South Fork of Mule Canyon sits to the north of Route 95 in southeastern Utah’s Cedar Mesa not far from Natural Bridges National Monument. The most famous feature of the canyon is a Native American ruin known as House on Fire, so called because the patterns in the slickrock above the ruin create the impression of a raging fire. House on Fire is only a mile from trailhead and is a fairly popular hiking destination. Beyond House on Fire, you can find a few other ruins. I did not look for and did not see those ruins. The purpose of this page is to introduce the natural beauty of the canyon. If you want information about the ruins, refer to the external link at the bottom of this page.
3.5 miles from trailhead, you will reach a slickrock pour-off that creates an obstacle to the hiker. I was able to bypass the obstacle by climbing a five foot tall step on the right side of the pour-off. Farther up, another pour-off could be bypassed much easier. At 5.6 miles, near the upper end of the canyon, I reached a boulder jam where I ended my hike.
From the junction of Routes 191 and 95 four miles south of Blanding, UT, turn west onto Route 95 and drive 19 miles to County Road 263 (between mile markers 102 and 103). Turn right (northeast) onto the dirt road and drive 0.3 miles. You will not see any signs or parking area but the canyon is visible from the road. People usually park on the side of the road. Once you go into the canyon, you will find signs and trail registry.
End of Hike Elevation:
Roundtrip Hiking Distance:
From the parking area, go down the road embankment on the east side of the canyon to reach the trailhead. Follow the trail northwest. At first the canyon appears broad and shallow.
House on Fire will be reached on the right side after one mile.
Native American ruin known as House on Fire
After House on Fire, canyon walls become taller.
3.5 miles from trailhead, you will reach a pool and slickrock pour-off. I bypassed the pour-off by climbing a 5 ft tall step on the right side.
A short section of bushwhacking after the pour-off.
This interesting rock formation will come to view.
Continuing up the canyon, you will go by 3 small side branches to the right. Stay to the left. A trail may not be visible but the path is obvious, follow the bottom of the canyon.
At 5.1 miles from trailhead, you will reach a second slickrock pour-off. A beaten path up a dirt slope on the left can bypass this pour-off.
Looking back at the pour-off.
As I continued up the canyon to near its upper walls, I reached a boulder jam. I could have grabbed the boulders and pulled myself up but I remembered the story of the guy who did the same and the boulder rolled over him pinning his hand. He ended up cutting his own hand to free himself. I decided to make that spot the end of my hike.
There is a self pay station at the start of the dirt road. In 2017, the fee was $2 a day