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Fallen Roof Ruin

Bears Ears National Monument, UT

Image by Don Metz @ www.donmetzphotography.com

 
 

The Fallen Roof Ruins is an excellent example of ancient Puebloan, or Anasazi, dwellings and granaries that date back to the period between 1060-1270 CE when they inhabited this area. The ruins are probably the most accessible of several excellent archaeological sites located within Road Canyon that are worth exploring if you have the time.

The site consists of four small well - preserved rooms with numerous small maize husks littering the floor of the rightmost room and painted handprints on the ceilings. Soot marks on the ceiling would indicate these rooms were used as both a living space and granary for storing food.

These are protected sites, so please do not enter any of the rooms, only look through the windows; and do not touch or move any artifacts. Also, be cognizant of the roof slabs that are peeling away, which give the ruin its name. These heavy rock slabs can fall away at anytime, so do not touch the slabs and avoid walking directly underneath them.

Location summary written with the assistance of Don Metz.


Trail Difficulty - MODERATE

I would rate the difficulty of this hike as a 3 on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being most difficult). The hike from the parking area to the ruins is approx. 1.2 miles each way. The hike down into the wash and the ascend to the ruins require caution and dexterity. For part of the trail you will be hiking through a wash and scrambling over boulders and around fallen trees and bushes. This location is very remote with little discernible trail markers and it is easy to get lost or disoriented. I would strongly suggest hiking with others or at least downloading a GPS / hiking app to your smart phone and plot the GPS coordinates.


Download KMZ Trail File

Click Here to download the KMZ file for this location.


GPS Coordinates & Elevation

37°23'45.9"N 109°52'20.3"W

6,400 Ft. Elevation


Google Maps Birds-Eye-View

Click link above to view location in Google Earth


Directions

CLICK HERE to get driving directions to Fallen Roof Ruin trailhead parking area

The closest town to the Fallen Roof Ruins is Blanding, UT.

From Blanding, UT - drive south on US-191 for approximately 4 miles and turn right (west) on UT-95 for 28.5 miles until you reach the juction for UT-261. Take a left (south) on UT-261 and drive 13.6 miles until you come to a dirt road called Cigarette Springs Rd. (this is opposite of Government Trail Rd).

From Monument Valley - if you are coming from Monument Valley, you can cut off about 2 hours by going up UT-261. However, this route is not recommend if you are driving an RV or long wheel-based vehicle as the drive includes several tight switchback on the Moki Dugway. Several of the switchbacks are extremely tight and even in a Jeep, I barely had enough room to make the turns without having to back-up. If you take this route, drive North on US-163 past Mexican Hat and take a left at UT-261. Drive on UT-261 for 7 miles until you hit the Moki Dugway switchbacks. After passing through the switchback, drive another 7.4 miles to the intersection of UT-261 and Cigarette Springs Rd.

At the intersection of UT-261 and Cigarette Springs Rd.- turn EAST and drive 3.4 miles to the trailhead access road. There is a self-registration fee pay station about one mile after you turn onto Cigarette Spring Rd. THIS ROAD IS COMPLETELY IMPASSABLE WHEN WET. Don’t even try it!

The trailhead access road is not well marked; look for some primitive campsites along the road and a small trail marker on the left. Turn left and drive about 200 feet amongst the juniper and pinyon trees to a large parking area. The access road is a little sandy and slightly rutted, but suitable for cars.

The trailhead marker is a small brown sign that simply states “trail” on the northeast side of the parking area. The trail starts with an easy descent to the rim through a juniper and pinyon pine flats area with the trail weaving through trees. When you reach the canyon rim, the descent is steep and cluttered with flash flood debris. There are periodic cairns to help guide the way, but there are several routes you can take. The shortest is to stay to the right and descend through a boulder field until you reach the canyon floor where there is a prominent caprock hoodoo at the junction with a side canyon to the left (there’s nothing of interest in the side canyon).

Continue east through the main canyon and look for the ruins tucked underneath an overhang in the cliff wall about 80’ above the canyon floor. The climb to the ruins is a Class 2 single pitch scramble, which means you will need to use handholds and simple climbing skills to reach the ruins. There’s enough protection to minimize the risk of injury if you fall, but this is slickrock and the pitch is steep enough that you need to be careful - as there is a risk of injury.

On the return hike, look for the hoodoo at the junction with the side canyon and stay to the left. It’s easy to miss and end up hiking into the side canyon by mistake.


Best Time of Day to Shoot

The best time to photograph the Fallen Roof is mid-morning or on an overcast day. The site is in shadow through mid-morning with the reflected light bouncing off the canyon walls. By noon or early afternoon depending upon the season and track of the sun, it will begin to get direct sunlight which is harsh and washes out the colorful effect of the reflected light.

The ruin also photographs well on overcast days, although heavy overcast skies will not yield enough reflected light to illuminate the ceiling. Light overcast skies with filtered sunlight reflecting off the canyon walls creates the most photogenic effect.


