Painted Hands Ruin

Round Trip Distance: 2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 4737 - 4793 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Split Level
Fee: $5/person/day
Attractions: cliff dwelling, pictographs

The Painted Hands Ruin is a small, seldom visited, cliff dwelling in the first long canyon to the south of the Split Level Ruin in the Butler Wash/Comb Ridge area near Bluff, Utah. Consisting of multiple rooms of various sizes, several storage cists and a few painted hands pictographs the ruin is tucked within a low alcove and can easily be visited in conjunction with the Split Level Ruin with little extra effort. (The name given here for the cliff dwelling is of our own making lacking anything more common or official to use.)

The hike begins at the same trailhead as Split Level Ruin which is at the 9.6 mile point of the Butler Wash Road measuring from UT-163. The turnoff for the Butler Wash Road is 4 miles west of Bluff and is directly across from the turnoff to the Bluff Airport. At the 1 mile point of the Butler Wash Road there is a fee station where you can obtain the required Cedar Mesa permit. The trailhead itself doesn't have a sign telling you that is where you are. Your only real clue is the map and your own odometer, unless of course you are carrying a GPS to which you have downloaded our GPX file.

The trail starts out following an old double track for just under a half mile.

A little after entering a pleasant grove of cottonwood trees at the mouth of the canyon the overhang in the above photo can be seen on the right.

A few steps out of the way leads to a group of painted hands. I suppose that a real forensic scientist with nothing better to do could make a game of matching traces of fingerprints left in the paint to those left in the mortar at the ruins to prove the maker of the painted hands was a participant in the construction.

Just past that the wash splits with the more dominate trail continuing on the right to the Split Level Ruin. A less perceptible trail can be found that branches off into the canyon on the left.

Here the little traveled trail is faint but the obvious goal of following the wash is all that is needed for route finding.

Less than a half mile up the wash an alcove comes into view on the right where the small cliff dwelling is revealed. The alcove is only a little above the level of the wash making it easy to reach. Ancient cement is still holding a few large sections of wall intact but most of the ruin has collapsed into rubble and stub walls. Take care not to enter the remaining rooms or touch the walls.

Grinding grooves worn into a large boulder situated in a work area give a feel for the common task of grinding seeds and corn.

Fragments of pottery that litter the ground show an assortment of styles that were in use in this place at that time.

There is something intriguing about this storage cist. It appeared to be dug into a section of fill and then lined with mortar. It looks like chinking stones were used along the lower back wall where there may have been a natural crease. We wondered whether that was done to keep the squirrels and pack rats from digging their way in from that direction. The front of the cist has some stub walls remaining where a door or lid was probably placed.

 The painted hand pictographs are easy enough to spot if looked for.

There are a number of less common cliff dwellings above Butler Wash in Comb Ridge that show up on some older maps. We added them to our own Google Map of the area so others could search them out for themselves if they chose rather than wait for us to get around to posting them. This particular cliff dwelling wasn't one of those that are found on the older maps but was discovered in the natural course of our personal exploration. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.