Comb Ridge/Cedar Mesa - May 2008

Jan 17, 2012
Day 1.

In early May, my friend Greg flew in from Pittsburgh for a week and we spent several days down in the Southeastern corner of Utah. I’d been reading alot of books about the Anasazi for the past few months and really wanted to get a chance to visit some ruins in the areas. We left early Thursday morning and drove about 5 & 1/2 hours from Salt Lake City to get to the area where I first wanted to visit.

Our first stop was a fairly often visited ruin commonly known as House on Fire ruin. This ruin is located in Mule Canyon on Cedar Mesa. It takes just a few hours to hike out and back to the ruin, and if your willing to spend more time, there are ruins spaced fairly evenly up along Mule Canyon for the next several miles. On this day since we got a fairly late start, we only visited House on Fire and the next couple of sites.

House on Fire Ruin by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

Cedar Mesa Ruin by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

I had heard about a site called Lewis Lodge (alternately Lewis Ledge) ruins from a couple of different people and after receiving some good beta on how to get there, was intent on making it the first place we visited on Thursday. Based on views from Google Earth and my topo map of the area it appeared that we could continue to drive up Arch Canyon Road and reach Elk Mountain Road on top of Cedar Mesa. After driving about another mile up Arch Canyon Road we reached a pretty rough looking patch of bedrock in the middle of the road, and stopped to walk up it and determine if we could actually drive it. While stopped, a couple of locals on ATV’s stopped and let us know that shortly after the top of the hill, the road became an ATV only track. Based on their advice, we decided to head back and take the more traditional route to the top from the Natural Bridges entry road and up through Bears Ears.

North Bears Ear by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

After making that long drive, we quickly found a campsite and setup camp. We didn’t find a decent spot till it began to get dark, so I have no pictures of the campsite. We enjoyed the full moon over camp and tucked in relatively early to prepare for the next days adventures.

[URL='']the moon from Cedar Mesa
by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr[/URL]
Jan 17, 2012
Day Two

Friday morning we woke up early and headed farther east on Elk Mountain Road. We quickly reached the turnoff for the ruins, which is a road which drops off the mesa in dramatic, sometimes a little overwhelming fashion. It’s a pretty rough 4wd road and I was grateful I was driving my Tacoma. When we reached the trailhead we ran into a group of locals out hunting wild turkeys. After hearing where we were headed, they got curious and followed us out towards the ruin. They kept trying the reach the ruins from directly above and kept getting cliffed out. They soon decided it was best to follow the route we did, and reached the ruins shortly after we did.

The access to the ruins is fairly deceiving as you begin the hike coming in from the east side of the ruins, and the ruins themselves are located on the east side of the canyon. As you descend down to to the canyon, you quickly find yourself on top of a band of 200-250 foot cliffs. The ruins themselves are located in this cliff band about 70 feet down. To reach the ruins, you must hike around the dryfall at the mouth of the canyon, and follow a narrow ledge that drops down to the middle of the cliff band on the east side of the canyon. You then follow that ledge around the mouth of the canyon and back to the west side of the canyon to reach the ruins.

Lewis Lodge Ruins by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

This was a fantastic hike and a trip I would happily make again. The difficulty of access makes these ruins less visited then a lot of the other ruins in the area, but the trip is well worth it. Clearly you’d have to be pretty comfortable with heights to make these ruins your home

Lewis Lodge Ruins by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

There are some fantastic well preserved structures here.

ancient cupboards? by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

Lewis Lodge Ruins by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

After visiting these ruins, we headed down towards the Comb Ridge area. Comb Ridge is a 80 mile long sandstone monocline that runs south to north across the Utah/Arizona border. Along this ridge are many East to West Canyons that contain many Anasazi Ruins.

Hwy. 95 through Comb Ridge by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

The plan was to spend the rest of the day and the next exploring some of these sites. However, once me made it down to the area, we had both decided that it was time to call it a day, and after not identifying any good campsites, decided to head to the nearest small town, Bluff and get a hotel room. These decision was half based on laziness and half based on the fact that the Utah Jazz were playing in a playoff game, and I hadn’t missed a game all season. We made our way to Bluff and got a tiny, crummy little room in a podunk hotel. After a pretty long day of hiking and driving, I actually fell asleep before the game even ended. It’s okay though, the Jazz lost.
Jan 17, 2012
Day Three

Saturday morning we woke up and headed out to Comb Ridge. This day started out bad, as I misrouted us up a drainage to head to Monarch Cave, and instead ended up about 200 feet above large cliffs which ended up in the correct drainage. After that mishap, we decided not to hike back to the head of the correct drainage, and instead returned to our vehicles to head to the next canyon we wanted to visit. On the way back to the car I did get some excellent pictures of this guy - an eastern collared lizard.


Eastern Collared Lizard by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

The next site we wanted to visit was Fishmouth Cave, which is a monstrous cave at the end of a canyon with several decent sites along the canyon prior to reaching it

Fishmouth Cave by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

Fishmouth Cave - Comb Ridge by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

A lot of potsherds found and left behind.

Fishmouth Cave - Comb Ridge by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a lot of photos of this area as we quickly were swarmed by biting gnats. I’d never encountered gnats that bite, however, so I first dismissed them as a mere annoyance, until Greg mentioned the fact that he was getting bitten.

Comb Ridge - Gnat Bites by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

We then realized that we were getting attacked and so after a few pictures, we decided we needed to come up with a plan B.

Plan B ended up being to hightail it back to Cedar Mesa, visit a couple of ruins and then set up camp. We only ended up one set of ruins, Tower House Ruins, which is another fairly well known set of ruins. Regardless, it’s a fantastic set of ruins and well worth visiting. Besides the excellent structure, there’s also some fantastic petroglyphs and pictographs.

Tower House Ruins by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

Tower House Ruins by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

Tower House Ruins by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

After spending the day hiking, we returned to the top part of Cedar Mesa to look for a campsite. Eventually, we found an amazing spot overlooking Texas and Butts Canyons. The view was unbelievable and the site was amazing.

Comb Ridge from Cedar Mesa by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

The view from Cedar Mesa Campsite by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

Cedar Mesa Campsite by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr
Jan 17, 2012
Day Four

Sunday was to be our final hiking day, and we decided to head to a spot I’d been looking forward to visiting for quite some time. The Citadel is a ruin that sits on a peninsula jutting out into Road Canyon. The hike is about 4 or 5 miles round trip with a bit of scrambling and routefinding. Directions to these ruins are pretty easy to find to on the interweb if one is so inclined.

Based on the location the ruins, one would assume that there’s some defensive reasoning for it, but who really knows. All anyone can do is guess…regardless, It is a pretty fantastic ruin and a fun hike.

The Citadel by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

The Citadel by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

Yellow Whipple's Fishhook by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

The Citadel by Clint Ireland Huffman, on Flickr

This was the end of the day, and really the trip. After finishing our hike here, we returned to Bluff, Ut and spent the night at Recapture Lodge, whose pool was quit rewarding after being in the sun and sand for four long days. Monday morning we made the long drive back to Salt Lake City.


Jan 18, 2012
Loved this TR the first time you posted it on your site. Still an area of the state I need to get down to.


Dec 21, 2012
I was all set on a trip to the Citadel, then I see your pictures of Lewis Lodge...hmmm. You needed 4WD and not just high clearance. Would high clearance all wheel drive work?
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