Cedar Mesa is believed to contain thousands of archeological sites that date from between 2,500 to 700 years old. The area is forbidding in its rugged remoteness. It is essentially uninhabited from Hanksville to Blanding, which is about 100 miles southeast. Crisscrossing this flat tabletop are literally thousands of miles of canyons that are sunken below the surface of the mesa. Ruins and wall art are found in many of these canyons, much of it being undocumented or very difficult to reach. One area that is quite accessible to the visitor is Mule Canyon, which is not far off of UT-95. There are two arms of Mule Canyon, and both contain ruins every half to 1 mile or so. This adventure covers just a part of South Mule Canyon, which has some very picturesque ruins.
One of the most famous of the Cedar Mesa Puebloan ruins is commonly called the “House on Fire” ruin. It is actually the first ruin along the South Mule Canyon Trail, and it is located about a mile from the trailhead. The parking area is in a little saddle at the mouth of the canyon about a third of a mile north of UT-95 at mile marker 102. The trail drops quickly into the canyon, which is lovely and quite verdant for this area. The trail is almost flat, following the wash floor upstream. The ruin is visible on the right side after a sharp bend to the right after about a mile and about 25 feet above the floor of the canyon. There are three main structures in the grouping, and the unique markings on the roof look like flames in the orange reflected light of the ledge. In the passageway to the left of the ruins there are some handprint pictographs high on the wall.
The trail continues further up the canyon for about 6 total miles, and there are several more ruins along the way. The second one is just about a mile further than the first and is up on the right wall. It appears to be part of a much larger structure that is only partially standing.
There is a BLM exhibit off the highway about a third of a mile west of the turnoff for Mule Canyon. Here you can find some reconstructed ruins and a very good educational display about the ancestral Puebloan peoples who lived in the area.
NOTE: The sign and turnoff for the “Mule Canyon Indian Ruins” is for the BLM exhibit, not the trailhead, which is a third of a mile further east on the highway and not marked.