Cedar Mesa and Bears Ears Cultural History

Lodge-based archeology and history exploration in the Utah desert!

March trip is full, October registration open soon!

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.

In 2023, there are two iterations for this popular seminar!

The March trip is full, join the waitlist!

Inquire about the October Trip (registration not yet open)

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 plenty of free time to explore historic downtown Bluff, relax at the Lodge, or wander down to the San Juan River.

Focus on the Moment – Explore the past

You are here to experience the incredible cultural and natural landscape of the American Southwest. Learn about Indigenous history, land management, and modern settler history. Come ready to immerse yourself within the breathtaking scenery, and let us worry about the details!

"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

Location:
Based in Bluff, UT
Dates:
March 21, 2023 through March 24, 2023
Dates:
October 17, 2023 through October 20, 2023
Duration:
3.5 days and 3 nights
Group Size:
Minimum: 6, Maximum: 7
Cost:
$1790; $1705 Member Price; plus $10 BLM Special Area fee
Accommodations:
Recapture Lodge
Challenge:
Level-

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.
Notes:
  • 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.
  • Monticello BLM Cedar Mesa Special Area Fee $10
  • 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

March Faculty:

Mr. Ralph “R.E.” Burrillo is an archaeologist, researcher, author, and conservation advocate. He holds a Master of Science in Archaeology from the University of Utah and currently works for as a Project Manager for Paleo West Archaeology. Ralph’s areas of specialization include behavioral ecology, paleodietary reconstruction, history of archaeology and ethnohistory of the Colorado Plateau. He has done field work for the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service.  His writing has appeared in Archaeology Southwest, Colorado Plateau Advocate, The Salt Lake Tribune along with many regional publications. He is the author of Behind the Bears Ears: Exploring the Cultural and Natural Histories of a Sacred Lanscape, which was chosen by ForeWord Book Reviews as their critic’s choice in nonfiction for the year 2020. His most recent book, The Backwoods of Everywhere: Words from a Wandering Local, was recently published by Torrey House Press.

Mr. Micah Loma’omvaya, is a member of the Bear Clan from Songoopavi on Second Mesa, Arizona. He is the Realty Officer for the Hopi Tribe and was previously employed as the Tribal Archaeologist in the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office.  He was formally initiated into the Hopi men’s religious priesthood as a young man. Micah’s introduction to the field of anthropology was at the age of seventeen years when selected for an internship at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History; later he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from University of Arizona in 1997. Micah draws upon his experiences within his culture to provide perspectives and traditional ways of knowing around the origins and pathways of early peoples in this region. He has done public outreach through his private company Hopi Tours,  the Arizona Humanities Council and more recently for the Moab Museum.

Mr. Jonathan Till is 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.

 

October Faculty: 

To be announced.

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 take time to show and tell about some of the most significant archeological finds in the area, including clothing, toys, tools, and jewelry. Most of these items are not available to be viewed by the public! We will also venture outside to examine a restored Great House on the grounds of the museum. 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 the evenings, 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. Your breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners will all be taken care of by CFI, so you can maximize your adventure.

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 connection and respect for this land and those who passed by before. 

 

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.

FAQ

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 not expected, but they are greatly appreciated. 

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

Celebrate birthdays, or other special occasions with an unforgettable educational adventure.

Create a private Adult Seminar for you and your group.

Call 435 259-7750 for more information.

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.