House on fire ruins mule canyon

12 Awesome Outdoorsy Things To Do In Blanding, Utah (And Nearby!)

Here’s something I never thought I would say: I actually like Blanding, Utah. It is far from my favorite place but after spending more time there last spring, it’s become an endearing little place to me.

While the town itself isn’t brimming with things to do (there are a few on this list) the whole area is full of awesome hikes and activities so today I’m sharing some awesome outdoorsy things to do in Blanding, Utah with you!

Everything that you’ll need to know about thee activity or place will be here or in the full post I have about it that is linked. Writing this is making me want to go back and explore even more!

bears ears national monument utah

What to bring hiking in Blanding, Utah

NatGeo National Parks Book – This is one of the best national park guidebooks and I take it on all my park trips.  Plus, it’s got the nice glossy pages.  Buy the book here.

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.

Water bottle – It’ll be hot and you’ll need to stay hydrated.  Even if it’s not hot you need to stay hydrated.  A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.

Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen.  I like the Neutrogena a lot, but if you’ll be visiting a beach soon, you’ll want a reef-safe sunscreen.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes.  A baseball hat should be fine but a bucket hat or sun hat could help keep the sun off your neck.

Sunglasses – This is a must no matter where you are.  Sunglasses are best paired with a hat on those really bright days.

Light Jacket – Because you just never know.  Weather can change quickly depending on where you are, time of day, and season.  I usually use my rain jacket for this.

Headlamp – I tend to carry my headlamp around all the time when we’re hiking.  This isn’t the exact one I have, but it’s similar and if I needed to replace mine, I’d probably get this one.

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.
  • 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 VerdeEdge of the Cedars, and Anasazi Museum all have ruins you can enter.
  • 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.

See Five Kiva Pueblo

Where is it

Five Kiva Pueblo is a ruin site just on the edge of town, not far from the airport. It’s at the end of Ruin Road (County Road 231/Westwater Creek). It is on Google Maps though, too. It’s pretty easy to find since it’s close to town.

Why should you do this

Because it’s a super easy access ruin that’s just as easy to hike to. It’s the perfect way to spend a spare hour if you’re waiting to check into your hotel or just love seeing ruins. It’s also a great starter ruin if you’ve never seen them before!

It’s not the best ruin in the area, but it’s still very cool to see and there are actually two that you can see here. If you hike over to Five Kiva Pueblo, you’ll pass another one that will be on your left but you can see it from Five Kiva, too.

Important things to know

I mentioned it above, but please be respectful of the ruins. Don’t take anything from them (artifacts, rocks, whatever) and don’t touch them or any rock art if you see any.

There is no fee to see this and it doesn’t open/close so you can visit anytime. It’s an easy hike, under 0.5 miles round-trip. There is a Geocache here, too!

Visit Bears Ears

bears ears utah

Where is it

Bears Ears is about an hour from Blanding, but that depends on where you go up there. You can get to it the long way by going over Elk Ridge through the Abajos which is super pretty but not the best option for anyone inexperienced driving in the area and on rough dirt roads.

The most accessible way to visit is to head down 191 and turn onto Highway 95 and follow that for about 30 miles until you get to the turnoff for Natural Bridges National Monument.

Instead of turning to that visitor center, stay to the right and you’ll be in Bears Ears in no time. There is one main road, really, going through here but there are tons of smaller dirt roads branching off of it.

Why should you do this

Because most people don’t. If you really want to get off the beaten path and are prepared to do so with equipment, skill, and preparedness, Bears Ears is perfect for you.

You can hike in Dark Canyon, Hammond Canyon, Horse Pasture Trail, Arch Canyon, and more ruins than you can imagine. They all require quite a bit of effort to get to, so don’t forget that.

If you just want to see Bears Ears and know you aren’t prepared for the remoteness and bad roads, a drive up and through some of it would along the main road would be perfect. As soon as you pass between the ears you feel like you’re in a totally different place.

