back to previous page COAL MINE CANYON a jagged wonderland

Coal Mine Canyon
Southern Coal Mine Canyon,
view north towards Moenkopi
Wash and Blue Canyon
Location: southeast of Tuba City, Indian Reservation, northern Arizona
Distance: about 15 miles from Tuba City, 93 miles from Flagstaff, 93 miles from Page
Opening hours: no restrictions
Permit: not necessary for the viewpoint/picnic area near the windmill at the southern end (rim); but you have to obtain a permit for any hikes along the rims or into the canyon at the 4 Navajo Parks and Recreation offices (in Window Rock, Cameron, Page or at the Monument Valley Navajo Nation Park).
Elevation: about 5000 feet at the rim, southern end of the canyon
Direction from Tuba City: There are 2 main access points to the Coal Mine Canyon - one at the south (via SR 264) and one at the north end (via US 160 & Moenkopi Wash) of the canyon. Details see below.

Please stay away from homes and respect the privacy of the people living there.

Coal Mine Canyon. It is known to the Navajo as hááhonoojí (navajo for 'jagged'), a good description of the canyon - at least for the southern part of the canyon.
In the late 1800s the Mormons began mining coal here for their own use in Tuba City. Around 1908 the old coal mine was reopened again to use the coal for heating the boarding school in Tuba City.
Fortunately the poor quality of the coal prevented commercial mining, saving the beautiful canyon from the removal of its more than 8 feet of coal layer.

Coal Mine Canyon
Southern Coal Mine Canyon (enlargeable)

Coal Mine Canyon
Southern Coal Mine Canyon (enlargeable)
A legend. It is told that there is a canyon ghost, seen only during a full moon night.
Many years ago Quayowuuti, or Eagle Woman, from the village Old Oraibi allegedly became mentally ill and wandered away from the village towards Moenkopi. She stopped at the rim of the canyon and decided to end it all. Ever since her spirit might appear during full moon...

Access / trailhead. To the southern access point: In Tuba City turn from SR 160 southeast onto SR 264, follow this road for about 15 miles to MM 336.8, there turn left (north) onto a dirt road, at a Y go right and keep going towards the windmill which you can see from the road (1/4 mile), park at the windmill. Just behind it you will see the picnic area close to the rim of the Coal Mine Canyon (you can't see the canyon from SR 264). In dry conditions this short dirt road is accessable with any car.

The hike. The drop from the rim near the windmill at the southern end of the canyon is steep, especially the first 35 yards, but manageable (keep in mind that you will have to hike out again). The canyon floor is almost flat and easy to hike (7 miles from south to north, one way).
You will not find any marked trails in the Coal Mine Canyon. Hike back out the same way. There is no drinking water in the canyon, bring your own (and enough).

Info: After about 2 miles there supposed to be an area suitable for camping.

Maps. The best maps for hiking the Coal Mine Canyon are the USGS maps. Almost the entire canyon can be seen on the Tuba City SE Quad, but the very northern part is located on the Middle Mesa Quad. Check out Topozone and type Coal Mine Canyon for a search of the maps.

Coal Mine Canyon
Northern Coal Mine Canyon
with the Moenkopi Wash
in the foreground
There is another main access point for the Coal Mine Canyon. This one is located near the northern end of the canyon - to be exact: at the north rim of the Moenkopi Wash close to the confluence of the Coal Mine Canyon.

Note: Do not attempt to hike in any of these canyons if there is a chance of rain in the area. Dangerous flash floods are very common.

Access / trailhead. To the northern access point: From Tuba City drive east on US 160 for about 8 miles towards Kayenta, at MM 330.5 turn south onto a dirt road and turn left immediately after you past the fence. This dirt road stays close to SR 160 for 0.5 miles, then it turns southeast down into the valley. There are several intersections and Y's on the way down - don't make any turns till you get close (about 40 meters ) to the north rim of the Moenkopi Wash. There make a left and drive east for about 150 meters, then park your car near the rim. In dry conditions the dirt road (from the fence at SR 160) to the rim is easy to drive with a high-clearance vehicle. In wet conditons it might be difficult for any vehicle.

The hike. From the north rim of the wide Moenkopi Wash you can see big trees along the creek down in the canyon and the entrance of the Coal Mine Canyon on the opposite side in southeastern direction.
To get to the Coal Mine Canyon you will have to get down and cross the creek.
There are at least two spots at the rim from where you can get down into the Moenkopi Wash, a wide canyon. Look for small cairns at the rim marking the spots. One is a narrow slit in the canyon wall which leads almost straight down. The other one is located about 150 meters eastwards. That is the easier way - there you can get down without the help of your hands.

Moenkopi Wash & Coal Mine Canyon
View eastwards from the north rim of the wide Moenkopi Wash
with the northern entrance of the Coal Mine Canyon on the right

Moenkopi Wash
Moenkopi Wash,
view from the northern access
point at the rim towards
Small waterfall

I found an easy way to cross the creek. About 200 meters upstream (east) there is a small waterfall. Just above it the creek is wider and very shallow. There it flows over rocky terrain so you can get to the other side without stepping into mud. By the way this waterfall area is a very nice place for a break.

Now on the other side of the waterfall you hike downstream for 200 meters to get to the entrance into the Coal Mine Canyon on your left side. First the 150-200 foot wide, soft winding canyon heads east for about 1.2 miles before its main direction turns south.

Coal Mine Canyon
Northern Coal Mine Canyon
Coal Mine Canyon
Coal Mine Canyon,
a typical view of the northern
section (about 1.1 miles into
the canyon)

More photos of the Coal Mine Canyon can be seen in the special Photo Collection.

Tipp. If you would like to hike the entire length of the Coal Mine Canyon (about 7 miles) it is the best to use two cars and park one on either access point - then you don't have to hike all the way back.

Note: You hike on your own risk. Information found on this side is not guaranteed to be correct. Be aware of your ability and your own responsibility. Ware appropriate clothing and shoes, and carry always more than enough water.
And ... LEAVE NO TRACE! Take everything (!) out you brought in or hasn't been in this beautiful part of nature before you arrived.

Nearby hikes:
Please visit the page Hiking in Northern Arizona for other interesting hikes north of Phoenix.

All information: as of spring 2004

Links to websites and information about the Coal Mine Canyon (links open in a new window):
Coal Mine Canyon website of Boy Scouts of America, Grand Canyon Chapter E
Coal Mine Canyon provided by D
Coal Mine Canyon provided by D

GO TO: [Photo Collection Coal Mine Canyon]

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