Big Foot Ruins

Round Trip Distance: 2.6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5990 - 6121 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Owachomo Bridge
Fee: $20/vehicle
Attractions: cliff dwellings

The Big Foot Ruins are located in the Natural Bridges National Monument west of Blanding, Utah. The interesting cliff dwellings are tucked away beneath a low alcove a little above the streambed in Tuwa Canyon. Granaries, a storage cist, living rooms, a kiva and a few faint pictographs can all be found at the site.

After finding your way to Natural Bridges National Monument follow Bridge View Drive from the Visitor Center to the Owachomo Bridge trailhead. Besides the nice restrooms with running water at the Visitor Center the only other facilities are a pit toilet at the Kachina Bridge trailhead that you will pass enroute. They keep everything very clean at Natural Bridges which only adds to the monuments enjoyment.

From the parking lot follow the paved trail toward the Owachomo Bridge Overlook. Just before the overlook, and 200 feet from the parking area, there is the trail that leads down to Owachomo Bridge. Follow this trail for about another 300 feet watching for a faint trail on the left right before a split rail fence begins. Be careful to walk around the fence and avoid stepping over it as it is getting rather fragile. You don't want to be that guy that knocks one of the rails off.

From there follow the well worn trail as it heads east. Be sure to stay on the existing trail and not create any new ones. There is one spot where the trail crosses a patch of slickrock and disappears for a short distance before it can be found once again on the other side.

The scenery is pleasant as the trail wraps around the low band of sandstone cliffs. About 3/4 of a mile from where the route left the Owachomo Bridge trail look for a section of slickrock that slopes down toward the wash in the bottom of Tuwa Canyon. If you come to the park fence you have gone to far and will need to backtrack an hundred yards or so. At the bottom of the sloping slickrock there is another faint trail that provides an easy walk in route to the wash. There are other routes that could be followed into the wash of Tuwa Canyon but they all require more hiking within the wash. This particular route is much faster and easier to hike and creates no new trails to scar the landscape.

Once you are in the wash at this point it is less than a half mile to the Big Foot Ruins. When you come to the swinging park fence it's easy enough to just duck under it in the middle of the wash. If you aren't alone you can take turns swinging the fence up a bit to make passing under it even easier.

Even though the ruins are only 100 feet or so from the wash they are hidden behind a good growth of pinon trees and brush and aren't visible from the wash. They will be found beneath a low alcove at one of the bends in the canyon. A short side wash makes a good easy to follow route up to the alcove.

The bulk of the ruins are spread out beneath the right side of the overhang.

Several distinct methods of construction were used. There are 2 granaries that were made by tying together short branches to form the walls. The branches were then veneered with a layer of mud or caliche. The lashings that were used to hold the sticks in place are still doing their job. They appear to be made of strands of something like yucca fibers but our experience doesn't allow us to make that determination. This photo was taken by turning on the cameras flash and holding the camera near the opening. The camera was tilted up so the flash created a shadow of the lens hood on the wall. Be sure not to enter any of the structures or even to touch them.

Here is another granary that still has its lid that was made with the same stick and mud construction. It is sandwiched between 2 other structures that were made using stacked rocks and mortar so the common walls are rock an the other sticks.

Small pebble sized rocks or chinking stones were embedded into the mortar of this ruin. They appear to be for decoration only and not to fill any gaps.

 Down in the west end of the alcove is what looks like a type of kiva. The opening is through the roof in sipapu fashion. We couldn't tell whether the walls had collapsed or the floor was filled with blown dust as it didn't appear to be roomy enough inside for a person to do much more than squat. As you can see the ruin is very fragile so treat it with care. There are a few pictographs of painted hands and bighorn and such in this area.

On our first trip in search of the Big Foot Ruin we followed the trail to an overlook where we could see some of the ruins from above but didn't have the time to search out the best route down into the canyon. The ruins apparently get their name from a large footprint that was made in the mortar on the outside of one of the rooms. We totally forgot about finding the footprint when we were there taking the photos for this post. If you would like to look for it yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.