Important things to know

If you really want to explore Bears Ears you’re going to want a high-clearance 4WD vehicle because these roads can be rough. There isn’t phone service most of the time up here, but there is in some places (like Hammond Canyon Overlook) so be prepared for that.

It’s super remote in this area so always tell someone where you’ll be going if you’re going up here. This is not a good place to go if you’re an inexperienced hiker, either. The hikes are usually fairly difficult and like I said, incredibly remote.

Hike to House on Fire

House on fire ruins mule canyon

Where is it

Less than a mile down Texas Flat Road, not at the Mule Canyon Ruins site! This is about 30 minutes from Blanding. Like Bears Ears, head out of town on 191 towards Bluff but turn down Highway 95 and follow that for 20ish miles.

There will be a sign for Texas Flat Road, turn there. It’s a dirt road, but you only have to go 0.3 miles down it and any car can do it. The parking isn’t marked but if you keep track of mileage, 0.3 miles is where you’ll park.

There may be cars here already, but there might not. Park along the road and on the left side (driving in) down the hill you should be able to see a trailhead sign. Head down there and you’re off!

Why should you do this

This is one of the coolest ruins in the area because of the alcove it’s built in. The “roof” above the ruins looks like it’s on fire, hence the name. It’s a really unique site that you won’t be able to see anywhere else.

Important things to know

To get the best fire effect, you’ll want to be here between 10-11 AM. There is a $2 fee for day use and dogs are allowed on leash.

There are actually eight ruins in Mule Canyon and this is the first. It’s about a mile in and only needs a couple of hours but I would plan most of the day (5ish hours) if you want to see all of them in the canyon.

Visit Edge of the Cedars State Park

Where is it

This state park is actually a museum with some restored ruins on site and it’s right in town! From the center of town, it’s just a four minute drive.

Why should you do this

If you want to learn about the history of the area, this is a must-see. I don’t even like museums that much but I’ve been here twice now and it’s really cool seeing so many artifacts from the area. It’s also one of the biggest collections of artifacts in the Four Corners region.

Important things to know

It’s $5 per person to visit the museum and it’s open 10-4 everyday (closed Sundays, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day, and New Years Eve and Day.). There is a little free library here, too!

Drive Valley of the Gods

Valley of the gods Utah

Where is it

Valley of the Gods is just outside of Mexican Hat, Utah, at the bottom of the Moki Dugway. There are two options for getting here. The shorter option (about an hour) is to take 191 until you get to the turnoff and there are signs for it. The second option, which I would recommend is about an hour and a half via Highway 95 and the Moki Dugway.

Why should you do this

While I don’t personally love Valley of the Gods (my expectations were through the roof thanks to some specific recommendations and I think I’m a little jaded on cool scenery out here) if you’ve never been out here, it’s worth doing.

It’s like a mini Monument Valley with plenty of Geocaching opportunities and some hiking opportunities, too. It’s a good scenic drive with some pretty cool rock formations.

Important things to know

I would recommend combining Valley of the Gods, Goosenecks State Park, and Muley Point Overlook into one day trip because they’re all right by each other. If you do this I would start with Muley Point then head down the Moki Dugway and over to Goosenecks State Park and finally to Valley of the Gods.

You’ll have to backtrack a little no matter when you visit Goosenecks but backtracking is more worth it than driving specifically just to see it. There is no fee to drive Valley of the Gods.

You should be able to do this in any car but some parts may be a little rough and I would probably avoid it if it’s raining or if it has recently rained because there is a wash you have to cross and that could flood with heavy rain.

See the Upper Sand Island Petroglyphs

Upper sand Island petroglyphs bluff utah

Where is it

Just outside of Bluff, Utah at the Sand Island Campground area. It’s about 30 minutes from Blanding and there are actually two rock art sites here (upper and lower).

Drive down the little hill and head to the left, Loop A of the campground. Park by the little ranger station not in a campsite. Once you’re parked, head into the camping area and look for the little trail going between the cliff wall and river.

