Coal Mine Canyon

Coal Mine Canyon is a tributary of Moenkopi Wash, about fifteen miles southeast of Tuba City, Arizona. Coal Mine Canyon contains red and white striped cliffs and is best shot from the rim. The rim is on Navajo Nation land. The interior of the Coal Mine Canyon is part of the Hopi Nation and a Hopi guide is required to descend to the interior. There is a trail from the canyon rim to the interior but I could not find it. A web search suggests the trail is difficult and not photographically rewarding.

The rim of Coal Mine Canyon is in the Navajo Nation and a permit is needed to visit it. The permit can be obtained in Cameron at the Cameron Visitor Center located at the intersection of Highways 89 and 64 (SW corner). The visitor center is open five days a week from 8AM to 5:30 PM during the winter months. You should call +1 928 679-2303 for summer hours. Permits are also available by mail, apply well in advance of your trip date. See the Navajo Nation Parks website for more details. Permits fees were recently increased to $12.00 US per person per 24 hour period. The permit allows camping overnight also. There are picnic tables available at the parking area but no toilets or water.

If you wish to descend into Coal Mine Canyon legally you will need both a Navajo Nation permit to access the rim and a Hopi guide for the interior. For information on Hopi guided tours contact Micah Loma'omvaya at +1 800-774-0830, or visit www.hopitours.com. The site http://www.experiencehopi.com/faq.html has some additional information about hiking in the Hopi Nation.

There are other canyons of interest downstream from Coal Mine Canyon that are worth visiting. These include the rarely visited Ha Ho No Geh Canyon and the occasionally visited Blue Canyon. Bat Canyon is also a tributary of Moenkopi Wash and may be worth visiting.

While in the Tuba City area there are many other places to visit. There is a balanced round rock seven miles south of Tuba City worth a quick visit. Blue Canyon can be visited with a Hopi guide. The Adeii Eichii cliffs are close to Cameron, AZ, a high clearance 4WD vehicle is needed to visit them. Until recently White Mesa Arch could be visited, permits are no longer being issued for this area. Navajo Stand Rock and Margaret Arch are in the area but permits are not being issued to visit them currently.

Where to stay

Tuba City has several hotels and is only about twenty minutes from Coal Mine Canyon by car. Hopi guides can be booked at the Moenkopi Legacy Inn should you wish to visit the interior of Coal Mine Canyon, Blue Canyon, or the Hopi Villages. Alternatively the Cameron Trading Post has a good restaurant, room rates are reasonable, and the wifi works! Finally you can car camp at the Coal Mine Canyon picnic area.

When to Go

Both early morning and late afternoon are good times during which to photograph the canyon. Unlike many other areas of Arizona summer is a good time to visit Coal Mine Canyon. It will be hot but hiking is minimal and there is a good chance of dramatic light and weather. The surrounding land is flat so lightning can be seen from far away. This makes Coal Mine Canyon a good relatively safe location for photographing lightning bolts. Due to high temperatures I would not recommend descending into the interior of the canyon in the summer.

The Coal Mine Canyon rim is at 5,800 feet elevation, about 1,300 feet higher than Tuba City, AZ. Due to the elevation difference Coal Mine Canyon's climate should be about 4-6° F colder than Tuba City's shown here:

 

Coal Mine Canyon is in a very windy area of Arizona so March to May should generally be avoided though there will certainly be days with low winds. At 5,800 feet winters at Coal Mine Canyon will be cold. Fall is a good time to visit though I prefer summer.

Getting There

To get to Coal Mine Canyon drive southeast 15.1 miles from the intersection of US 160 and AZ 264 (Main Street) in Tuba City and turn left on a small dirt road. The turnoff is at mile marker 337.25, coordinates 36.005324, -111.048578 . Then drive 0.4 miles north and turn right just before the windmill. Continue NE about .15 miles to the picnic area.

Maps

Here is an overview map showing the drive to Coal Mine Canyon, and two areas of photographic interest:

In some browsers the map above will not appear or will not appear to be centered. If so please drag on the map to center it. To view the map larger please click on the box in the upper right corner of the map.

USGS 24K Topo Maps

The topo map "Tuba City SE" covers the area I photographed and the hike to it. The maps can be downloaded in a variety of formats by clicking or right-clicking below:

Geo Tiff/Avenza KMZ Oruxmaps KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Tuba City SE KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared

 


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