North Fork Mule Canyon

Round Trip Distance: 5.3 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5942 - 6102 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 4 hrs. 45 mins.
Trailhead: North Fork Mule Canyon
Fee: $2/person
Attractions: cliff dwellings, rock art

The North Fork of Mule Canyon is located in the Cedar Mesa Area west of Blanding, Utah. The canyon is a popular easy hike through a scenic canyon that is dotted with ancient granaries, pueblos and cliff dwellings. Various samples of both petroglyphs and pictographs such as painted hands can also be found.

To get to the trailhead drive south out of Blanding for 4 miles and turn west onto Highway 95. Continue for 19.4 miles and turn right onto the Texas Flat Road. There is a fee station after turning off of the highway for anyone that is hiking in either fork of Mule Canyon. Pass the trailhead for the South Fork of Mule Canyon after a quarter mile and just before the 1 mile point there is room to park on the righthand side of the road before crossing a bridge.

The trail begins on the west side of the Texas Flat Road before crossing the bridge.

After passing a trail register the route passes through a tangle of brush and willows.

A short distance later the canyon widens a little and the course becomes much easier. For the most part the wash serves as the best trail.

Specimens of rock art can be found on several of the protected surfaces beginning shortly after the canyon widens.

A little exploration of many of the overhangs will reveal rooms and granaries that are in different degrees of ruin. This one has much more of its walls intact than most.

Fragments of pottery and chips of chert are common. Be sure to leave everything for others to enjoy and remember that it is illegal to dig or excavate in any manner.

The shallow canyon is very pleasant to hike and makes for an enjoyable outing even without all of its archaeological sites.

A little over a couple of miles into the canyon look high up under a point for a well intact granary. This is a common turnaround point for the hike. It is hard to give the exact distance from the trailhead due to all of the side trails that were explored along the way but it would be really hard to miss the granary.

After spotting the granary continue just a little further as though passing it by and explore the overhangs on the north side of the wash for some of the best structures that are still remaining.

You should be able to find several structures with some standing walls and a couple of kivas. Rock art and sharpening grooves can also be spotted. There is a section of roof at this site that is still in perfect condition.

This 10 second clip should give you a good idea of the kind of death trap that you can expect during a heavy rain in canyon country. We had just barely gotten out of the South Fork of Mule Canyon when a flash flood came roaring down it. We drove over here to the North Fork and took this video while standing on the bridge. The next day we spoke to a couple that were hiking in the canyon at the time that escaped by climbing out and hiking back down the Texas Flat Road to the trailhead. The water here was 4-6 feet deep and around 8 feet deep in the narrows. This is also why you don't set up your tent in a wash when backpacking.

All total we saw about 11 minor ruins, some of which were as small as a few stacked rocks, and 4 ruins that were much more substantial. Besides that there were the various rock art sites and the well preserved granary at the turnaround point. The canyon was much wetter than normal having hiked it the day following the flash flood but other than that it was a very enjoyable time. We did run into one couple that were looking for the House on Fire ruin with is in the South Fork of Mule Canyon and another couple that were just out for a hike and totally oblivious to any of the ruins. Whatever your reason is for hiking the North Fork of Mule Canyon please be sure as they say 'to leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but pictures.' If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.