Why should you do this

Because you can see SO MANY petroglyphs here from quite a few different groups of people that lived in the area. It’s not a super popular trail so you won’t be fighting crowds here.

Important things to know

The Upper Sand Island Petroglyphs are different than the Sand Island Petroglyphs. You can see both but I think the upper is more impressive. The other ones are just to the right when you come in instead of the left. There is no fee to see these, only if you camp here.

Go Geocaching

Geocache near monument Valley

Where is it

Everywhere! There are tons of Geocaches in the area for all hiking skill levels.

Why should you do this

This is a fun way to get to know an area or see parts of an area you love but never knew about. It can be as easy or difficult as you want it to be and it’s great for families, solo travelers, couples, literally anyone.

Important things to know

You don’t need a GPS for Geocaching (unless you want to) and can just use the app on your phone. With the free version what you can see is limited but it’s a good way to test the waters. If you love it, premium is only $30 per year and totally worth it.

Visit Natural Bridges National Monument

Sipapu bridge natural bridges utah

Where is it

Natural Bridges National Monument is about an hour from Blanding, about 30 miles down Highway 95. Once you’re in the park, the scenic drive is a nine-mile one-way loop.

Why should you do this

Because it’s amazing, of course! Ok, it’s not my favorite place but it is still cool and I did love hiking down to Sipapu Bridge. You can hike down to all three bridges (Sipapu, Owachomo, and Kachina), make a loop of two or three of them, and hike to the Horsecollar Ruin Overlook.

Important things to know

There is a $15 entrance fee but if you have a national park pass, that will get you in. This could be a good stop before or after driving into Bears Ears a bit or just as a day trip from Blanding or a stop between Blanding and Capitol Reef or Lake Powell.

See the Halls Crossing Ruins

Where is it

Just over 23 miles down Highway 276 towards Halls Crossing. It’s not marked but there is a small parking area. Driving towards Halls, it’s going to be on your right. Pay attention to your mileage so you know when to keep an eye out for it. If you have a passenger, it will be easier to spot than if you’re driving.

Why should you do this

Because it’s a nice little ruin that’s easy to get to right on the side of the road. It’s just a short walk through some bushes to get to it from the parking area. If you go to this I would go all the way down to the marina to see Lake Powell, too.

Important things to know

This is on the Halls Crossing side of Highway 276 NOT the Bullfrog side. This is just a small roadside ruin and like the others, if you find any artifacts, leave them there, only take pictures. Don’t touch the rock art, but enjoy your time there.

There is no fee to see the ruins but if you go to Halls Crossing you’ll need to pay the Glen Canyon entrance fee which is $30, but your park pass will get you in there, too.

If you don’t have the pass and won’t be going to Bullfrog or Wahweap, I would maybe skip going all the way to Halls but still drive past the ruins and turn around at the fee booth.

Admire Muley Point Overlook

Where is it

Just at the top of the Moki Dugway. It’s about an hour and ten minutes from Blanding. You’ll take 191 towards Bluff, turn down Highway 95 and follow that for 28 miles until you get to Highway 261.

Turn here and about 23 miles in, right where the road turns to dirt and before you go down the switchbacks, is the turn on the right for the road to Muley Point.

Why should you do this

Because it’s one of the best views in Southern Utah! You can see Monument Valley and the San Juan River from here. It’s a view that rivals the Grand Canyon that I think a lot of people don’t know about.

Important things to know

The last road that takes you out to the overlook is sandy. Utah.com says any car should be able to get there as long as it isn’t/hasn’t been rainy but I would do so cautiously in a regular car. There were some spots where it was a little too deep for my liking. We made it, but I was a little worried.

See the Butler Wash Ruins

Butler Wash Ruins Utah

Where is it

The Butler Wash Ruins are just 20 minutes from Blanding, about ten miles down Highway 95. There will be a sign on your right (coming from Blanding) for Indian Ruins, this is it. There is a parking area and a short hike to the viewing area.

