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Adventure Guide: Comb Ridge
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Adventure Guide: Arizona and Utah's Comb Ridge
Text by Andrew Bentley

Read the Article  | Adventure Guide: Comb Ridge

GUIDED TOUR: Vaughn Hadenfeldt, owner of Far Out Expeditions ($195 a day, including food and gear;, has explored Comb Ridge for 25 years and tailors his tours to his clients. Backpacking trips and day hikes operate out of Bluff, Utah, and explore the northern third of Comb Ridge, which is administered by the Bureau of Land Management. On day hikes, groups leave Bluff and park along the Comb's eastern side to explore drainages and Anasazi sites. Stay at the cozy Far Out Expeditions Guesthouse ($35 per person).
DO IT YOURSELF: To gain access to the southern two-thirds of Comb Ridge, get a permit from the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Arizona ($5 a day; +1 928 871 6647). As on the northern third, there are no established trails, so good maps, such as the USGS Topo series ($6 each;, are essential. Far more accessible is the Comb's northern third. Recapture Lodge ($56; +1 435 672 2281), in Bluff, makes a good base of operations. From there it's just a seven-mile (11-kilometer) drive west on Highway 191 to the Butler Wash road, which follows the Comb's eastern edge. Drive another seven miles (11 kilometers) north, park, and hike west to Monarch Cave, a popular Anasazi cliff dwelling. Bring at least a gallon (four liters) of water per person per day. 
WHEN TO VISIT: April and May bring temperatures in the 60s and 70s (16 to 21 degrees Celsius), along with blooming wildflowers. September and October have temperatures in the 70s and 80s (21 to 27 degrees Celsius) and stands of golden cottonwoods.
GETTING THERETo reach Bluff, the gateway to Comb Ridge, fly into Denver International Airport ( and connect to the Durango–La Plata County Airport ($240 round-trip; There you can pick up an SUV ($80 a day) for the 160-mile (257-kilometer) drive to Bluff.
WHAT TO READ: River Flowing From the Sunrise (Utah State University Press, $22), by James Aton and Robert McPherson, examines the relationship between the San Juan River and the ancient inhabitants of Comb Ridge. For a broader look at Four Corners prehistory, try Linda Cordell's Archaeology of the Southwest, second edition (Academic Press, $50). It's up-to-date, comprehensive, and well-researched.
ETHICS: The ruins along the Comb are fragile. Resist the temptation to lean on the walls or touch rock art. It's illegal to take artifacts; even moving them is frowned upon. To minimize impact, keep your group size to six people
or fewer.  

Read the Article  | Adventure Guide: Comb Ridge

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Pick up the March 2006 issue for more secrets of the Southwest, nine Caribbean adventures, the best gear for runners, and our World Class outfitter trips.

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