On to Utah – Procession Panel Hike

Bluff, UT

Last Sunday morning (4/9) we left Farmington, NM and headed northwest for about a hundred miles to the little town of Bluff, UT.

Bluff is a tiny town of about 300 people located in the four corners area of Utah along US-191.  This is our fourth visit here as we love exploring the many canyons in the area.

Bluff, Utah (from east).jpg

After arriving in Bluff we quickly settled into a spot at the Cadillac Ranch RV Park and waited for our friends, David and Karen and their little dog Cody, to arrive.  We last saw them during our Florida stay in December and were anxious to have them join us for some hiking.  But first on our agenda after their arrival was dinner at the nearby Twin Rocks Cafe.

We love their chicken noodle (dumplings) soup and Indian Fry Bread, and it was just as good as we remembered.  The next morning all five of us (Cody is quite the hiker) headed out for a hike up to see Procession Panel, a wall of rock art high up on Comb Ridge.

The four-legged leader of the pack

Comb Ridge is a linear monocline (a step-like fold in rock strata) nearly 80 miles long in southeast Utah and northeast Arizona. Its northern end merges with the Abajo Mountains eleven miles west of Blanding.  It extends essentially due south for 28 miles to the San Juan River, just south of Bluff, where it turns to the southwest into Arizona.  In many of the narrow canyons along the ridge created by erosion, there are abandoned rock dwellings built by Ancient Puebloan cultures.  There is no evidence of anyone living along the canyon leading to the Procession Panel, but someone sure spent a great deal of time drawing the many figures.

To get to the trailhead we drove five miles south on US 191, which turns into US 163.  Across from the turn into the Bluff Airport (Yes, they have an airport.  OK, it’s one paved runway.) we turned right on to Butler Wash Road, a well-maintained dirt road.  After a drive of about 6.3 miles we turned left and drove a short distance to a parking area where the trail begins.

The artwork is around the corner

Cody led the way for much of the hike, but this was mainly due to his desire to get ahead of us and enjoy a moment in the cool shade provided by the rocks.

A short rest in the shade

After a hike of about two miles up a wash, (the last quarter up a steep, rocky path along the wall of the canyon) we came to the panel full of artwork.

The Procession Panel

Don’t touch the wall, just get close!

A couple of guys taking a break

The Panel includes 154 figures in a line

Karen made an interesting observation of the figure in the photo below.  Note that the tail is raised and there appears to be round balls of something just behind the back feet.  What was the artist trying to depict?

Note the shepherd with a bird on his head

Time out for a drink

After examining the panel we continued up the slickrock to the edge of the comb where we were treated to great vistas all around us.

Heading up to the edge

Monument Valley was visible to the south

Comb Wash Road below us with Cedar Mesa in the distance

This entire area is included in the newest of national monuments, Bears Ears National Monument, signed into existence by President Obama last December.  We could see the Bears Ears peaking up far to the north.

Bears Ears in the distance

Lunch with a view (note the paw)

The cell service in the Bluff area is pretty poor, but apparently at this higher elevation the signal is a little better.  David took his phone off airplane mode for a moment to check signal strength and received a call from a friend in Florida.  So much for being in the wilderness!

A bit of color along the trail

Near the trailhead you have to go through the dry bed of Butler Wash.  Since there are a number of cactus needles and other sharp items in the sand of the wash, it is difficult to go through that area in your bare feet paws.  So Cody called for an Uber to help him navigate this part of the hike.

Once back in Bluff, Cody joined us for a dog treat and some conversation.  But we found that he was a bit too tired for any meaningful discussion.

Next up for the group are a couple of hikes leading to some impressive Puebloan ruins.  More on that later . . .

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41 Responses to On to Utah – Procession Panel Hike

  1. Gay says:

    We really need to plan a stay in Bluff! We always breeze right through headed to Moab. So nice to see pictures of Cody. What a great hiking buddy! Love the rock art panel…

  2. Gay says:

    We really need to plan a stay Bluff. We always breeze right through headed to Moab. What a great little hiker Cody is…I know you were glad to see him (and his humans). Awesome panel of rock art!

    • placestheygo says:

      The hiking to the ruins is never ending, Gay. There are so many hikes under five miles. The area has both your rough back roads and hiking! You two could keep busy for a long time.

  3. Laurel says:

    Cedar Mesa is one of of favorite places! We loved the hike to Procession Panel, but somehow lost our way trying to find it and ended up doing a much longer and more strenuous hike. Our friends still haven’t completely forgiven us. :-)) Looks like you had a very fun day—love the paws and boots photo!

