Mule Canyon and Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Years ago I saw a photo of an Anasazi ruin called “House on Fire,” a small cluster of 800+ year-old buildings sheltered underneath a sandstone outcropping in the Mule Canyon area of southeastern Utah.  When reflected morning sunlight hits the ruins, the striations in the sandstone look like flames leaping from the buildings.  This trip finally gave me a chance to check it out.

The trailhead is not well marked, and without detailed directions I never would have found it.  The hike to the ruins is only about three miles roundtrip.  I had the entire area to myself, and as I walked along the trail a large owl took flight from a nearby branch and soared off into the distance.

Late morning is the best time to catch the reflected light that creates the House on Fire effect, and I arrived there at 10am, which was perfect.  The ruins were smaller than I expected, but still very cool.  I spent over an hour trying different angles to get just the right shot.  How fun to finally see that place!

 

House on Fire

House on Fire

 

House on Fire Portrait

House on Fire Portrait

 

House on Fire Closeup

House on Fire Closeup

 

My next destination was nearby:  Natural Bridges National Park.  I’d never been there before, either, and I planned to spend the morning checking out the park’s three big rock arches.  I stayed the night in Blanding, woke up early, and rolled into the park just after sunrise.

I started my visit by hiking the 2.4-mile rountrip trail to the Sipapu bridge, which is apparently the second longest natural bridge in the world (after the Rainbow Bridge, which is also in Utah).  It was amazing to stand under the arch and see such a massive column of rock looming directly overhead.

 

Sipapu Bridge

Sipapu Bridge

 

Next I checked out the Kachina arch and made the short hike to the Owachomo arch.

 

Owachomo Natural Bridge

Owachomo Natural Bridge

 

Natural Bridges National Monument was worth seeing, but it’s not nearly as impressive as Arches National Park, which I planned to visit that afternoon.