Tilted at an angle of almost 20 degrees, Comb Ridge is an ancient rock formation tapered along the desert landscape of southeastern Utah. A linear north to south-trending monocline, this immense sandstone formation is nearly one hundred and twenty miles long and one mile wide.
In the Navajo tongue, this cataclysmic upheaval of earth is translated “Rock Extends in the Form of a Narrow Edge.” This blunt rock extension occurred nearly 65 million years ago, when tectonic plates buried deep under the earth’s surface slipped, leaving a rugged scar across the face of the once smooth stone.
These jagged and weathered crags sharply ascend up steep summits then drop into unexpected depths with staggering and sudden recurrence. They loom from 300 to 900 feet above the empty plains, before disappearing into the surrounding washes.
Ancient Ancestral Puebloans once found refuge in the Comb’s alcoves. Their existence may be found today as ruins and rock art on the canvas of shallow cave walls.
Archaeological surveys of Comb Ridge have revealed more of the formation’s ancient secrets, from Ice Age camps and 800-year-old Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, to historic artifacts of Anglo settlers, and strange lanes carved into the earth across miles of desert, scattered with remnants of Hopi pottery. These “Anasazi roads” are speculated to connect places of significance, perhaps providing paths for the Pueblo people to visit ancient shrines.
You may wish to explore the upper third of Comb Ridge. A permit must be obtained from the Bureau of Land Management. Each cleft in Comb Ridge indicates a small canyon that can be accessed from behind the ancient stretch of rock formation. Vacationers wishing to explore the rich archeological aspects of the Comb can discover traces of the ancient Ancestral Puebloan culture.
Bluff operates as a base of operations for exploring the Comb. In Bluff, you’ll find excellent guides that can take you on day hikes or longer treks. Driving west from Bluff on UT 163, you can drive along Comb Wash (CountyRoad 235) on the west side of Comb Ridge, or along Butler Wash (CountyRoad 230) on the eastern side of Comb Ridge.
April and May provide travelers with cooler hiking temperatures and wildflowers, while late September and October offer temperature in the 70’s and 80s, and rare site of beautiful golden cottonwoods.
Comb Ridge ruins are extremely fragile. Visitors should refrain from touching the rock art or moving artifacts.