House on Fire Ruins - the most popular ruin in the South Fork of Mule Canyon
Mule Canyon along the east edge of Cedar Mesa is made up of three sections of canyon, with two shallower upper forks, called Mule Canyon North Fork & Mule Canyon South Fork and come together just north of Highway 95. The rest and majority of Mule Canyon is south of highway 95 and is much deeper and more visually impressive as a canyon.
While both the North Fork and South Fork sections contain plentiful ruins and rock art, the south fork is more popular as it holds one of the more famous and photogenic ruins in the area known as House on Fire Ruin, easily accessible via a short walk.
Ancient Puebloans lived in the canyon 700-2,500 years ago, they made bread from rice grass flour and corn and ate prickly pear cacti. Yucca plants were used to make baskets and the fibers were turned into clothing. The pinion trees were used for construction, cooking, and firing pottery.
Remnants of their dwellings, ceremonial buildings and storage granaries remain to be discovered by hiking the canyon. House on FireRuin is the first one you will come upon, it is well-preserved consisting of five granaries. It gets its name from how the sunlight gets reflected off the canyon wall and bounces under the cliff overhang to light up the sandstone above the ruin, creating an effect that looks like flames.
Much less visited is the Wall Ruin, located toward the end of the canyon with several intact rooms built into small caves in the cliff. The roofs still show off the original roofing timbers.
Take time to see the reconstructed Mule Canyon Ruins on Highway 95
House on Fire Ruin is popular and attracts most of the visitors in the canyon with few venturing beyond, if you continue on you will have much of the canyon to yourself.
The “fire” of reflected light only occurs in the late morning or later depending on the time of year. If you get there too early, the light won’t yet be on the opposite wall and if you are too late the site will be in direct sunlight, which will ‘wash out’ the fire effect. In July, the light is perfect at about 11am and it lasts about an hour.
Day fee $5.00, Week fee $10, Annual Pass $40
Fee station is near trailhead parking, fill out form deposit in box, put permit in window of vehicle
The House on Fire ruin is located in the South Fork of Mule Canyon near Blanding, Utah. From Blanding take Highway 95 west for 23.5 miles. The turnoff is to the right at about mile marker 102 on County Road 263. The official trailhead is about a quarter mile down the dirt road.
A little-known short-cut is taking a trail from the parking area at the Mule Canyon ruins on Highway 95
On Country Road 263
It lacks a parking lot, cars just park on the side of the road
Mule Canyon Ruins on Highway 95
BLM exhibit with a kiva, interpretive signing, and a pit toilet.
2.0 miles total out and back (From County Road 263) to house on fire ruins (This is the main way almost everybody follows)
0.5 miles total out and back (From Mule Canyon ruins on Highway 95) to house on fire ruins (Few people know that this shortcut exists)
8.0 miles total out and back if you hike the full length of the canyon to see all the ruins
Mule Canyon Ruins on Highway 95
There is a large and small kiva and a tower, an interpretive sign and information about the different eras of Indians that lived in the area.
Option 1 (From County Road 263) (official route)
Look for the trail that drops down into the wash on the north side of the road where you will see a BLM information kiosk. From there the easy-to-follow trail heads up the south fork of Mule Canyon. You will find that the trail crosses the wash and follows routes on higher ground for most of the first half mile. The wash itself is easy enough to hike in for most of the distance if it is dry. The House on Fire ruin at ( 37.543767, -109.744614 ) is almost exactly 1 mile from the county road where the trail begins.
Option 2 (From Mule Canyon ruins on Highway 95)
From the parking area of the Mule Canyon ruins on Highway 95, look for a trail leading out of the back of the parking area heading north.
Just before you arrive at the ruin site, you will be walking in the wash bottom and there will be a large rock you will walk by on your left with a big overhang. It has a couple of very, very faint rock art images (a man with a spear and a big horn sheep to his right)
You have to walk right by it to get to House on Fire. The rock art is very hard to see and most people never even know it is there.
Site 2 – 1.9 miles from the trailhead ( 37.551911, -109.758099 )
Continue up the canyon, look for a north-side tributary; just after, up high in an alcove, you can reach the 2 wall structure going up the slick rock.
Site 3 – 2.4 miles from the trailhead ( 37.554147, -109.767807 )
The next site is more impressive and very intact compared to the last one but not accessible as the over-hanging cliffs at the bottom will keep everyone but accomplished rock climbers viewing the ruins from below. Look closely at the ruin on the right, you can see it has finely made steps.
Site 4 – 2.7 miles from the trailhead ( 37.557585, -109.770091)
You will only get a glimpse of these ruins from the trail at the right place through the trees. Around the next bend where the wash narrows with rock structures and the path crosses to the south side and back again, look for the signs of a trail running to the alcove to make your way toward it and to the base of the slick rock. Look for places to ascend the slick rock ledges, and finally a small but sturdy tree you will climb and grip to get up the last 6-foot ledge. It is an interesting ruin with lots of wood timber and a granary attached on the right side.
At 3.3 miles after climbing a steep slope, there is a site with a granary, petroglyph panel and fire pit as well as many pot fragments.
Site 6 Wall Ruin At 3.7 miles from trailhead, it is situated halfway along a short side ravine (3.7 miles from the start). The ruin is multi-level.
Back in the main canyon, the next ruin sits at the base of a sheer cliff.
4 miles from the start, before a north side ravine enters the canyon, the ruin has two rooms one with a door. The ruins are inaccessible, high above the wash floor
There are many ruins in the canyon, but House on Fire ruin is the most famous of them, getting its name from the effects that the sunlight has on the sandstone cliff of the overhang that it is built under
Road Canyon contains many ruins, granaries, and kivas. “Fallen Roof Ruin” derives its name from the elaborate pattern created by the missing sandstone slabs of rock that fell out of the roof of the alcove in front of it.
Choose to view the ruins from an overlook or hike up the wash and explore the ruins close up
Lower Butler Wash Road - Hikes
Lower Butler Wash Road is a unique area of Comb Ridge, home to a dozen unmarked trailheads not published by the BLM or marked with signs. All are short hikes (1-3 miles round trip) that lead to amazing ancestral sites, caves and alcoves with 800-year-old ruins, petroglyphs, pottery shards and more.
The park’s viewpoint overlooks the meander of two giant bends (goosenecks) of the San Juan River. Geologists consider this part of the river to be one of the finest examples of “entrenched meanders” anywhere in the world.