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Monarch Cave Ruins

A short hike takes you to spectacular ancient ruins, in an alcove known as Monarch Cave, where you can see the largest ruins in the Cedar Mesa area



Lower Butler Wash road monarch cave ruins peak out from the rock alcove in the canyon wall
Hidden up a side canyon of the Comb Ridge west of Bluff Utah, accessible from the Lower Butler Wash Road is an impressive ruin complex tucked in an alcove with a large number of different petroglyphs, and artifacts that include pottery sherds, corn cobs, sharpening grooves, and grinding metates.
One of the reasons this was such a large settlement no doubt is attributed to the unusual, large hidden pool of water that lies below the ruins in a shaded tree-covered grotto. 


  • Porta potties at the turn-off
  • Dogs okay
  • Hiking poles


2 miles total out and back


Find the trail from the southwest corner of the primitive parking area, it immediately drops down 20 feet into Butler Wash and then back up onto a slick rock area and then back down into the wash yet again

Slick rock on the way to Monarch Cave Ruins

Soon you will pop up out of the wash and you’ll see you’re in the canyon. The trail continues and the walls grow taller.

The walls of the canyon start to rise

At 0.7 miles at( 37.358114, -109.641796 ), the trail comes to a Y. To the right and uphill to a bench takes you directly to the ruins. Going to the left takes you to the hidden pool below the ruins.
The hidden pool can be reached from the ruins also, and vice versa, by a steep rocky trail. But it’s much easier to take the right-hand turn now and go up to the bench, see the rock art, then the ruins, and come down to the hidden pool on the way out.

The Y on the trail takes you to the ruins or the hidden pool

Monarch Cave in the distance to the far left
The bench where the rock art starts – Monarch Cave in the distance to the far left

Once up on the bench approach the base of the cliff face to your right and start looking for ancient signs of the people who lived here before.
The rock art starts on the far right and continues to the left. Keep going to the left and there is a tight squeeze between a tree growing next to the cliff base, squeeze through and continue along looking for more rock art and metates, there are round ones in the rock as you continue towards the ruins which will now be clearly visible.
Corn grinding metates
Metates for corn grinding
Moving along this bench you can climb up closer to the cliff base, this was obviously a work area based on the number of round metates and there are some cool hand prints coming up on a little shallow alcove to the right followed by more rock art as you go. Go slow, the more you look, the more you will find.

You will see lots of sharpening marks
Sharpening groves are plentiful


An abstract figure

Abstract shapes pecked into the canyon walls at Monarch Cave Ruins

Lower Butler Wash road monarch cave hand prints all over the walls
A beautiful collection of handprints

As you approach the ruins the view of them gets better and better, you will see moki holes cut into the rock as steps. Honor all signage in regard to entering the alcove.

Monarch Cave Ruins

The beautiful view the inhabitants had looking out from their homes down the canyon

The beautiful view the inhabitants had looking out from their homes down the canyon
The hidden pool is down below in the trees. You can get to it by scrambling down the rocky hill, but it is easier to go back to the trail junction.
Once you see the water source it is much easier to see why the cave was a good location to live. They grew crops at the head of the canyon below the cave thanks to an abundant source of water.

The serene spring fed pool just below monarch cave ruins


Getting to the Monarch Cave Ruins

  • All sites on the Lower Butler Wash road can be reached from the north from Highway 95, or the south from Highway 163. The road is a good quality dirt road that cars can traverse.
  • As with the rest of the sites in this area, this is unmarked/unsigned by the BLM


From the North

  • Exit south from Highway 95 at ( 37.534608, -109.620771 ) onto the un-named dirt road
  • Continue for 0.3 miles (passing the dinosaur footprints trailhead).
  • At the T, turn right onto Lower Butler Wash road (country road 262), and continue south for 11 miles.
  • Turn right at the Y at ( 37.392207, -109.618686 ) and continue south for 2.8 miles.
  • The turn-off for the short spur road to the parking area for the Monarch Cave from Lower Butler wash road is at (37.357092, -109.629954 )


From the South

  • Exit north from Highway 163 at ( 37.264230, -109.641849 )
  • Follow Lower Butler Wash road north for 7.1 miles.
  • The turn-off for the short spur road to the parking area for the Monarch Cave ruins from Lower Butler wash road is at ( 37.357092, -109.629954 )


The parking is at ( 37.358611, -109.630556 ) just off the turn-off.

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