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The House on Fire ruin is probably the most unique ruin site in Utah which should land it at the top of your Utah bucket list and road trip itinerary. I had no idea it even existed until a few months before going.
This was one of the places I wanted to take my parents when they came to visit, so go we did. We set out pretty early because you really have to see this at the right time (10-11 AMish) to get the fire effect on the rocks.
This site gets its name from the flaming rock that the ruins were built under. The overhang makes the buildings look like they’re on fire, hence the name House On Fire. These are the first of eight Mule Canyon ruins.
You can hike all the way down the canyon to see all of them over the day, but if you want a short hike to something really cool, this is perfect.
Things to keep in mind when visiting rock art & ruins:
- Do not touch the rock art (pictographs or petroglyphs) because the oils on our fingers can degrade them.
- If you find artifacts, do not take them. Leave them where they are and just take pictures. It’s actually illegal to remove them, so definitely don’t do that.
- If there are structures (rooms, kivas, anything like that) don’t enter them unless it is stated that you can. Most places you can’t but national and state parks will have restored structures you can enter. Mesa Verde, Edge of the Cedars, and Anasazi Museum all have ruins you can enter. Don’t squeeze through any doors or windows in any ruin.
- And finally, don’t carve in or write or paint or draw on the rocks! I don’t want to have to say this, but I need to for real.
So, off we went to Texas Flat Road. We had no idea how far down the road the trailhead was because there was absolutely no signage for it and I didn’t see anything online about it.
The House on Fire trailhead is 0.3-miles down Texas Flat Road but there is no sign or parking area. The road is just a little bit wider, so there is room to park. You just might not notice it if you don’t know where it is.
We probably ended up driving four or five miles down the road before turning around, almost giving up, until we saw some other cars parked on the side of the road. We hopped out and I asked if this was the trailhead. It was! There is a little space in the brush on the left side of the road on your way in and that is where you want to go.
Go down the little bank on the side of the road to the actual trail. From the road, you’ll be able to see the little board at the trailhead. The trail is pretty easy to follow, but there are a few places where it can be a little confusing. It goes in and out of the wash, crossing over it, going up to the side.
Even if you miss one section of the trail and keep following the wash, you’ll be fine and still get there. As long as you’re not going way up the sides of the canyon, you’ll be fine.
We were passing and getting passed by the group of aging people we asked about the trailhead. And just for the record, one of the ladies in the group called themselves aging instead of old, so that is what I’d like to use for now because I love it.
We passed them one last time and ended up at the ruins first, which are about a mile in from the trailhead. For a while, I thought we missed it, but we didn’t. It was on the right side of the trail under an overhang.
Now, I won’t lie, the fire effect isn’t extremely prominent in real life. I mean, you can definitely see it, but it isn’t glowing like in the pictures. And it wasn’t glowing on my phone pictures, just my camera.
Either way, I still loved it. The site is a lot smaller than I was expecting, but it’s still so cool! I was so excited to be here, it’s like I couldn’t look at everything enough.
I would take pictures of the ruins, then run off through the little crack off to the left of them, climb up on top of the rocks, then run back over to the ruins. I felt like a kid in a candy store and these weren’t even the first ruins I had seen. I had been to Mesa Verde and Butler Wash before that. (Also, no I wasn’t climbing on anything I wasn’t supposed to, just regular rock.)
We were trying to take a family picture in front of the ruins with the self-timer on my dads’ camera but it was below us, so I was in charge of pushing the shutter and running back up. Let me tell you, that was a workout! I would run down to push the button, jump up and run back up to my spot, then do it all over again. I was pretty tired by the last shot, but I was also laughing a lot.
The aging group arrived just after that and we all milled about talking about how cool it was before leaving. Just before we left, they were taking a group picture and asked if I could take it with their phone. I ran up to grab it and one of the ladies said: “you can’t do that in front of us aging people!” That’s why I’ve been saying it.
