis.

To get to the site we drove seven miles to the south on Rte. 163.  At the bottom of a cut through Comb Ridge, we left the highway and drove about four miles east on a dusty, one lane, dirt road.  The road has many areas of deep sand that required the use of four wheel drive.  In other areas the path was very rocky  requiring a high clearance vehicle.

After a bumpy, dusty four miles we came to our destination.  The pioneers who made the almost impossible climb up this hill named it San Juan Hill.  Looking at the photo below, the pioneers drove their wagons on to the rocks right where the sign is today.  They first moved up the rocks to the left, then turned right and went diagonally up to the arrow.  You can just see a faint line of the trail they hand dug into the hillside.

Up close it is difficult to see the path up the rocks.  But from a distance you can see the route much more clearly.

In parts of the hill you can see ruts in the rocks made by wagon wheels as the pioneers made the steep ascent.

As the group slowly and painfully approached the top of the hill someone etched their relief in the rock wall.


Lewis keeps the group together during the climb

Once back at the Jeeps we continued on the dirt road another mile or so for a visit to the River House Ruins.  The stone dwellings were occupied by Ancestral Puebloans between 900 and the late 1200s.

Our tour guide

We have more adventures to report from Bluff, but they will have to wait for another blog.

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Hiking to the Citadel – Bluff, UT

Bluff, UT

We’ve hiked to many ancient pueblo ruins in the area around Bluff (southeastern Utah) during our four previous visits.  But after a bit of research the nimble hiker found a site up on nearby Cedar Mesa that turned out to be one of our favorites – The Citadel.   To get to the trailhead leading to the ruins we first drove south of Bluff on US-163 for 20 miles.  At that point we turned right (west) on to UT-261.  UT-261 is a nice paved road except for a three mile segment called the Moki Dugway.  The Moki Dugway consists of three miles of steep, unpaved, but well graded switchbacks (11% grade), which wind 1,200 feet up on to Cedar Mesa from the valley floor.

Look real closely and you can see a car traveling above us

The road has no guard rails, but it is wide enough that it will not bother most people.  The view from the top is quite impressive.

Looking east from the top of the Moki Dugway

We continued north on UT-261 to just before mile marker 20.  A sign there points to a right turn (east) on to Cigarette Springs Road, a well-maintained dirt road.  Just under a mile from the pavement there is a self pay station with envelopes for you to deposit $2/person and tear off a day pass.  We continued on Cigarette Springs Road for a total of 6.1 miles from the pavement.  At that point we made a left turn and headed north on an unnamed dirt road that is not well-maintained.  This spur ends at a small parking area by the trailhead (6.9 miles from the pavement).

Part of the un-maintained road

Any vehicle can do the 6.1 miles of maintained road.  The last portion is a bit rough, but it can be driven by most vehicles.  But if you are uncomfortable on this road you can find a place to park and hike to the trailhead.

Parking area at the end of the road

Trailhead next to the parking area

The trail begins by heading east on a packed sand trail along the south side of a canyon for about a mile and a half.

It then crosses an area of flat slickrock well marked with cairns. The trail then cuts down between boulders and follows a slickrock shelf around a rock outcropping.

A small cairn marks where to climb down

Shelf area across the slickrock

Rounding the rock outcropping we came to a beautiful view of the Citadel in front of us connected to the mesa by a land bridge.

We scrambled down some more slickrock and headed across the land bridge to our destination.

The bridge is very wide and posed no danger, but you wouldn’t want to get too near the edge as it is a long way down!

We scrambled back up the rocks (right side) on the other side of the bridge and looked up to see the well-preserved dwellings above us.  One more scramble and we would be there.

Cool free standing boulder by the dwellings

These dwellings are nicely preserved and show a high level of sophistication by the builders.

Interior of one of the rooms

Note the use of cornerstones for support

Lunch with a view

After checking out the ruins and enjoying the views we headed back down to the land bridge.

See the nimble hiker?

Climbing back up the slickrock

The Cedar Mesa area around the Citadel has been eliminated in the newly restructured  Bears Ears National Monument.  As we hiked back along the edge of the canyon we could see the two mesas that give the monument its name.

The Bears Ears

Even if there were no ruins, the hike out to the Citadel would be worth the effort just for the vistas.  The well-preserved ruins make the hike all the more interesting.

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Nice Jeep Ride Near Boulder City

Boulder City, NV

After a week in Hurricane, UT we returned to Boulder City last Sunday to finish up with the purchase of our new home.  We signed the  final closing documents on Monday, then waited the required three days before closing on Thursday.  We met the sellers at the house before closing so they could give us information on all the nuances of the house.  We found them to be wonderful people who are very proud of their home and expressed relief that we appeared to be decent people who will continue to care for it properly.  Boy, did they misread us!  They will be staying in the house until the beginning of next week to finish moving some of their things and supervise a person they hired to do a final cleaning (although the place looks spotless to us).  We’re heading for Bluff, UT on Sunday anyway, so we told them they didn’t need to rush their departure (they have a townhouse in Huntington Beach, CA).

