Ruins for ruin addicts
West Bench Pueblo is a ruin that only true ruin-lovers are going to enjoy. It has none of the overarching grandure of Mesa Verde's or Canyon de Chelly's cliff dwellings, nor any of the secretive, hidden beauty of Cedar Mesa's ruins. Instead, West Bench is now a low hump of juniper and sage-covered ground, with an old ATV trail cut through part of it. There are no exposed walls, no doorways, no vast views across sweeping plains. The PJ forest crouches in close around the rubble sitting at the base of the Vermillion Cliffs, revealing its ancient secrets slowly, to those who want to come and discover.
From the parking area to the right of the sign - see directions below - follow the rutted main dirt road (BLM 1100) to the left of the sign. It is possible to drive up the road further, but there's no good place to turn around further up. After the road crosses a gully, an old ATV track breaks off to the left. Follow the ATV track. It will parallel BLM 1100, but is thankfully blocked off to traffic now. After apx. 100 yards along the ATV track, you'll notice small scatterings of potsherds, stone flakes, and eventually some shaped sandstone slabs. This is the begining of West Bench Pueblo, a Virgin Anasazi settlement. There's not much I've been able to find much written on the site itself, but judging from some of the potsherds, including some painted, redware, and decorated corrugated sherds, I'm guessing its a late Pueblo III village. It was likely single-story, but fairly large. The ruin continues out into the PJ scrub, and further exploration will show you that there's more than what meets the eye on the surface. You can continue up the ATV track to the point where it reconnects to BLM 1100. If you follow BLM 1100 for about another 100 yards, you'll see a post with a plaque that says, "Archeological Site" and some other basic facts. That's about the furthest extent of the ruin, so head back down BLM 1100 to the parking area or walk back through the ruin track for a second look. Remember that cryptobiotic soils are present in the area, so do not disturb them.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.