Telluride Escape: Comb Wash, Utah

When the snow flies early in Telluride as it did last week, we like to escape to Utah. Last weekend, instead of heading to Moab, we decided to go to a place that we hadn’t visited in a while: Comb Wash and the Cedar Mesa Plateau.

Comb Wash is an hour further than Moab but much quieter. It is filled with fantastic ruins and hikes. Located just southwest of Blanding, Utah, this is the beautiful spot that is infamously battled over in Ed Abbey’s fictional tale, The Monkey Wrench Gang.
Mud Pies
We also love Comb Wash because great camping is simple to find. Andy and I were slow to get out of the house Saturday morning, and we still scored a great spot by the river. Our girls had the best time dipping in and out of the river, wallowing in the mud and building mud cakes.

When we finally convinced them to leave the mud, we wandered up South Mule Canyon to the Fire House Ruin. Photographers love this spot because the early morning light causes the ruins to glow. As we wandered up-canyon, we saw a handful of photographers traveling back with tripods and cameras. I didn’t really believe in the “fire” though, until I found these photos. (By the time we got there, it was midday.)

Still, although it took us a while, the hike was one that everyone could do. At 3 miles roundtrip, Siri, our five year old, could easily hike the entire thing (until she decided her dad’s shoulders looked better), and our two year old, Quincy, could pop in the pack for a nap and out of the pack and terrify her parents with her love of scrambling up sketchy cliffs.

Hiking up to fire house ruinWe loved the ruins so much that the next day, Andy and I took turns running back up to them. Andy even made a loop of it, climbing up South Mule, scrambing out the rim and over the mesa top and crashing down North Mule Canyon back to the campsite.

Fire House ruin is just one of the dozens of ruins is this area. We visited the Mule Tower Ruins as well, which although not as well preserved as Fire, have an unbelievable view of the canyon below. Tower is a fitting name for the ruin. It’s clear it was a fortress as they tower over the canyon rim.

Looking out over the canyon below, it’s clear why the ancient people who lived here (and why Ed Abbey) would want to protect it. This place is sacred, and one that we’ll be sure to return to for years to come.

The View from Tower Ruin
Details: Numerous camping opportunities exist around Comb Wash and the Cedar Mesa Plateau. For more information on the area’s spectacular cultural and natural history visit BLM Monticello.

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