Jodie and Bill (On the Road Abode) had arrived in this park (Canyon Trails RV) before we left for Hurricane last week and were still here when we returned (they left on Thursday).  They told us about a nice Jeep ride they had taken recently on the south side of Lake Mead about 20 miles into Arizona.  We decided to call friends Steve and Joan (Friends of Steve and Joan) to see if they wanted to make the trip there with us.  Steve and Joan are volunteering at nearby Lake Mead National Recreation Area.  Their main assignment is to travel the many back roads in the area to check for damage, fix fallen signs, and monitor conditions.  They’ve been on just about every road in the recreation area so we knew they would be familiar with the route.  Sure enough, they had driven the roads numerous times in a park vehicle, but were more than up for another visit in their Jeep.  So we rendezvoused along US 93 at Nevada Way at the crack of dawn (ok, 9:30) Friday morning and headed into Arizona.  Near mile marker 19 we turned left (east) on to Temple Bar Road.  After 13.5 miles, the paved Temple Bar Road makes a 90 degree turn to the right.  We continued straight on to the maintained dirt road labeled 74 on park maps.

Park Road 74

As we traveled on Park Road 74 we could see a section of Lake Mead in the distance.  The contrast of the mountains and the water always looks beautiful.

After four miles we came to a cross roads where we turned left (west) on to Park Road 71 (Cohenour Loop Rd. on Google Maps).   We stopped along the way to check out some ancient artwork.

Just up the road from the artwork we came to our first wildlife sighting.

A group of three cows were enjoying lunch by the road.  The animals had no markings so Joan said they were probably wild.  Just a short distance further, Pam spotted a black animal moving off to our right.  We radioed ahead that we though it was a horse.  Joan said they had never seen a wild horse in the park, but it could be a wild burro.

But a closer look revealed that it was, indeed, a horse.  He had no markings but looked very healthy.  Steve later reported both sightings to his supervisor at Lake Mead NRA.

We continued driving up the loop road, stopping frequently to enjoy the scenery.

Steve and Joan try to sneak past us after a switchback

About half way around the loop we turned left on to Park Road 72, a short, dead end spur that leads up to a crest near an old mine.  At the end of the road we were treated to an outstanding view of Lake Mead below us and the skyline of Las Vegas in the distance.

Mt Charleston is snow capped in the distance with Las Vegas below

We returned back down to the loop road, enjoying the views all around us as we descended.

As we returned past the area with the art work, one of the sentinels kept an eye on us.

One last view of Lake Mead

Tomorrow (Sunday) we’ll head out very early because we have a long drive ahead of us.  Our next destination in Bluff, UT is really a two day drive for us, as we don’t like to drive further that 200 miles in one day.  But there isn’t a real convenient spot to stop along the way so we decided to just tough it out and make the 440 mile journey in one day.  Someone once said that only the strong survive.  We’ll see if that’s true tomorrow!

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Short Hikes Near St. George

Hurricane, UT

While we experienced some rain during our stay here at Sand Hollow State Park, the weather did clear enough for us to get out for three short but interesting hikes.

Babylon Arch – To get to this trailhead we drove north of the little town of Leeds (exit 22 north on I-15) and turned east on to 900 N Road, a maintained dirt road.  After a drive of three miles we took the left fork at a “Y” in the road, then a quick right into a dirt parking area.  The trailhead is in one corner of this parking area.

900 N Road

We followed the trail for about a quarter mile to where it joined a narrow two-track road.  After another quarter mile we came to another parking area that is designated the Sand Cove Primitive Camping Area.  The camping area is surrounded by colorful rock formations.

Pam named this Heart Arch

At the end of a wood fence is a step-over that is the beginning of the Arch Trail.

The arch trail meanders through some beautiful rock formations until you come to a bluff overlooking the Virgin River.

From the top of the bluff the trail goes steeply down through loose sand until you come to Babylon Arch.  Gravity made the hike down easy, but guess what trail we will use to get back!

Heading down (with the Virgin River in the background)

As you make your way down to the bottom of the sandy path you go around what looks like a large rock protruding from the sand.  Go around it and you discover it is the arch.

The arch looking north

The arch looking south

We continued past the arch for about a half mile to the north side of the Virgin River, where we turned around and headed back.

The Virgin River

We passed by the arch and headed back up through the deep sand.

Climbing up . . .

. . .  is very exciting!

As we hiked back through the campground area we were impressed with the view of the Pine Valley Mountains to the west.  This hike was a little over three miles.