Why should you do this

Because they’re another very accessible ruin site. They’re particularly enjoyable in the fall because the cottonwoods in the wash between the viewing area and the ruins will glow gold.

Important things to know

You can hike down into the canyon and over to the ruins. It’s not the best trail, and by that I mean it’s not really a trail. We just kind of picked out way through the brush to the other side. Again, be respectful of the ruins and leave any artifacts behind.

There are actually dinosaur tracks nearby, too! If you stop at these try not to touch the tracks and don’t pour water in them (a way they can be seen easier, but it can harm them.) There is a Geocache at the ruins and dinosaur tracks, too.

Visit Hovenweep National Monument

Where is it

About an hour from Blanding in the middle of nowhere near the Colorado border is Hovenweep National Monument, another ruin site.

Why should you do this

Because this is another ruin site I think a lot of people either don’t know about or skip because it’s in such a weird place. It’s not really on the way to anything unless you make it be on the way. It’s a small park but great for learning about Anasazi life in the area.

Important things to know

You can also visit Canyons of the Ancients while you’re here since it’s nearby. There is no entrance fee for Hovenweep! It’s a good stop between Blanding or Bluff and cortez, Colorado if you’ll be visiting Mesa Verde.

I would highly advise against visiting in peak summer. That’s when we went and I’m surprised I didn’t keel over on the short hike around the canyon rim. It was SO HOT! If you do go then just make sure you bring a lot of water on the hike. It’s easy and not that long but the heat is alarming.

Books to read before visiting the Four Corners area:

Is Blanding, Utah worth visiting?

Yes! The name is not a good selling point, but it’s a great area for outdoor adventures. It’s even better if you’re interested in archaeology and native culture from the area. It’s a great stop if you’re doing a Trail of the Ancients road trip.

Have you been to Blanding? What is your favorite thing to do in Blanding, Utah? Do you want to go there?

5 thoughts on “12 Awesome Outdoorsy Things To Do In Blanding, Utah (And Nearby!)

  1. Those are some pretty amazing hikes! It’s a shame that we don’t have much like that down here in SoCal – but that just means I need to travel a little more (which is always a good thing).
    Do any of the sites ‘sneak up on you’? Like… you’re walking around a nondescript curve in the rock and suddenly have the greatest view you’ve ever seen?

  2. Hi Megan, being a Utah resident I really got a chuckle from your opening statement about liking Blanding. I just skimmed the post real quick before signing off from work today, but I will go back and really study it; you have given out a ton of super useful information.

    The funny thing about Blanding and many other small southern Utah towns is that the local powers that be have zero real understanding that those little towns would have perished long ago were it not for the tourists that keep them afloat. Yet, they are the ones who pushed Trump to undo most of Bears Ears and Escalante. Hopefully the new administration will have that all reinstated before too long.

    I have found it quite puzzling over the last decade or so as to why these folks can’t just open their eyes and look around places like Moab, Cortez, CO, Kanab, and Blanding to realize that the only real business growth over the last 25 years has all been tourist related. When I was in college at the University of Utah back in the later ’70s (yep, I’m older), we would go to Arches Park for spring break, camp for free and have our pick of any spot in the Devils Garden campground which was closed for the winter officially. In those days Moab has like two restaurants, maybe three, and one was Pizza Hut. There were only one or two old motels. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I really loved your opening statement because buried in sentence is so much truth.

    Thanks again and have safe and happy travels – and keep posting! 🙂

    1. hah, thank you! It really is tourism that keeps so many of these places going. Bears Ears and Escalante are two of the most amazing areas in Utah which makes that even worse to see happening.

      We’ve talked about how much potential so many of these small towns have to be so great because of their proximity to so many awesome places (like Hanksville and Green River!) It’s nice to hear another perspective on it from someone that’s from here!

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