Ballroom cave is an interesting Anasazi ruin
found in Upper Butler Wash on the eastern side of Comb Ridge. The hike
to Ballroom cave is mostly very easy and access is simple - you
actually park on the roadside of Utah 95. The hike to Ballroom
Cave is relatively short and this ruin can easily be visited and
explored in a couple of hours or less. However, there are a number of
nearby ruins in Upper
and you will likely want to spend time really
exploring the area. In particular, Target
is nearby and very interesting.
Ballroom Cave as seen from the approach - Note all photos enlarge
trailhead to the Ballroom Cave Ruin is located just off Utah 95
near mile marker 111, just to the east of the Butler
parking area. There is a large pullout on the north
side of the road that has room for several vehicles. There are no
outhouses, water or any other type of services at the parking area.
However, there are pit toilets at the Butler Wash Ruin. I have read
other descriptions of accessing the Ballroom Cave that say to park at
the Butler Wash Ruin parking area but I find it much more convenient
to park alongside the highway.
From the parking area
you will easily find the trail which leads down a short slope to the
bottom of Butler Wash. From here the trail winds its way up the Wash
bottom. This is mostly a sandy trail that crosses the dry creek bed in
may places. Depending on the time of year you hike this trail you will
find thick high
The remains of a curtain wall extend
part of the distance along the mouth of Ballroom Cave
vegetation growing beneath the large cottonwood trees that line the
Wash bottom. The hiking is generally very easy and after a short hike
you reach a junction where the Wash splits. follow the left hand
(western) fork on the obvious trail. It is not far from here to the
place where you can split off to the Target
. A short hike up canyon brings you to where a side trail
climbs steeply up to Ballroom Cave.
As you approach Ballroom Cave the first feature
you will see is the remains of a curtain wall that extend along the top
of the cave entrance. The cave is quite steep and the area in front of
the curtain wall is littered with large boulders. Many of these large
boulders are significantly grooved with metates where the Anasazi spent
many hours grinding corn on the rock. Ballroom Cave has more of these
grinding spots concentrated in a single place than any other ruin site
I know of. These extensive grinding areas indicate that there must have
been significant corn growing in the area. It is possible the Ballroom
Cave served as a communal grinding area that was used by a number of
residents who inhabited the entire Upper Butler Wash area.
This view of the Ballroom Cave curtain wall shows how
the cave falls off
below. The cave drops down and extends a significant distance with
several rooms and the remains of several structures.
From the Curtain wall, the cave falls off steeply and a large
cave area is exposed. In Anasazi country, many alcoves are called caves
and this is the common name for any large opening or alcove. Few of
these are actually what we would consider to be caves but Ballroom Cave
is an exception. This is one of the few areas where there is an actual
cave environment. Dark and deep, the cave contains several rooms and
literature from the BLM indicates that the cave actually supports a
number of bats. Although I have never seen them, I can easily imagine
this to be true.
The cave area of Ballroom Cave is really quite
large with a big open area. There are a few wall ruins that show there
were once additional rooms built into the walls of the cave but little
remains of these rooms. However, there are many corn grinding metates
the cave. One in particular features a long row of these grinding spots
lined up side by side. It is easy to imagine a group of Anasazi working
These ruins are tucked against the cave wall. The
roof beams are
still intact on these structures which seem to exhibit typical Mesa
Verde construction techniques..
sharing their stories as they put up the winter grain.
Although the main cave area is behind the curtain
wall, there are some structures at the other end of the cave. These
rooms were well constructed and the remaining walls and roof beams show
the secure construction techniques that are typical Mesa Verde
style construction. These rooms are near the very front of the cave and
were once multi storied rooms. However, most of the upper levels are
long gone. On the wall above the rooms you will find the only
rock art in Ballroom Cave. The pictographs are particularly interesting
for the three stick man figures that each a different color - one is
red, one is gold and the third is brown.
Although there is nothing particularly spectacular about
Ballroom Cave, it is a favorite site of mine. The deep dark cave is not
something I commonly find and the walls and structures that remain make
it easy to imagine the extensive development that once was here. With
the easy access on Hwy 95 and the short easy hike to the cave, this is
an easy place for almost any hiker to
This rock art panel shows
a number of different
pictographs. The hand prints and anthropomorphs are very typical of the
Anasazi rock art found in the Butler Wash area.
explore. With it;s close proximity to several other ruins the Ballroom
Cave hike is a great place to visit back country Anasazi ruins. This is
a great hike so give it a try.