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Hike Index
Cedar Mesa
  Grand Gulch
     Kane Gulch
         Junction Ruin
         Turkey Pen Ruin
     Toadie Canyon
     Sheiks Canyon
   Mule Canyon
     Cave Canyon Towers
     Mule Canyon Ruin
     N.Fork Mule
     S.Fork Mule
   Lime Canyon
   Road Canyon
     7 Kiva Ruin
     N. Fork Road
   Slickhorn Canyon
   John's Canyon
   Arch Canyon
   Walnut Knob

Comb Ridge
  Procession Panel
  Wolfman Panel
  Upper Butler Wash
    Butler Wash Ruin
    Ballroom Cave
    Target Ruin

Canyon of the Ancients
  Lowry Pueblo
  Ruin Canyon
  Montezuma Creek

San Juan River
  16 Room House
  Sand Island Panel

Canyonlands N.P.
  Island In The Sky District
     Aztec Butte

Hovenweep N.M.

Other Cool Places
  Little Westwater Ruin
  Moki Dugway
  Milk Ranch Point
  Whiskers Draw
  Moki Dugway

Camping Index
Camping in Anasazi Country
Anasazi Country Campgrounds
Selecting a Campsite
Selecting a Tent Site
Selecting a Tent
Sleeping Bags & Pads
The Camp Kitchen
Water Supplies

North Fork Mule Canyon

     Mule Canyon comes off the north end of Cedar Mesa and the mouth of Mule is quite close to Hwy 95 in Comb Wash. Both the road and Mule Canyon climb steadily from the Wash with the main canyon sections lying to the South of the highway. After driving the road about 5 miles west from the Comb Wash bottom the highway crosses the canyon and from this point up the canyon lies to the North of the highway. Not far up canyon of the highway crossing Mule Canyon splits into two major forks  Both the South and North forks of Mule offer great canyon hiking with a scattering of ruins.

     Access to the forks of Mule Creek are on County Road #263 which is a well maintained gravel road that heads North from Hwy 95, just to the West of where 95 crosses Mule Canyon. Road #263 crosses the South Fork Mule Canyon before continuing to the North Fork. Access is at the road crossing in the North Fork which is quickly reached and there is adequate parking in the bottom just off the side of the road. There is a well worn trail leading directly up the canyon and we set off on a nice hike.

N fork Mule canyon ruin
N fk mule ruin
      After hiking about three miles up the canyon we spotted a well preserved ruin in the alcove high above us. There was no obvious easy approach so we contented ourselves with inspecting it with binoculars and taking photos.

     From our research we knew that there were several sets of Anasazi ruins in the canyon and after hiking about 3 miles we spotted a nice Anasazi ruin on the cliff walls above us. There was no obvious approach to the ruin so we did not attempt to climb to it. However, our inspections with binoculars showed that there were some excellently preserved rooms and walls.

      We continued to hike up canyon and as we rounded the next bend we saw another set of Anasazi ruins and it appeared that they could be accessed so we began our scramble up to their ledge. After a good vertical scramble we reached the ledge and found a few poorly preserved rooms and the remains of a collapsed Kiva. Although this is not a particularly impressive site I was interested n the way in which the roof support timbers were still in their original positions along the back of the Kiva. This was a great example of the building technique that was used on probably thousands of Kivas in the four corners area.

     In recent years Stan and I have increasingly hiked in the canyons by walking the ledges that so define the area. These ledges can run for miles or just short distances. Often they are part way down into the canyon and as the ledges end we must either backtrack or find a way up or down. Of course many of these ledges are framed by sheer cliff walls both above and below. However, in other places there are scramble routes that can be used to move up or down a ledge.

     Another hiking technique that we have increasingly adopted is walking across the top of the Mesa where possible and not in the actual canyon bottom. There are a couple of reasons for this and one of the main ones is that it is usually a lot easier hiking along the canyon rim than in the canyon bottom. Another reason is that it is usually much easier to spot ruins from the top. of course, there are few if any trails across the top and there is never a
     These crumbled Kiva ruins are found in the North Fork of Mule Canyon
guarantee that there is actually an access route in the places where we need them. However, it has become common for us to either hike down a canyon then climb out and rim walk back or the opposite where we rim walk, drop in and follow the bottom back.

      When we left the Kiva ruin in North Fork Mule Canyon we decided to follow both of these techniques and we set off heading up canyon on the ledge the ruins were located on. This ledge obviously disappeared around the next bend in the canyon so we decided to try and make our way out of the canyon  climbing up a slight break in the canyon created by a small draw entering from the North. Scouted from below we were pretty sure that we could follow a route up to where it appeared that the rim was. We made slow but steady progress up the near vertical walls and began to think that this was a good route out. Unfortunately we soon reached a sheer wall that was unbroken. Although only 10 feet or so high, this wall presented a significant barrier to us and unless we could find a way up we would have no choice but to retrace our steps back down the long distance that we had gained. We finally determined that there was only one possible place to climb the wall and by bracing against a well placed tree we were able to make our way up.
Anasazi pttery shards      These pottery shards are typical of what can be found throughout Anasazi country. Unfortunately many people ignore the laws that mandate leaving the shards where they are and take them as souvenir. This is a despicable practice and many areas are getting denuded of shards. If this continues it will not be too many years until people will no longer be able to discover the sense of amazement that comes from finding these remnants of the ancients.

     The wall we climbed was right at the top of what appeared to be the canyon rim and we were confident that we would soon be walking across the smooth rim top back towards the truck. Much to our dismay we discovered that what we thought was the canyon top was actually just a very large flat shelf that terminated to the North in another set of steep high cliff walls that we would need to scale. It was a difficult hike but we made it up and began the long trek back to the Truck. As we walked along the mesa top we soon realized that we had been suckered into believing that we had to climb as high as we did. In fact, the large flat shelf below us was actually the canyon top and the new cliffs we had just scaled had only taken us to the top of a large butte that stuck high above the surrounding area. Although we were able to easily make it back down and navigate back to the truck there is no doubt that we added miles and lots of vertical climbing needlessly. In all we hiked about twelve miles and were glad to get back to the truck.  
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