Cow Canyon Caves

Round Trip Distance: 0.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 4386 - 4409 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 15 mins.
Trailhead: Hwy 163 mm 2.8
Fee: none
Attractions: small ruin

Several small caves that show signs of previous habitation as shelters can be found about 3 miles east of Bluff, Utah along Highway 163. A cliff dwelling type remnant wall still stands within the largest of the caves.

To get there from Bluff head east on Highway 163 for 2.8 miles to the turnoff on the left (north) side of the road. The caves are visible in the distance. Be sure to leave the gate how you find it.

The dirt road will take you within a short distance of the larger of the caves.

This is the cave with the remnant wall that still reaches up to the ceiling.

Additional caves can be found by walking along the cliff. All of these have smoke blackened ceilings. Note also the cow dung within some of the caves.

Holes like this in the cliff were probably made to hold roof beams indicating that at one time structures could have been built up against the cliff. If these structures had rock walls the rocks were probably carted off to be reused somewhere else. There's an old western movie where the hero of the show is venting his feelings to no avail to some settlers for loading up their wagons with the rocks from a pueblo wall. He knew they were destroying something significant. Their view was that anything they could make use of they had a right to take.

The view from inside one of these caves might seem a little hohum at first.

But a keen eye looking across the valley to the south side of the San Juan River can pick out the large alcove that houses the 17 Room Ruin. That's living on a much grander scale than the little caves.

The Cow Canyon Caves by themselves aren't so remarkable to warrant an out of the way visit but when you group them with the other sites along Highway 163 then you really have the makings for a good exploration. It is interesting to imagine the scene when the caves were in use with maybe one or two pueblo type structures built up against the cliff. And then contrast that with the much larger and more elaborate 17 Room Ruins across the valley. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.