Confluence Park Hurricane Trails – This trailhead is very easy to reach.  Just turn west on Main Street from West State Street in Hurricane and drive to the end of the road.  There you’ll find a parking area with restrooms and information signs.

After looking at a map at the trailhead we decided to combine four trails for a loop hike of just under three miles.  The first part of the hike took us west over a flat plain.

After a short distance the trail descended down a winding trail to the Virgin River.

It had rained fairly heavily the previous night, so the river was running strong and muddy.  When we hiked down to it from the Babylon Arch the previous day the water was crystal clear.  But things had changed!

Near the river there is a large fenced in area that serves as a care area for displaced Desert Tortoises.  After a stay here the tortoises are released in various sections of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.  We don’t know if there were any residents that day, but we didn’t see any.

See the nimble hiker with the Basalt rock towering above?

Yellow Knolls Trail – This trail is located northwest of St. George in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.  To get to the trailhead we drove about two miles south of exit 10 of I-15 on the E. Red Hills Parkway.  We then turned west on Cottonwood Springs Road, which turns into Old Dump Road, a smooth unpaved road.  The trailhead is in a small parking area 5.5 miles from Red Hills Parkway.

Yellow Knolls Trailhead

The hike begins with a long loop down through open prairie for about a mile.

It then follows a wash up into some beautiful rock formations that line both sides of the trail.

Lunch with a view

The trail goes on for miles into the rocks.  We went a little over two miles before turning around and hiking back to the trailhead.

All three of these trails are short, fairly easy, and filled with interesting scenery.  They are just three examples of the many trails in the St. George area.

That concludes our week stay in beautiful Sand Hollow State Park.  Our original plans were to move on to Page, AZ for a week at Wahweap RV and Campground on the shore of Lake Powell.  But a small purchase needs to be completed instead, so we are heading back to Boulder City, NV.  We’ll spend a week there to complete the closing on our new home, then head toward Bluff, UT to explore some Native American ruins.

More on that later . . .

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Yant Flat Hike to Candy Cliffs

Hurricane, UT

After doing a bit of research on hikes in the St. George area, the nimble hiker discovered a great spot in the foothills just a few miles to our west.  Yant Flat (also referred to as the Candy Cliffs) is a large expanse of reddish-orange sandstone protruding from the mountains of Red Cliffs National Conservation Area to the north of St. George.  The sandstone formations are remnants of ancient petrified dunes which over time have been pushed up and exposed. The forces of nature have slowly carved them into all sorts of fascinating shapes and patterns.

To get to Yant Flat we drove through the tiny town of Leeds (exit 22 on I-15) to the north end of Main Street.  We turned left (west) onto Silver Reef Road and followed it for 1.2 miles to where it turns into a dirt road (Oak Grove Road).  We continued up that road for another two miles to where the road forks.  We turned left toward St. George on Forest Road 31 and drove about seven miles to a small parking area on the south side of the road (across from the junction with FR 903).

Oak Grove Road

Forest Road 31

The trailhead

The trail begins with a mile long hike across Yant Flat on a sandy path through an area of low vegetation.

At the end of the mile trek the world opens up into a wide area of colorful sandstone formations known as Candy Cliffs.

Things begin to open up ahead of us

Now this is Utah!

A trail follows the rim of the sandstone with great views of the Candy Cliffs to the south.  But we couldn’t resist going down into the rocks for a better look.  It’s a bit steep but sandstone provides great traction.

Heading down

We could use a handrail!

A bit of “butt sliding” was necessary in some spots

At the base of the slickrock we were surrounded by colorful rocks crisscrossed with interesting erosion patterns.

We looked up to the top of a rock formation in front of us and spotted a lone hiker enjoying the view.  It looked like a perfect spot to enjoy lunch.

As we climbed, we stopped often to enjoy the interesting formations along the way.

Approaching our lunch perch

Made it to the top!

Time for a snack

Lunch with a view

Cool little arch

After lunch we climbed back down into the little valley while continuing to marvel at the beauty all around us.

We then began the steep climb back up to the canyon rim.

OK, it’s a bit steep

The nimble hiker climbs up . . .

. . . and up . . .

. . . to the very top. Time for a bit of reflection!

While hiking back through the flat, we noticed a couple of interesting cactus varieties we have not seen before.

Long needle prickly pear

Some sort of cholla

Heading home on FR 31

This hike has something for any level of hiker.   The dirt roads leading to the trailhead are easily driven in any vehicle.  The one mile hike over Yant Flat is sandy but not that difficult.  If you’re not into a strenuous hike, the view from the rim of Candy Cliffs is well worth the hike across the flat.  Up for a bit more challenge?  Then make your way down into the cliffs and do some further exploration.  Either way, you’ll love the experience.

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