House on Fire (Cedar Mesa)

The hike to House on Fire Ruin has caught on, becoming a popular destination of Cedar Mesa visitors in recent years. It was popularized by photographers, because when the sun hits the ruins at a particular angle, it appears that they are “on fire.”

The trail begins at the Mule Canyon South Fork trailhead, off of the well graded dirt, San Juan County Road #263. The hike is short, coming in at only about 1.5 miles in each direction and over relatively easy terrain. There are a few instances where the trail goes back and forth across a spring (the spring may be seasonal), and sometimes deeply rutted wash. When I visited in March, there was a decent amount of snow covering portions of the trail, and may have attributed to the running spring.

 

Mule Canyon

Mule Canyon

 

House on Fire

House on Fire

 

A look inside of one of the granaries.

A look inside of one of the granaries.

 

House on Fire is a pretty pristine ruin. The well-built walls are for the most part still standing, having only minimal structural damage. The rooms that make up the cluster of structures are very small, they were not dwelling as the name suggests. This small cluster was actually a granary, it was used by the Anasazi to store corn for the cliff dwellings up and down Mule Canyon.

All in all, House on Fire didn’t live up to the hype for me. There are far better cliff dwelling in the immediate area, and I feel that “House on Fire” has only been popularized because it keeps tourist  from venturing too far off the beaten path.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.