Cedar Mesa and Bears Ears Cultural History

Lodge-based archeology and history exploration in Utah's canyon country

Join CFI and guest experts for three days worth of hiking, exploration, and learning in the Cedar Mesa and Bears Ears Areas of Southeastern Utah. This all inclusive seminar includes guided interpretive hikes to archaeological resources, backcountry travel in our 4 Wheel Drive vehicles, and all meals.

This seminar is the perfect opportunity to unplug from you busy life, relax in the town of Bluff, and venture into the desert to learn about the areas rich cultural, natural, and archaeological history. This is an all-inclusive trip that includes a stay at the Recapture Lodge, all meals, naturalist hiking guides, and expert interpretation.

Guided Archaeological Exploration

The seminar combines a private, behind the scenes tour of the Edge of the Cedars Museum with 3 days of exploring the surrounding area with career archaeologists. Experts will guide the group to authorized historic sites providing information about Indigenous & later European lifeways in this region. You will also have free time to explore historic downtown Bluff, relax at the Lodge, or wander down to the San Juan River. Three nights motel accommodations at Recapture Lodge in Bluff and all meals are included.


What an amazing experience. We are on still on cloud 9. We cannot stop talking about the trip which was stimulating on so many different levels. Landscape, Cultural, Educational, and of course… Fellowship. The faculty were incredible… they were easy to connect with and the information they provided was digestible, stimulating, and insightful. We feel revitalized and refreshed and are still talking about the people we met, what we saw and what we learned.    Donnarae,  Participant,  Castle Valley UT




"The entire experience was mind, heart and soul opening. It was a terrific group of people and group cohesion isn't always easy but I felt we really gelled as a group. I learned so much and, looking so far back into humanity, I felt a little less anxious about our fate as humans – not that I won’t continue on with all my own engagements to make the world a better, safer and life sustaining place! Thank you again, you do great work.”

Anne, Berkeley, CA

Based in Bluff, UT
March 21, 2023 through March 24, 2023
October 17, 2023 through October 20, 2023
3.5 days and 3 nights
Group Size:
Minimum: 6, Maximum: 8
$1790; $1705 Member Price; plus $10 BLM Special Area fee
Recapture Lodge

This is how we rate the challenges you might face on a CFI trip.

Level 1 - Easy

  • Low level of physical activity, minimal movement required
  • 0 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking or walking 0-2 miles per day

Level 2 - Moderate

  • Medium level of physical activity, some movement required
  • 1-4 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking up to 4 miles per day
  • Flatwater or mild whitewater rapids

Level 3 - Active

  • Medium or high level of physical activity
  • 1-5 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking up to 5 miles per day
  • Class I - III whitewater rapids

Level 4 - Challenging

  • High level of physical activity
  • 1-6 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking 5 or more miles per day
  • Class IV whitewater rapids
CFI's Essential Eligibility Criteria outlines specific challenges that you may face on CFI trips. Please consult the EEC for information on responsibilities of participants.
  • This trip includes three nights in a motel, paired with another trip participant. Reach out to CFI to be paired with a specific participant. You may request a single room occupancy for an additional $210.
  • A $300 deposit is required to reserve your spot which applies to the total trip cost.
  • Fee includes a $100 donation to CFI youth and scholarship programs.

See other trips in these categories:

All participants on our adult seminars and on our private trips are required to be fully vaccinated.

Guest Faculty

October Faculty: 

Woods Canyon Archaeological Consultants will serve as primary faculty for the October seminar. Woods Canyon conducts field research and stabilization projects in Bears Ears National Monument and throughout the northern Southwest for tribal, government and private entities. Woods Canyon has a history of presenting technical data from cultural resource projects to professional, academic and citizen groups. Ms. Kelly McAndrews is Archaeologist, President and Co-owner of Woods Canyon. She has more than 25 years of cultural resource management experience including survey, excavation, GIS drafting, artifact analyses, curation, and administration. Kelly has authored and presented numerous reports and professional papers. Ms. Shanna Diederichs serves as Conservation Program Director. In addition to field work, she works with Indigenous Ancestral Lands youth corps crews and led volunteer projects for Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

Our special tour at the Edge of the Cedars Museum will be led by Mr. Jonathan Till,  Curator at the Edge of the Cedars Museum, a Utah State Park and authorized repository.  Jonathan holds an M.S. in Anthropology and has worked as an archaeologist for private, state, tribal, and federal organizations and led field seminars for CFI, Crow Canyon and other educational groups. He has done extensive field research in this this region with a particular focus on Chacoan-era prehistoric roads.

