Moon House Ruins – Bluff, UT

Bluff, UT

For our second adventure in the Bluff area we headed up on Cedar Mesa for a hike to the Moon House Ruins.  We did this hike three years ago and tried to do it again with David and Karen two years ago.  You need a permit from the Kane Gulch Ranger Station and the number of permits issued each day to the Moon House Ruins is limited to 20.  When we arrived there two years ago all the permits had been issued for that day.  So this year we called ahead and reserved four permits.

The Kane Gulch Ranger Station is 50 miles from Bluff, so the four of us headed out early the day of the hike.  We headed south on US-191, continued on US-163, and turned right on to UT-261 to the ranger station.  Once we obtained our permits we headed back down UT-261 six miles and turned east on Snow Flats Road.

Snow Flats Road

Snow Flats Road is a maintained dirt road that can be driven by any vehicle with decent clearance.  After eight miles we came to a left (north) turn onto a smaller road.  There is a small parking area there as a high clearance vehicle is recommended for the last mile drive to the trailhead.  We found this road to be in great shape so most vehicles could drive it.

While the hike to the ruins is only a mile and a half, the trail first goes over flat slickrock before dropping steeply down into a canyon.

Tree sculpture along the first part of the trail

David and Karen head down into the canyon

At one point the trail goes over a rock ledge.  Although rocks have been piled below the ledge, that last step is a bit tricky.  But we carry a rope that we tied around a strong bush, making the drop down (and back up) much easier.

Once over the ledge we could see the ruins across the canyon.

We followed the winding trail down to the bottom of the canyon, then hiked steeply up a wide area of slickrock into the ruins.  We had the place to ourselves.

One of the neat features of the Moon House Ruins is that you are permitted to climb through a low doorway leading to an interior hallway.

Walking east away from the first set of ruins on a wide ledge, we rounded a bend and came to a second set of ruins.  In the photo below you can see that the room on the left is very crude, while the longer portion to the right shows distinct improvement in building skills.  This indicates that the ruins were built in two different time periods.

Looking back toward the first set of ruins

Heading back up the steep canyon on the return hike

Once back on the main road we headed south toward Bluff.   UT-261 is a nice paved road but it includes three miles of unpaved, but well graded, switchbacks descending 1100 feet from the top of Cedar Mesa called the Moki Dugway.  We went up the Dugway on our way to the hike but didn’t stop to take any pictures.   On the return trip we stopped a couple of times and took advantage of the great views.

Valley of the Gods in the distance

One of the switchbacks

The Moki Dugway

No pets are allowed on the trails in Cedar Mesa so Cody had to sit this one out.  This did not make him very happy, so he will be more than ready for the next hike!  More on that later . . .

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34 Responses to Moon House Ruins – Bluff, UT

  1. Rhoda Carroll says:

    You drove the Moki Dugway TWICE! Oh brave hearts.

  2. Laurel says:

    What a beautiful and interesting hike! It’s been on our list, so thanks for the great preview. It’s amazing that you are actually allowed to climb into the ruin. Very cool. I can understand why you would repeat this hike—we never tire of exploring Cedar Mesa.

    • placestheygo says:

      We were pleased to see that the ruin hasn’t sustained any damage since our last visit. People must be following the directions on how to get in and out of the structure without pulling on the sides. It isn’t easy to get into the ruin for us short people. Not using the side walls makes getting in a challenge. David and Karen have wanted to visit this ruin, so we were more than willing to go along and drive the uncertain section of the road. Make sure you get permits for this visit if you return to the area.

  3. Nancy says:

    Awesome ruins!

  4. exploRVistas says:

    Wow…that’s a challenge to get to the ruins! Good plan to carry a rope. 😎

    • placestheygo says:

      Someone brought a rope and left it during our last visit. I was glad we had purchased the rope since there wasn’t one for this trip. The rope is more necessary for climbing back up the ledge. The hike is quite a challenge but luckily, not too far.

  5. Debbie L says:

    Wow! And you needed a rope! Yes, brave hearts indeed. What a challenge but the rewards were amazing!

  6. I was just going to ask, where was Cody! Fantastic ruins, it’s awesome you guys have the stamina and strength to do those hikes–I’m impressed!

  7. Those are some really fantastic ruins! Love that you were able to go inside them. I am so enjoying your slick rock adventures from afar!

  8. Wow this looks amazing! I’ve never been to this part of Utah and lived here my whole life! I love old ruins like this! I may need to steal your idea and travel here myself!!


    • placestheygo says:

      Melanie, you and Todd would love this area! This is our fourth year in Bluff and I still have a list of canyons to explore. The hiking is endless with great rewards on each. Checkout our blog posts on Bluff for lots of hiking ideas.

  9. girlonahike says:

    I was planning on going to these until it started to pour down rain on us! No way my Sonata could make it down a muddy road 😦

    Alicia @

  10. Gay says:

    Awesome ruins and so cool you can enter them! Love the view of the Moki Dugway.

  11. pmbweaver says:

    The tree sculpture photo is awesome! What character!
    How did you get that rope after y’all went down? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Love the idea that you can walk right up and in the ruins. Just try to image what it was like way back then. I love thinking about that.
    The vista looking down on the Valley of the Gods is beautiful. We had the best time visiting there.

    And no thank you to the switchbacks! We drove The Moki Dugway. I hated every blessed minute of it.

    I think LuAnn made a great choice in choosing you to post your nature photos!

  12. Sherry says:

    Although we love Ruby, as a Honda Accord she hardly has even decent clearance. Not sure how we’d manage this one but I sure wish we could. So smart to carry a rope. What wonderful ruins. Having them to yourself is just so fine. Love your pictures of the Mogi Dugway. An amazing road. I didn’t realize the post was over until I ran into a retro ad for an Obama Refi program. Better give the advertiser a heads up.

  13. Gerri & Mike says:

    Oh my, what a hike!! How cool that you can actually go inside these ruins and see how these people lived. Even though it was a tough climb it was well worth it!!

  14. geogypsy2u says:

    Thank goodness for the rope. That has to be one of the most spectacular and intact ruins, the wood and plaster. WOW!!! Plus to have the place to yourself. I wanted to do the Moki Dugway when Bill and I explored, not nearly enough, in that area.

    • placestheygo says:

      This is a special ruin in the wild without tons of people. So glad the BLM keeps it to 20 people a day. I imagine some people get permits and then never make it across the canyon when they see what is involved. This is not hike for everyone. Check it out if you get back to the area!

  15. Another amazing and educational place to visit.

  16. LuAnn says:

    I think it’s time to trade in our car for a high-clearance vehicle. I am so envious whenever I read the remote places you two explore. Thanks for the great photos!

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, you need at least a higher clearance vehicle when visiting the Bluff area. Many hikes require that to get to the TH and most roads are dirt. We find the same thing here in Moab.

  17. Jodee Gravel says:

    Beautiful ruins. That is quite the road :-))

  18. Sandra Silva says:

    None of the pictures came through. Is something wrong on my side?

    Sent from my iPhone

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