Doll House

Round Trip Distance: 0.4 miles (26 mi. drive)
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 7854 - 7994 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 45 mins. (2 hr. drive)
Trailhead: Doll House
Fee: none
Attractions: Exceptional ruin

The Doll House is located in the Bears Ears National Monument west of Blanding, Utah. Tucked away in a shallow alcove near the rim in a branch of Wooden Shoe Canyon, on the edge of the Dark Canyon Wilderness Area, the near perfect ruin stands silently as it has for almost 800 years. Getting to the ruin requires an arduous 26.1 mile drive up to the iconic Bears Ears and through the Manti La-Sal National Forest to near the end of Dry Mesa. The scenery along the way is outstanding with deer and elk being seen at times in the grassy areas beneath the towering ponderosa pines. Stopping to take in the views of Wooden Shoe and Cherry Canyon add to the drives enjoyment. After the long drive a short quartermile hike will bring you to your ultimate destination.

From Blanding head south on US-191 for about 4 miles and turn right onto UT-95 following the directions to Natural Bridges National Monument. Continue for 30.2 miles and turn right onto UT-295. Watch for the sign for the Elk Mountain Road, aka San Juan County Road 228, that comes up in just under 0.7 miles and turn right again.

Follow the now gravel road as it climbs out of the valley passing numerous primitive campsites along the way. As the road enters the Manti La-Sal National Forest it becomes FR-088. Along the way the road passes right between the prominent Bears Ears peaks for which the National Monument was named.

At the 7.8 mile point from Highway 275 turn left onto FR-108, aka the Wooden Shoe Road.

Continue for another 2.1 miles and turn right just past the Peavine trailhead continuing to follow FR-108. The sign at this junction points you in the direction of Dry Mesa.

From there stay on FR-108 as it wraps around the head of Cherry Canyon and travels out across Dry Mesa where there is at least one nice overlook of Wooden Shoe Canyon. At the 25.4 mile point turn left onto FR-5133 and continue another 0.7 miles to the trailhead. The drive is long and dusty but the scenery along the way is incredible. The road is very narrow with a precipitous drop off as it passes above Cherry Canyon. Under ideal conditions it doesn't require a high clearance vehicle but I can't imagine not having 4wd available whether you use it or not. Dry Mesa is very remote with no cellphone service so if you get stuck or break down you are looking at a very long hike to find help.

At the end of FR-5133 you will find an official trailhead with a register for visitors to sign and a nice plaque with information about the Doll House and a reminder that it is illegal to dig around, damage or remove anything from the site.

The Doll House is below the rim in a small alcove. The trail is semi-primitive but it is maintained and has a few small improvements to control erosion and such. Casual hikers might consider it steep but after the long drive getting there the short remaining distance to the ruin will be inconsequential to most.

There are one or two spots as you head down to the alcove where you can catch a glimpse of the near perfect ruin through the trees.

When you get down to the wash below the ruin keep an eye out for poison ivy. There isn't any right on the main trail but one of the alternate routes goes right through a patch. Remember that if someone else walked through the poison ivy that they will have spread the oil onto other plants that they came into contact with.

The sign at the trailhead mentions that contrary to its name the Doll House was actually more of a large corn bin and not a structure in which anyone lived. It appears there may have been a room or porch at one time beneath the overhanging poles that protrude from the roof.

Be especially careful not to lean on the walls. Do not enter the structure and stay off of the roof. We usually take note of trees that have been cut down to ascertain whether they may have been cut with stone tools or modern saws. Studying the cut ends of the poles in the roof should give an idea of what the stump they were cut form would look like. They used chinking stones in the construction and most of the main stones have very flat surfaces that probably provide the stability that has kept the ruin intact these many years.

There is another alcove right next to the Doll House that has a small wall of stacked stones without any cement to hold them together. It would have been nice to take the time to explore further down the canyon to see whether the main canyon could easily be reached and what secrets it might hold. The Doll House itself is a spectacular structure that is so well preserved it may not be proper to refer to it as a ruin except in the general sense. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is go for an adventuresome drive and 'Take a hike'.