A CFI Trip Leader and Support Guide will coordinate logistics, drive and prepare some meals. An additional presentation is being arranged with an Indigenous leader.


Trip Narrative

Day 1

Meet the rest of your fellow adventurers at the Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding, Utah. Here we will start the program with an exclusive backroom tour of the museum. The curator will highlight significant material culture from this region as well as the process of curation.  We will also venture outside to examine a restored Great House and discuss astronomical alignments at Edge of the Cedars. After the tour, our group will continue on toward the Lodge in Bluff, UT to check in and get settled before dinner.

Days 2 and 3

After breakfast and packing up lunches for the day, we will travel in CFI’s 4WDrive vehicles to several locations.  Each day consists of short or medium hikes to BLM approved cultural sites and will include a prehistoric Great House and kiva, occupational dwellings, ancient road traces, and rock art panels. More recent Anglo and Native history of the area, geological formations, plants and wildlife will be covered as well. Each year, we vary the actual sites depending on time of year, guest scholar expertise, tribal input and agency regulations.

During late afternoon free time, you will have time to walk to the San Juan River from the Lodge, or choose to visit the Bluff Fort or various trading posts. Dinners will be by CFI or at local cafes.

Day 4

We visit the Bears Ears Education Center for a short recap of current issues and how to get involved in stewardship activities. We visit capstone sites close to Bluff, have closing remarks by our experts and return to the Lodge by 2:30 p.m.  As you drive away from this experience, you’ll have a newfound understandings and be inspired to learn more and be involved in protecting this very special region. 


Need to Know

  • The hiking ranges from 1 - 5 miles per day across sandy washes, up and down hills, and through varied desert terrain. 
  • CFI staff are trained educators and guides with first aid and CPR certifications. Back-country trips carry satellite communications devices.  
  • All cook and dishware, meals, snacks, and river gear are provided by CFI.
  • To know if this trip is right for you, please view our Essential Eligibility Criteria.


Some people say food is the most important part of the adventure. On all our overnight trips, CFI will provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a morning and afternoon snack, and an appetizer before dinner. If you have a dietary restriction or food allergy, note it on your medical form so we can best prepare.

Depends on the trip. As a general rule, CFI provides all group gear related to fully outfitting your trip. Specialized gear like PFDs, wetsuits, dry bags, educational materials are all provided by CFI. Additionally, we take care of all kitchen and dishware needs. 

Find out more about trip specific packing.

Most importantly, a willingness to slow down, connect to your surroundings, and experience the moment. Additionally, participants are required to bring a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, personal clothing, medication, and other essential personal items. Many gear items are available for rent. Reach out to us if you are interested in seeing a trip specific packing list, or learn more about trip specific packing here.

CFI provides options to rent gear:

  • Two person tent: $30 / trip
  • Sleeping bag: $20 / trip
  • Kid sleeping pad: $7 / trip
  • Adult sleeping pad (paco pad): $15 / trip
  • Package deal: Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and one tent per two people: $40 / trip

For any CFI summer camp, gear rentals are free!

Every CFI guide has either a Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder certification. Your trip leader will have a Wilderness First Responder certification. Anyone working with youth has passed a background check, and shuttle drivers are insured with clean driving records. Backcountry trips carry In-Reach satellite communication devices for emergencies. All guides have been evaluated by Canyonlands Field Institute as possessing the judgement, skills, and disposition required for mitigating risk in the field. 

As technology grows more and more invasive by the day, CFI promotes connection to what matters. To achieve this, all school and youth programs are unplugged and students are not permitted to bring electronic devices. Not only is there rarely cell service, devices are a distraction to our ability to connect to the present moment. On Private Group Trips or Adult Seminars, the use of devices is permitted but discouraged.

CFI works hard to ensure a positive experience for all guides and participants. Because of the unpredictable nature of outfitting, we have created a series of policies so maintain our ability to manage risk in the outdoors.

For critical information regarding cancellations, deposits, and other participant responsibilities, please view our trip policies page or contact us with any questions.

Thanks for asking...We know this can be an awkward subject. The fact is, our guides work extremely hard and appreciate getting tipped! 

On school trips tips are greatly appreciated. 

On an adult or private trip, an industry standard is for each customer to tip $25 per day.

If you wish to include a gratuity, cash is preferred, but sending a check or a payment to CFI's Venmo: @canyonlandsfieldinstitute is also a great way to thank your guides for their hard work.  Tips are always pooled and distributed.

CFI is a non-profit organization and fees are not taxed. By choosing CFI, you are supporting our efforts to provide lifechanging outdoor experiences for hundreds of children per year.  Scholarships are available on an as needed basis.