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Comb Ridge

Backcountry Archaeology: Comb Ridge

This trip is FULL. Call 800.422.8975, ext. 141, to get on the waiting list.

Hikers' special! Rock art and ruins in southeastern Utah

Two Comb Ridge images


$1,995 (member*)
$2,120 (nonmember)

Deposit: $400
Balance due: July 23, 2014

*Minimum $100 level
(see Membership)

September 28–October 4, 2014

The steep sandstone of Comb Ridge is one of the most prominent geologic features in southeastern Utah. Despite its rugged, forbidding appearance, the Comb was home to ancestral Pueblo people for more than 2,000 yearsuntil about the 13th century A.D. Evidence of their lives remains in numerous well-preserved cliff dwellings and complex rock art panels. Our scholars, both of whom have worked extensively on Comb Ridge, lead us to tucked-away sites that most visitors to the Four Corners area never see. Our explorations also look for traces of more recent Navajo, Ute, and Mormon history here. Daily hikes of up to 4 miles; nightly stays in charming and historic Bluff, Utah.

Educational Focus

Pueblo history of Comb Ridge

Influence of Chaco culture on the Pueblo people of Comb Ridge

Historic Navajo, Ute, and Mormon settlement patterns




Scholars Dr. Catherine Cameron (top) and Jonathan Till (bottom)


Dr. Catherine Cameron is a professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Cathy has been principal investigator on survey projects related to Chaco Canyon and Comb Ridge archaeology. Her research explores Chacoan influence on regional societies during the 10th through 12th centuries.

Jonathan Till is an archaeologist in Bluff, Utah, where he researches the rich human history of the landscapes surrounding Comb Ridge. He has an M.A. from the University of Colorado, Boulder. A former lab archaeologist at Crow Canyon, Jonathan is a popular trip leader.


Sunday, September 28: Arrive in Cortez or Durango, Colorado (shuttle transportation will be provided). Reception and dinner at Crow Canyon’s rural campus. Overnight, Cortez. (D)

Monday, September 29: After a scenic drive to the small, historic town of Bluff, Utah, we approach the tilted sandstone prominence of Comb Ridge. A short hike brings us to the impressive Basketmaker petroglyphs of the Wolfman Panel. After a drive north, we hike through a box canyon of sculpted sandstone to Monarch Cave—named by archaeological pioneers Richard and John Wetherill for its castle-like cliff dwellings. Overnight, Recapture Lodge, Bluff. (B, L, D)

View enlarged map.

Tuesday, September 30: We continue our journey north along Comb Ridge via the Decker Ranch and Tank Mesa. In a full day of hiking, we’ll see a variety of cliff dwellings and structures, including Long Fingers and Mystery Canyon Ruins. We'll also see earlier, more open sitesprompting discussions about abandonment, resettlement, and defensive architecture. Other stops include historic Navajo hogans and sweat lodges, adding to the day’s theme of societal change. Overnight, Bluff. (B, L)

Wednesday, October 1: In the northern reaches of Butler Wash, we hike to the Target site, a beautiful Pueblo cliff dwelling. Continuing our hike, we visit Cholla Knoll, an artifact-rich lookout site that dates to the early Pueblo period. In the afternoon, we return south and hike to the very top of Comb Ridge—and one of the most remarkable rock art sites in the region, Procession Panel. Depicting long lines of people converging on a center place, the panel may represent mythological or historical events. Overnight, Bluff. (B, L)

Thursday, October 2: Two of the largest structures in the Comb Wash drainage are the Comb Wash Great House and Arch Canyon Ruin. Renowned archaeologist (and Comb Ridge expert) Winston Hurst joins us as a guest scholar; together we explore the role of these dominating structures in a ritual landscape and discuss the far-reaching influence of Chaco society in both space and time. We also explore an earlier Pueblo village, perched high above Comb Wash. We finish the day at a series of rock art panels along the stunning western face of Comb Ridge; the petroglyphs span thousands of years and illustrate the deep history of southeastern Utah. Overnight, Bluff. (B, L, D)

Friday, October 3: Winston Hurst joins us again, and this time pioneer history is in the spotlight: the Hole-in-the-Rock expedition at San Juan Hill and the ruins of Barton Trading Post on the banks of the San Juan River. A short hike also takes us to a great kiva site and to the beautifully preserved River House ruins and rock art. We return to Cortez for a farewell dinner at The Farm, a farm-to-table restaurant that’s become a local favorite. Overnight, Cortez. (B, L, D)

Saturday, October 4: Shuttles to Cortez and Durango airports for morning departure. (B)

Itinerary subject to change

B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner


Tuition: Tuition is per person, based on shared hotel accommodations, and includes accommodations, meals listed, entry fees and permits, gratuities, and group transportation from arrival in Cortez or Durango, Colorado, on Sunday, Sept. 28, until departure from Cortez or Durango on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. Transportation to and from Cortez/Durango is your responsibility. A group shuttle between the Durango airport and Cortez will be arranged by Crow Canyon staff.

Accommodations: Opening and closing nights are spent in a 4-star hotel. The accommodation in Bluff, Utah, is a simple and comfortable B&B-style lodge that caters to hikers and archaeology enthusiasts. Accommodations are double occupancy; single accommodations are available for an additional fee of $390.

What to Expect: This program begins and ends in Cortez, Colorado. Travel is by Crow Canyon vans on rural roads with sections of gravel and dirt road. This active trip involves hiking on uneven terrain up to 4 miles a day and occasional scrambling around rocky ledges with exposure. The program is designed for energetic people in good health who are accustomed to traveling in remote areas. Our pace throughout the trip will be somewhat leisurely, and assistance will be given, but you must be comfortable hiking for several hours at a time. The entire trip takes place at elevations between 4500 and 6000 feet. If you have any questions about your ability to participate in this adventure, please contact us.

To satisfy Bureau of Land Management permitting regulations, we will often hike in two small groups, each led by a scholar and a Crow Canyon staff member. The groups will hike the same trails and visit the same sites, but at different times. Each evening the groups will share their experiences.


The following penalty schedule applies: On or before July 23, 2014: $200 handling fee; after July 23, 2014: forfeiture of all payments. For complete cancellation and refund policy, see Terms and Conditions.



The Crow Canyon Archaeological Center's programs and admission practices are open to applicants of any race, color, nationality, ethnic origin, gender, or sexual orientation.

Registration as a seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California
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