17 Room Ruin

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 0.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4316 - 4381 feet
Cellphone: 2-4 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: CR 438 MM 12.8
Fee: none
Attractions: Cliff dwelling, pictographs




The 17 Room Ruin is located on the Navajo Reservation near the San Juan River across from Bluff, Utah. The ruin stretches across a large alcove that has a commanding view of the farmable land that lies between the river and the base of the cliffs where the Ancestral Puebloans of the time could have cultivated their crops. Certain aspects of the ruin hint that it was engineered with certain defensive features. The site has several other names associated with it including '16 Room Ruin' but it is labeled on our mapping software as 17 Room Ruin so we are going with that.


A person can drive a couple miles east of Bluff on Highway 162 and see the alcove across the river where the ruin is located. Getting there from Bluff, since the old footbridge was washed away in a flood, requires driving almost 25 miles in the other direction. The quickest route is to drive west out of Bluff for 4 miles and turn south following US Highway 191. Continue for another 11 miles and turn east onto County Road 438. The first 8 miles of CR 438 is paved. At an intersection with CR 441 the road continues for another 4.8 miles as it descends the mesa to the bottom land along the river. A high clearance vehicle wasn't necessary when we made our visit but there is a sandy spot just before reaching the ruin that might be a problem for some vehicles. If so you can always park and walk a few hundred extra yards to get there. An alternate route that follows CR 441 is a little over 4 miles shorter but that route is all gravel and dirt with lots of washboards.


There are several options for climbing up into the alcove. The most obvious route is straight up the steep slope where there is a well worn path to follow. A better route that is much easier to manage is up the ridge to the right of the alcove. If you go past the 'Do Not Litter' sign in this photo about 20-30 feet you can look to your right and see the trail.


For this post we climbed up the obvious trail to get into the alcove and came done the other way. There were spots that were steep and slick enough that we had to grab hold of some bushes to pull ourselves up.


Once you get up the slope there is a path that runs the full length of the alcove where you can walk along and take pictures of the ruin.


Near the center of the alcove there are some toe holds that help in climbing up into the ruin.


Once all the way up to the ruin itself you can see behind the exterior walls. It is impossible to climb over the walls on the east side of the alcove without putting your weight on them so that section should be avoided so that no harm comes to the ruins due to your visit. It is easy enough to look over the wall into the first room and if you really can't live without seeing into the other room then you can climb up the slickrock on the east end and look into it from the other side.


The rooms that stretch out in the other direction have walls that are short enough to step over.


The outer barrier to the ruins appears to double as a defensive wall. It has numerous holes built into it that have line of sight to areas below. It would be a simple matter to shoot arrows at unwelcomed visitors through these holes.


The view from the alcove looks out over the San Juan River toward the north. It is hard to say what the vegetation looked like hundreds of years ago. The channel of the river may have been slightly different back then but certainly there was plenty of arable land available.


The pictographs might be one of the most interesting aspects of the 17 Room Ruin. There are a series of dots that are laid out in rows from one end of the alcove to the other. Interspersed with the dots are handprints, spirals, concentric circles and other images. It must have been quite the site when it was freshly made.


This picture was taken looking down the ridge toward the road and our pickup that is parked below. It looks steeper than the trail that we took to get up to the ruin but that might be an illusion. After getting down to the truck I grabbed a different lens and climbed up this way to take a few more pictures and found it much easier to manage than the other route. The 17 Room Ruin should be well worth the drive to get to it from Bluff for those that happen to be in the area visiting the many other sites that there are to choose from. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.