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This Famous Canyon in Arizona Looks Like an Ideal Home for Aliens or Martians

Suny Errot



Do you want to see the best Arizona views? Forget about the usual hiking trails. You need to come and see Coal Mine Canyon. It is completely stunning and much more remote than the other canyons in the area. Not only that, but it also looks otherworldly and you’ll be reminded of another martian-like landscape, Arizona’s famous Meteor Crater. The canyon boasts ridiculously beautiful tones, and you will surely fall in love with the layered Jurassic and Cretaceous hills especially if you’re into geology or paleontology.

No Doubt, The Coal Mine Canyon is Arizona’s Gem

Coal Mine Canyon Arizona

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You’ll see lots of amazing rock canyons and hoodoos, and experience a great time hiking Coal Mine Canyon. It is a beautiful destination located on the southwest that borders the Hopi and Navajo Indian Reservation. Depending on how adventurous you are, the hike can be as short as 1 mile and up to 3 miles. As for the trailhead elevation, it is at 5820 feet while the canyon floor is 5456 feet. Many visitors who have been to the Coal Mine Canyon say that being here is like discovering something “totally new.” The place is such a wonderful surprise because it’s unlike any other desert landscape that’s filled with cactus and desert plants.

According to history, this canyon was originally named “Honoo Jí” by the Navajo, which means “saw-toothed or jagged erosion.” The hoodoos in Coal Mine Canyon are also similar in character to the ones found in Bryce Canyon, Utah. There’s a chance you might mistake this one for the other, and vice versa, if you’ve seen both canyons. But of course, there are differences. While the two have a similar geologic structure, Bryce Canyon is higher because it sits at 8,000 feet, while this one sits lower at over 5,000 feet. So obviously, the two also possess different climates. There are also a few million years separating these two areas with vast rock formations.

You Can Find Lots of Coal Deposits From Coal Mine Canyon (Obviously…)

Arizona destinations beautiful

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That’s a shocker, right? Well, not really. This place was named Coal Mine Canyon because there are large quantities of coal found in the canyon. However, the quality of coal in the canyon is poor and active coal mining was discontinued decades ago. If you come here, you will notice the remnants of this place’s mining past because traces can still be seen along the top edges of the canyon walls. There is a stark contrast between the rock that has been carved out from mining and drilling, and the rock that has been shaped naturally through erosion of water and wind.

Coal Mine Arizona Famous Places

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Aside from that, there are also other things you can find such as the vast amount of fossils around the upper areas of the canyon. Paleontologists frequent the relatively shallow layers of Dakota sandstone that lie atop thicker bands of Entrada sandstone formations. In this area, you will notice that the bright red rocks are shale and these have been colored in part by the burning of underlying coal deposits. Aside from the Dakota Sandstone, the most-visited parts of the paleontologists include the Cow Springs Sandstone and the Carmel Formation.

Just imagine watching the sun set and seeing the colors glow once it drops below the horizon. That’s a sight to behold.

Hiking in the Coal Mine Canyon

Hiking Coal Mine Canyon az

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The access to the canyon starts off of Hwy 264 between mile marker 337 and 338. After making the turn-off, drive through a dirt road until you reach a parking area that passes a windmill and water tank, ending at a parking area near some picnic tables. Some people also prefer not to drive to that area, but just park off to the side of the road and explore the left and right sides of the canyon.

You can hike this destination, but there are no direct or established paths into the canyon. Instead, there are faint trails that lead to different sides along the rim and to some ridges that offer the best possible views. The faint trails sometimes just dart all over. Just pick a route that looks good and stick to it. Once you’re inside the canyon, it will be much easier to navigate. Expect to see trails on the canyon floor from the rim because some adventurers really want to explore the whole area. If you want to see it too, you need to be really careful. The route down is particularly hard (you might slip), and you might need a permit to hike further down into the canyon.

There is virtually no crowd here, compared to other famous Arizona sites such as the Antelope Canyon, or the Grand Canyon. The otherworldly place is yours and a few others’ to explore. Many photographers and videographers find this a beautiful haven because it offers many opportunities for photography.

Please note that you need a permit if you want to camp out or hike into the canyon. Just contact Navajo or Hopi Nation to secure one. If you are just hiking along the rim, you don’t need to get a permit.

Why Should You Visit This Place?

The Coal Mine Canyon is a beautiful wonder in the middle of nowhere. It is definitely a nice surprise on the edge of the Painted Desert.

Coal Mine Canyon at Night

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It’s also a good place for stargazing. The experience will definitely be truly unforgettable.

There are practically no signs or road markers that point out the exact location of the Coal Mine Canyon. If you’re traveling through the deserted area, there’s a chance you miss out on this destination. This isn’t exactly a hidden gem, but if you can travel to an off-beaten path attraction, then that’s amazing.

Arizona Wedding Photoshoot Locations

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Forget Desert Botanical Garden or other Flagstaff locations. Make your special moments pop out by doing a photoshoot here. There are some couples who take wedding photos to take advantage of the stunning backdrop.

Arizona may have a lot of places that look like the ideal home for Martians, but this one is lesser known compared to Monument Valley and the Meteor Crater.

Location: Arizona Hwy 264 15 miles south-east of Tuba City, Arizona

What do you think of the Coal Mine Canyon? It’s striking, huh?

Here’s another interesting read: 5 drone videos of Arizona that will take you on an exciting aerial tour.