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Stage 18 : Comb Wash - Bluff

National Geographic
NatGeo MAB S18 merge1.png
Sat MAB S18 merge1.png

Possible water source


As we descend from Comb Ridge, it is very easy walking to make our way east, towards Butler Wash. We immediately cross over the good dirt road that runs north to south, and continue eastwards cross country, towards the mesa in the distance (S18P05). (Alternatively, if you didn't want to cross the mesa-top to reach Bluff, it would be straightforward to skirt around its edge, at the bottom of the cliffs).


To reach Tank Mesa, we head towards a small opening in the rocks below the rim. To reach this opening, it is best to ascend a loose talus slope (S18P10), then make our way around the higher bench, before ascending a steep rubble chute (S18P15), which will deposit us on the mesa top. There are 2 possible chutes that can be followed, but the northern one is a bit easier. It is steep and tricky, and care should be taken, but it is short, and there is no great danger here.


Once on the mesa top, there are expansive views in all directions. We now head eastwards for several miles across the grassy expanses of Tank Mesa. The point where we drop down again from the mesa is not particularly easy to find (S18P20), but the route down is good and follows an old cattle trail, with some cowboy etchings on the rocks from the 1920s. 


We then follow a flat trail around the entrances to several side canyons, past groups of cottonwood trees, and ascend a shallow slope. Look out for a large rock with several petroglyphs along the way. We now descend and quickly find ourselves on the outskirts of the town of Bluff (S18P25). We can continue east along a backstreet, but must head down to the highway through town, in order to cross the main drainage. Soon after, we can take a left to enter the Historic Loop of the town, and then take a right, to head towards our final destination of Bluff Fort (S18P30), first established by the Hole-in-the-Rock pioneers in 1880.

Total Ascent
Total Descent
Min Elevation
Max Elevation
10.3 miles
Useful Locations

S18P05          N37° 17.797' W109° 37.877'      Cross Butler Wash

S18P10          N37° 17.765' W109° 37.344'      Ascend talus slope

S18P15          N37° 17.696' W109° 37.287'      Ascend rubble chute to reach Tank Mesa

S18P20          N37° 18.000' W109° 35.238'      Drop down from Tank Mesa

S18P25          N37° 16.981' W109° 34.360'      Enter Bluff

S18P30          N37° 17.056' W109° 33.167'      Bluff Fort

Water Availability
Water/Food Cache
Butler Wash Road
Elevation Profile
S18 Elev v1.png

Tank Mesa and Butler Wash from Comb Ridge


Comb Ridge and Butler Wash from Tank Mesa


Tank Mesa


Bluff Fort

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