Scenic USA - Arizona

Coal Mine Canyon

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Coal Mine Canyon - Tuba City, Arizona

Photos by Cecil Whitt
Wilderness Spirit Photography

     Coal Mine Canyon, one of those rare gems that receive little attention, is about 15 miles from northeastern Arizona's Tuba City. Named for its low grade, widely scattered coal deposits, the upper end of Coal Mine Canyon attracts the curious who enjoy seeing colorful rock strata and impressive canyons. This area, as with many Hopi and Navajo reservation sites, requires a hiking permit. Be sure to check with the Cameron Visitor Center for instructions.
     Although a modern residence is found near the canyon on a bumpy backcountry dirt trace, the only other signs of civilization are the lone sight of a windmill and cattle watering trough. And the only indication that you've arrived is a picnic area and a bare earth parking area.
     Here along a four mile stretch, cliff walls are banded with distinct colorful layers. Coal Mine Canyon Hoodoos Eerie spires, hoodoos and oddly shaped fins jut out from the canyon bluff lines. Its variety of brilliant colors, red, orange, blue and black, are seldom matched in southwestern Canyonland Country.
     Located on Route 264 south of Tuba City, Coal Mine Canyon offers little besides its fantastic scenery. You may follow an informal pathway which leads up and down the canyon rim. There are no warnings signs posted to remind cavalier sightseers that canyon rims can be dangerous. Bordering on Hopi and Navajo reservations and hidden away just beyond the sparse grasses of Coal Mine Mesa, those inspired should look for a dirt road between milepost 336 and 337. The Coal Mine Canyon name is quite common and similar named gorges are found in Wyoming, Nevada and New Mexico, making pinpointing this location a bit confusing ... but no other will match the scenery at this Arizona rarity.

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