House on Fire

Useful Information

House on Fire, Utah, U.S.A. Public Domain.
Location: Bears Ears National Monument, Mule Canyon, San Juan County.
(37.5006, -109.6662)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: Adults USD 5.
Classification: SubterraneaCave House,
Light: n/a, bring torch
Guided tours: self guided, L=3.2 km.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: House on Fire, Bears Ears Education Center, 567 Main St., Bluff, Tel: +1-435-414-0343. (Thu-Mon 9-17)
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House on Fire, Utah, U.S.A. Public Domain.
House on Fire, Utah, U.S.A. Public Domain.

The House on Fire is actualy a quite small Ancestral Puebloan ruin. What makes it special are the colours of the huge rock it was built below: it appears to burst into flames in the sunlight. The Ancestral Puebloan people lived in the area between 500 BC and 1300 AD, and they left various ruins. This are five granaries, which were used to store corn, Indian ricegrass for bread making, and other crops. The overhang was used as the ceiling and back wall, the floor goes up quite steep. The steep plate of rock probably served as a means for pest control, its quite difficult to reach the granaries.

The overhanging rock consists of a layered sedimentary rock, the layers have various shades of brown, reddish brown, and beige. In front of the rock its easy to see: the layers are slanted and the underside actually cuts through the layers to form a pattern of reddish brown stripes. Late in the morning, between 10 and 11, the sun shines into the canyon and into the overhang, the brown rocks appear to be blazing red, and the stripes appear as if flames were bursting from the top of the buildings. That's how the ruins got their name.

The south fork of Mule Canyon contains several ancient sites which are remarkably well-preserved. There is a trail along the canyon, the House on Fire is only 1.6 km from the trailhead. The trailhead in off Highway 95, but it is not the paved parking lot with rest rooms. There are ruins of former building near the parking lot. The trailhead is 500 m to the east, a single lane gravel road, with parking along the road in the upper end of Mule Canyon. The trail down the canyon is easy to find. But be aware that the climate is quite extreme, prepare for very hot and dry climate in summer and freezing cold in winter.