Monday, January 16, 2017

House on Fire Ruins and Trail.

Mule Canyon/Texas Flat Road has already offered us adventures exploring Lower and Upper Arch Canyon, Mule Canyon, Texas Flat and Bear Cave; and now we needed to do House on Fire.  Dallin Tait of Four Corners Adventures had shown us exactly where to access the trailhead; the best time to see the fiery illusion was between 8am to 11am; by 12 Noon it would be in full shadow.

We loaded up our backpacks with water, healthy snacks and other necessities, plus a sturdy walking stick for me.  Although it was one mile in, one mile out, we would be sliding down into a dry wash, and climbing back up sandy slopes.  Having a "third leg" to lean on would be a huge help; it also aided in testing sandy patches between rocks to see if they were secure when climbing up to ledges.

The road is located 19.6 miles along State Highway 95 (from Highway 191, south of Blanding).  The trailhead is located 3/10ths of a mile, left hand side of the road, there is parking on both sides, but watch you don't go too close to the edges.  The beginning of the trail is steep going down and back upward; expect to do a bit of sliding on the sandy soil; again, a walking stick helps. 

Going Back Up.
Going Down.

Once on level ground, we found a survey marker in a sandstone wall from 1958; the information board only 20 feet away with a map that, well it wasn't much help.  What did help was paying attention to the trail and seeing where others before us had walked; this especially helped going into and out of the dry wash many times.

Into and Out of the Dry Wash Often.

There were deer making their way through the dry wash, the brush and eventually upward to the cliff sides.  We didn't see or hear any mountain lions, but saw prints in the sandy soil; they were watching us I'm sure.  When doing this sort of hike, do not go alone; injuries could occur due to falling, sliding, tripping, losing footing on the rocks on the dry wash floor, and animal attack.  If you absolutely have to do it alone, make sure to let someone know where you are going, when to expect your return, all pertinent information about yourself, and contact information for next of kin.  You might think I'm kidding around, but Search and Rescue for both Grand and San Juan Counties are two of the busiest in the state of Utah.

Back to the hike, the scenery is gorgeous along the trail; there are many other alcoves (ledges with a roof) which seemed perfect for ruin sites.  Perhaps there had been at one time, and they have totally been destroyed; or the ancient Indians did not see the use.  I climbed up to one such alcove and it was lovely up there; miniature arches at the edges; potholes and nesting areas.  As with House of Fire ruins, these alcoves are also ablaze from the rays of the sun; yet the temperature was cool inside.

Not using a pedometer, one can estimate a mile on natural terrain should take about 45 minutes; we estimated one hour with photographic stops.  We had just turned a corner, as we walked through the dry wash, and suddenly we saw the edge of a ruin through the brush.  As we continued forward, the entire site opened up to us....breathtaking, spectacular, blazing with fire due to the tilting of the mushroom dome and desert varnish streaks on the inside of the roof.  The climb upward is steep and there are two spots we found for making the trek up and down; by the way, there is a geocache located at one of the spots.  There is enough room to lie down or squat at the openings to peer inside; there are warnings there about climbing inside; the stone is old and fragile, so no damaging it! 

Looking Inside a Room

House on Fire Video

Surprisingly, we did not find any rock art around the site, not even moving through the rocky hallway to the far left of the ruins themselves.  Exiting the hallway, we came out on a ledge that we could follow back to the ruins.  There is an excellent view of the canyon beyond (there are more ruins as you travel along; this could be an all day adventure), and a cave across the dry wash.

After returning to our vehicle, we indulged in a light lunch; next on the agenda was Cave Towers.  I had been there the day before with a group, but the 35-45 mile/hour winds made ledge walking a bit sketchy.  This new day was clear, calm and perfect for taking my hubby there, and showing him the wonders.

Mary Cokenour


  1. Nice blog. We are thinking of doing this trail as it's one of the few very close to a paved highway. Your blog though is the only one I have seen so far that notes the beginning of the trail is a bit of a scramble down... no one else mentions the gradient there. Other than that the trail seems relatively flat and very easy.

  2. That's why I recommend a walking stick for the "scramble up and down" the trail head; and into and out of the dry wash which is sandy.

  3. Love your blog. Just found it a couple days ago and have been reading through it. House on Fire is one of the top items on my "photography bucket list" and one which I intend to check off that list this summer. Glad to see you include such detailed information on distances and how to find trailheads. Going to be an essential part of our family vacation this year to Blanding and Monticello.

    1. Thank you for the kind words. If you have time, stop on in at Canyon Country Discovery Center and say hi; it also has an exhibit hall and climbing wall for one very reasonable fee.