Cedar Mesa and Bears Ears Archaeology

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

Trip Full! View Moab and Bears Ears Archaeology for a similar experience.

SEMINAR FULL for 2022.

We will spend our days trekking into the desert to hidden archeological wonders and our evenings relaxing in the historic town of Bluff, Utah. This all-inclusive seminar provides transportation to and from sites, motel fees, home cooked meals, and professional archeologists to lead us to sites and provide interpretation.

A guided educational getaway

The seminar begins with a private, behind the scenes tour of the Edge of the Cedars Museum and then proceeds to base at Recapture Lodge for three nights.  Each day involves day hikes 2-5 miles round trip in length. Expert archeologists 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 ancient past! Come ready to immerse yourself within the breathtaking scenery, and let us worry about the details. Your CFI guides are responsible for cooking hearty meals throughout the weekend, driving the rugged roads to our hidden destinations, and providing any necessary first aid and safety gear. Sites vary each year with guest experts; all sites involve hiking 1-4 miles round trip to access.

Based in Bluff, UT
October 18, 2022 through October 21, 2022
4 days and 3 nights
Group Size:
Minimum: 6, Maximum: 8
$1600, $1520 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 hotel, 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 $50 donation to youth programs.

See other trips in these categories:

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

"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

Guest Faculty

Lyle Balenqua, Hopi, is a member of the Greasewood clan from the Village of Bacavi on Third Mesa, Arizona. He earned his graduate degree in Anthropology from the North Arizona University. He has worked as a professional archaeologist, ethnographer, author, and educator for over twenty years. He has consulted and led educational seminars for CFI, as well as Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, Grand Canyon Field Institute, Archaeology Southwest, and Friends of Cedar Mesa. He is an author of numerous articles, served as the Co-Director of the “Native Voices on the Colorado River Program, and currently co-hosts the podcast, Heritage Voices.

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. R.E.’s areas of specialization include behavioral ecology, paleodietary reconstruction and ethnohistory of the Colorado Plateau and previous field work for the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service in S.E. Utah.  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.

Trip Narrative

This is an all inclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the spectacular archeology of the Cedar Mesa and Bears Ears area.

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

Leave your worries in your hotel room, because it is time to venture into the past! After breakfast, we will meet as a group to load into CFI’s off-road capable vehicles and drive into the desert. Each day consists of short or medium hikes to hidden archeological resources. Our guest experts will provide interpretation and knowledge about the lifestyles and movement of the people who used to inhabit the land. CFI guides will take care of driving, picnic meals, safety, and first aid needs. In an effort to protect these unknown sites, our specific itinerary remains a secret… for now.

During the evenings, you will have time to wander around Bluff, see the San Juan River, relax in the lodge, and enjoy some of the darkest night skies in the country. Your breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners will all be taken care of by CFI, so you can maximize your adventure.

Day 4

The last day is a half day. We will do some additional exploration in the morning, and have you back to your cars by midday. 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

  • 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.


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 that 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 to tip $25 per day for each customer. 

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.