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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
These dwellings are nicely preserved and show a high level of sophistication by the builders.
After checking out the ruins and enjoying the views we headed back down to the land bridge.
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.
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.