They mentioned that all the blogs they found about the hike say it’s really easy and it just isn’t, so I would like to add that this might be a little more difficult for you if you’re not used to hiking in sand. I can also see that it could be a little tough to follow the trail since it isn’t super well marked.
There isn’t much elevation gain, though, so that’s a plus. I’d say aside from walking in sand, the hardest part is actually getting up to the ruins because it’s kind of steep slick rock. If you’re used to desert hiking though, it’s not bad.
We were starting to get hungry so we headed out. It was an uneventful walk out, but I was so glad that I got to see House on Fire since we didn’t get to go earlier in the summer.
Well, we could have gone but decided not to. Overall, I would highly recommend this if you’re in the area and have a spare morning and like ruins. It’s truly one of a kind and something you won’t find anywhere else.
Where is the House on Fire Trailhead and how long is the trail?
The trailhead is 0.3 miles down Texas Flat Road in Mule Canyon, not by the Mule Canyon roadside ruins. The trail to House on Fire is 1 mile each way, but the canyon keeps going for 3.5. You can continue to see a total of eight ruins.
The trailhead is on Texas Flat Road, 25 miles from Blanding on Highway 95. You’ll see a sign for the road, but the trailhead isn’t well marked. We only found it because another car stopped and I noticed a sign down in the wash. A regular car can make it to the trailhead just fine.
What else to do near the House on Fire ruin:
- Visit Natural Bridges National Monument
- Take a trip up into Bears Ears
- Hike to some of the other ruins on Cedar Mesa
- Visit the Butler Was Ruins
- Go Geocaching
- Visit Edge of the Cedars State Park in Blanding
- Drive the Moki Dugway and Valley of the Gods
- Visit Five Kiva Pueblo
- Halls Crossing Ruins
What to bring to the House on Fire ruin
Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side. They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.
Snacks – These are more important for long hikes, but you never know when you’ll get hungry! I like EPIC bars (kind of like beef jerky but different), Sahale nut mix things, and Moon Cheese. There’s always the good old Clif Bars and trail mix, too.
Light Jacket – Because you just never know. Weather can change quickly depending on where you are and if you’ll be in any slot canyons, they can get cool depending on the time of day and season. I usually use my rain jacket for this.
Sleeping pad – Gotta make the tent comfy! The one I have isn’t available anymore but this one is similar. It’s self-inflating and just needs a little help filling all the way. Buy the sleeping pad here.
Pillow – If you’re just driving, I’d just bring a regular pillow, but if you’re flying then renting a car, you might want a smaller pillow. This is a good non-inflatible option. Here is a good inflatable option.
Lantern – I love having a lantern for in the tent at night, reading in the dark, or going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The LuminAID is my favorite and you can charge your phone on it. Buy the LuminAID lantern here.
Tips for hiking to House on Fire Ruins:
- Make sure you get there between 10 and 11 AM. This is the best time to get the fire effect on the rocks. If you miss this time, the sun will be harsh on the ruins. You can still go anytime, I would just really recommend 10 AM.
- The hike to House on Fire is about 2.2 miles round-trip. To see all of the mule Canyon ruins, it will be a roughly 10-mile hike.
- It will take 2-2.5 hours to hike to House on Fire and about 8 for all of Mule Canyon.
- There are no facilities so bring lots of water and snacks. There are no bathrooms either.
- The House on Fire trailhead is on Texas Flat Road, about 0.3 miles in. The Mule Canyon Ruin Site is NOT the one you want. If you’re coming from Blanding and get to the ruin site, you went too far, so turn around and go back to Texas Flat Raod. If you’re coming from Lake Powell/Capitol Reef, keep going past the Mule Canyon Ruin Site.
- Texas Flat Road is dirt, but any car should be able to make it to the trailhead. If you want to keep going on the road, high clearance is recommended. We were in a Chevy Malibu and made it a few miles in, but I was a little worried.
- Pets are allowed, but not recommended. If you do bring them, they must be on a leash.
- There is a $2 per person day use fee, but I’m not sure where you pay that.