Best Time of Year to Shoot

This shot is all about the ceiling and the reflective light. Based on the direction of the alcove, this shot is best in late spring, summer and early fall. During the winter months, the sun rises further southwest which shines into the alcove.


What Lens(es) Do You Need

There are many different compositions you can choose while at the Fallen Roof Ruins. You can shoot both vertical and horizontal using a 16-35mm lens. For a single exposure a focal length of 24-28mm will enable you to capture the entire alcove including the interesting designs on the ceiling.

You can also use a 50mm focal length with a vertical orientation and a pano-rail on a tripod to capture multiple images for stitching.

The above shot was taken at 28mm.


Permits

About a mile from the intersection of UT-261, on Cigarette Springs Rd, you will find a BLM sign-in and back country permit kiosk. At the time of this writing, the fee was ($2.50 per person).


Direction of the Shot

Depending on your composition, you will be shooting between northwest around 60° to northeast around 325°.


Special Nuances of Shot

The Fallen Roof Ruin is one of the more photogenic ancient Puebloan archeological sites due to the way reflected light off the surrounding canyon walls illuminates the rock ceiling above the ruins.

The configuration of the rooms in a shallow crescent shape also lends them to both landscape and portrait orientation compositions with opportunities to include more of the surrounding rock wall and ceiling within the overhang. This provides some interesting patterns and designs in the rock that are highlighted by the reflected light.

The alcove is rather small however and you will find yourself near the edge of the cliff, so be mindful of this as you compose your photograph; it would be all too easy to back up a little too far and step off the edge.

Bonus Location: There is another small granary about 0.2 mi further east in Road Canyon. It’s not as photogenic, but is another nice example of Puebloan architecture. It is on the north side of the canyon tucked under an overhang that’s easier to reach.


Special Equipment Needed

Other than a sturdy tripod, no special photography equipment is needed unless you plan on doing a panoramic shot. You may consider using a polarizing filter to help reduce the glare on the canyon walls.

As mentioned, the hike to this location is a moderate 2.5 mile hike roundtrip. However, the location is very remote with few trail markers and it is easy to get lost. I would strongly suggest hiking with others or at least downloading a GPS / hiking app to your smart phone and plot the GPS coordinates.


Number of Other Photographers to Expect

The Road Canyon (where the Fallen Roof Ruins are) does not get much traffic - as it is very remote and can be hard to find. There may be a few hikers in the canyon on some summer days, but most of the time you will be the only one visiting the ruins.


Weather

Current Weather

This is an arid area of southern Utah where the elevation is 6,000 feet. Temperatures can vary up to 35 degrees daily in the summer.


Cell Service

I use Verizon, and there is NO cell service on the hike to Fallen Roof Ruins. There is limited cell service once you get back to road (UT95) and stronger cell service once you get to Banding, UT.


Overnight Lodging/Camping

The closest town to Fallen Roof Ruins is Blanding, UT (24 miles east and then north). Blanding is a small community with only 3 or 4 hotels. The nearest camping is Blue Mountain Trading Post just south of Blanding. It is a nice facility with good folks running it. 

Nearby camping and lodging

Camping - click on the campground below for directions

Blue Mountain Trading Post 

Lodging - click on the lodging below for a TripAdvisor review

Stone Lizard Lodging
(435) 678-3323
88 W Center St, Blanding, UT

Super 8 Blanding
(435) 678-3880
755 S Main St, Blanding, UT

Four Corners Inn
(435) 678-3257
131 E Center St, Blanding, UT 


Nearby Restaurants

As mentioned, the closest towns are Blanding, UT (50 miles east and then north) and Mexican Hat (25 miles south through the Moki Dugway switchbacks). Blanding is a small community and there are just a few eating establishments. If you are traveling through Blanding and craving a good juicy burger, make sure you stop at the Patio Drive-In (an old diner that cooks to order).

Mexican Hat is even smaller, but is home to a GREAT steakhouse called the Swinging Steak. This is like walking into a friends backyard and getting a steak on the grill.

Nearby Restaurants - click on the restaurant below for yelp review

Patio Drive In
(435) 678-2177
95 N Grayson Pkwy, Blanding, UT

The Swinging Steak
(435) 683-2222
163 Main Ave Mexican Hat, UT


Laundry Mat

The only Laundromat I know of in Blanding is 1 Stop Laundromat @ 1022 S Main St., Blanding, UT.


Other Photography Opportunities Around

Click on an image below to move to that location

Airport Options

The closest international airport is Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) – which is 370 miles away.


Area Guides and Workshops

None


Other Resources

The Photographer's Ephemeris is a very valuable tool for landscape photographers to determine the direction of the sunrise/sunset & moonrise/moonset from any place on earth on any day (past and future). Click here to take you to The Photographer's Ephemeris for this location.