Road House Ruin

Round Trip Distance: 4.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4747 - 5095 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 4 hrs.
Trailhead: Split Level
Fee: $5/person/day
Attractions: Cliff dwelling

The Road House Ruin is located in an alcove at the top of Comb Ridge near Bluff, Utah. The cliff dwelling overlooks what may have been an ancient Chacoan style road that once connected the Great House in Bluff with another in Comb Wash. Getting up to the ruin requires about 350 feet of elevation gain that is spread out over 2 miles making it a pretty gentle climb.

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.

From the trailhead hike west toward Split Level Ruin and right before entering the trees look to the right for what looks like an old road.

 After following the road up the first rise you might notice various types of pottery scattered about the surface of the ground as the road passes through an area where a small pueblo or pithouse once stood. (Be sure to leave all artifacts where you find them and remember that it is illegal to dig or do anything to damage the site.)

Continue following the road until it reaches the slickrock. We noticed one large cairn that someone had erected shortly before the road actually spills out onto the slickrock. From whichever place you step out onto the slickrock just follow along the edge of the slickrock and the sand until you spot more cairns. The route eventually turns uphill a little before reaching the lower end of the next wash that cuts into the monocline.

Once the wash is reached the road leaves the slickrock and becomes noticeable once again. When the road isn't in the wash itself it is traveling along the left side of the wash. Travel at all times is much easier if you take care to stay on the road anytime that it leaves the bottom of the wash. In a few places the road seems to narrow down to a single track and in others it almost disappears all together.

The ultimate destination for the road is a low saddle in Comb Ridge. As the road nears that point it leaves the wash for good and works its way over the shoulder of of a hill.

Near the top the ruin can be seen nestled beneath a large alcove on the right. The easiest and less damaging route up to the alcove is via the sloping slickrock on the right.

The entire ruin can easily be seen from the outer edge of the alcove. Be sure not to enter any of the rooms or lean on the walls.

An assortment of potshards are scattered about as well as a few of the typically small corncobs found at similar sites.

While mostly short stub walls are all that remain of many of the rooms it is plain to see that at one time the entire alcove was taken advantage of to create separate areas both large and small.

The view from the ruin is rather peaceful and relaxing. It is even more expansive at the point where the road reaches the rim overlooking Comb Wash. The green strip of foliage intersecting Comb Wash to the left is the lower end of Fish Creek. A keen eye might be able to pick out the trailhead. Petroglyphs can be found on the large boulder below the ridge that is at the end of a short spur road. There should also be some moqui steps somewhere in this area just below the rim. Our cellphones were actually showing 3 bars standing here in the gap.

We forgot that there are supposed to be 2 ruins that are both close to each other. The second ruin should be tucked under an overhang a little lower than the other ruin and to the right of the slickrock that leads up to the ruin that we did visit. Both ruins are marked on the map accompanying this post. The map makes it easy to see the location of each ruin relative to one another. If you can keep track of the road as it works its way up the canyon the hike ends up being relatively easy and it is basically a downhill stroll all the way back to the trailhead. The Road House Ruin is a good option for those that enjoy exploring the Comb Ridge and have been to all the more popular cliff dwellings. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.