    • placestheygo says:

      The trail was pretty worn, Laurel. But getting started and across the washes is tricky! Cody wasn’t thrilled about being on his back to participate in the “lunch with a view” photo!

  4. Jeff Pierce says:

    We’ve been to Bluff several times (son Michael lived in CO), but never on this hike. The 12+ miles of dirt road were a deterrent. Oh did we miss out! Looking forward to your blog(s) on the ruins – perhaps a bit of familiarity there …

  5. Gerri & Mike says:

    Magnificent!! What a great hike!! I’m impressed with Cody…he’s quite a trooper!!

  6. geogypsy2u says:

    An amazing panel with much going on. So much explorations in the Bluff area and I’ve only been through the area once. Cody is a real trooper and so smart to call for an Uber.

  7. Debbie L says:

    Wow, what an exhilarating hike! I can certainly see why you like to return to this area we are still dreaming of the day to get out that way- but we certainly are enjoying the trip with your great photos and commentary/observations!

  8. That is one of the cutest little dogs I’ve ever seen and such a trooper!!!

  9. Susan Bank says:

    There is no question what that deer is doing…….Absolutely love Cody riding on John’s back, we didn’t know he offered rides. We’ll have to keep that in mind for next time. Don’t sing the praises of Bluff too loudly, it’s a hidden gem that you don’t want to be “discovered”!

  10. Deer poop on the panel!!! I totally understand why you love visiting Bluff so much! Love the views from the top of the Comb.

    • placestheygo says:

      Someone had quite the creative mind when they were creating this drawing. Bluff has endless trails all leading to ruins and/or rock art. Makes every hike an adventure! I still have a list after four visits.

  11. That Cody is just too cute. We love hiking with our friends’ dogs, since we aren’t the ones having to clean them up after!

  12. Jodee Gravel says:

    Wonderful pic of the two of you at the panel. Good looking Uber too, as one never knows what you’re going to get when you call 🙂 Those views from the top are amazing! I can’t believe you’ve already been there over a week. I’m enjoying all your red rock – you both look right at home there.

  13. pmbweaver says:

    I just love the setting of Twin Rocks Cafe.
    What a fabulous hike. I love the panel of artwork.
    I think we need to put Bluff on our travel plans. Looks awesome.

  14. girlonahike says:

    That looks really cool – adding it to my list for that area!
    Alicia @ http://www.GirlonaHike.com

  15. Cecilia says:

    Utah is just amazing with those rock formations. Your pics are just great! Greetings.

  16. Sherry says:

    Those panels are just spectacular. I imagine the number of persons in the procession was significant at the time. It’s just amazing to think of them being created. LOL at Cody calling Uber. Great description. There have been times on a hike when I’d have liked to have done the same. Sure hope Bears Ears stays and all the parks and monuments remain free from drilling and other “exploration”.

  17. Karen has a wild imagination, I just hope that the smell is already gone by now. I love Bluff and I really want to revisit the area now that you have shown us another trail to follow. That’s a handsome Uber! So Cody was able to use his app I mean his paw to call Uber 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      Bluff has an never ending list of hikes with all distances. The main problem is that most of the good hikes require a Jeep. But you could drive to any of the hikes along Butler Wash Road.

  18. Rhoda Carroll says:

    Hello — I found your trip notes by accident and as luck would have it you describe one of my favorite places: Bluff. Haven’t been back in 20 years but I still see it vividly in the mind’s heart. The Recapture Lodge was a delight. Did you get to drive through Valley of the Gods? Best wishes for the rest of your travels.

  19. Nancy says:

    We were in Bluff, Utah. Stopped at neat place with a lot of typewriters in the window. Ended up being an Art Studio. I also took a very cool shot of an old green rusted truck. The photo is on my gallery wall in my office!

    Loved the paw added to lunch with a view!

    Have fun looking at all the cool things in Bluff. Could not believe you could see Monument Valley!

  20. Allison says:

    Great write-up on your hike to Procession Panel! Looking forward to reading about your visit to Target Ruin & Ballroom Cave!

  21. LuAnn says:

    We hope to spend some time in Utah on our return trip this fall. Guess whose blog I will be using to do my research? Bluff looks like a great place to spend some time.

    • placestheygo says:

      There really isn’t a perfect place to stay when visiting this area. The ruins are in a large rectangular box from Natural Bridges to Blanding to Bluff and the Moki Dugway entrance. You will need to drive to some ruins no matter which area you choose unless you want to move often. We prefer to stay put and drive. We certainly have lots of places for you to see since this was our fourth year in Bluff. I haven’t exhausted my list of areas to visit yet. You will love this area!!

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