Fishmouth Cave

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4820 - 5027 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 1 hr. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Fishmouth Cave
Fee: none
Attractions: Ancestral Puebloan Ruin, rock art




The Fishmouth Cave trail is located in the Butler Wash area near Bluff, Utah. Butler Wash parallels the eastern flanks of Comb Ridge. The area has a high concentration of cliff dwellings, rock art and other relics of the people that have inhabited the area off and on over thousands of years. The Fishmouth Cave trail begins near the Lower Butler Wash Road. From the parking area the trail crosses Butler Wash and follows a canyon into the belly of Comb Ridge toward Fishmouth Cave passing several ruins along the way.


The hardest part about hiking in the Butler Wash area is finding the correct trailhead. We have created a map that shows how each trailhead relates to the others to hopefully make that task a little easier. If you click on the picture you can print the full sized copy and take it with you. The distances may be off by 1 or 2 tenths of a mile by your own measurements but they should be close enough to get you to each trailhead. We calculated the measurements from the spot where we turned off the pavement on Highway 163 to the turnoff  along the Lower Butler Wash Road that leads to the trailhead. We didn't include the distances from there to the actual parking area which usually was less than a quarter mile.


The trailhead for Fishmouth Cave is one of the easiest trailheads to find because you can see the large cave from Lower Butler Wash Road.


Like all the rest of the trails in the area there isn't an official trailhead that tells you where to begin. There are a few mylar markers though as shown in this picture.


The number of hikers that have been up the canyon will determine how obvious the trail is.


Once you enter the mouth of the canyon that leads to Fishmouth Cave you will only hike a very short distance before you will find some small stubby walls of the first ruin.


After passing the first ruin the shallow wash begins turning into more of a canyon.


All total you should be able to find 4 sets of ruins.


It is always nice to find some artifacts like pottery shards left behind. It is against the law to do any digging or excavating and if you catch anyone doing so you should report them immediately. Many of these sites have bodies buried in them and they shouldn't be disturbed by a bunch of artifact hunters. When archaeologists do decide to excavate a site it is painstaking work to do it properly. Many otherwise pristine sites in the southwest have been spoiled by people kicking holes in walls looking for pots. Please leave everything where you find it so everyone else can enjoy it also.


The stones in this area have turned reddish in color due to a very hot fire. Whether it was burnt by accident or on purpose when the inhabitants vacated it is unknown. There are places that we have visited that they knew were intentionally burned when they were abandoned. Other sites like in Wupatki National Monument all the windows and doorways were sealed shut when the people left as though they might return one day.


This small room may also have been exposed to fire. It certainly looks unusual.


Another ruin.


And yet another.


Interestingly enough Fishmouth Cave itself doesn't have any standing walls within it. We don't know if it ever did have.


As you can see Fishmouth Cave has a lot to see within a very short distance. It is hard to say whether all of these sites were inhabited at the same time. If they were then it certainly was a busy place. In the book 'The Last War Trail', which is a story about the Meeker Massacre told from the Ute perspective, the author mentions that when someone would die, even if it was at night in the middle of winter, they would pack up their tepee and move it. I only mention that to point out that sometimes people move for all sorts of different reasons. Wondering what happened here is always an interesting aspect of visiting places like Fishmouth Cave. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.