Ballroom Cave Ruins (Cedar Mesa)

The trailhead to the Ballroom Cave is located along Utah 95, but completely unmarked. There is a small parking area directly off the highway that is big enough for a few vehicles.

A decently traversed trail is routed through Upper Butler Wash, and a stunning red rock cliff canyon, with a perennial spring running down the middle. The canyon is jammed with towering trees, and lush vegetation.

There are several social trails that have potential to lead you astray, but don’t worry, they all tend to lead to some sort of ruins, whether it be a small cave with metates and petroglyphs, or small crumbling ruin walls. One of such trails leads to the stunningly well preserved Target Ruin, which will be covered in a separate article.

After hiking roughly one mile, the walls of the Ballroom Cave ruins will come into view on the west side of the canyon. Look carefully for the trail that leads up to them. Along the trail be watchful for both petroglyphs and pictographs along the canyon walls.

 

The stone work of the Anasazi, the Ballroom Cave ruins.

The stone work of the Anasazi, the Ballroom Cave ruins.

 

Ballroom Cave Ruins. Archaeologists are able to date ruins by testing the wood beams in structural ruins. I am not aware of dating having been completed on these ruins.

Ballroom Cave Ruins. Archaeologists are able to date ruins by testing the wood beams in structural ruins. I am not aware of dating having been completed on these ruins.

 

Metates and cupules on a boulder below the stone walls of the Ballroom Cave ruins.

Metates and cupules on a boulder below the stone walls of the Ballroom Cave ruins.

 

Beautifully squared off blocks. The Anasazi knew their stone masonry!

Beautifully squared off blocks. The Anasazi knew their stone masonry!

 

Corn storage.

Corn storage.

 

From behind the ruins, looking out of the alcove.

From behind the ruins, looking out of the alcove.

 

The Ballroom Cave ruins are extensive, but like many of the cliff dwellings in the region they are in a serious state of despair. Many of the walls have crumbled, exposing the interior, and the lumber utilized as support beams.  The structure is reminiscent of a fortress, as oppose to a home, it is very likely that it had served as both.

Behind the cliff dwelling is the mouth of the Ballroom Cave. The entrance drops down several feet to the bottom of the cave. Along the way down there are more than a dozen metates along the top of twenty-foot boulder slab, moki steps leading up to them from below.

 

Peering down into Ballroom Cave.

Peering down into Ballroom Cave.

 

This is one big cave, and you can’t even see all of it in this image.

This is one big cave, and you can’t even see all of it in this image.

 

A stone wall separates a room in the cave. Photo is from inside of the room looking out toward the cave entrance.

A stone wall separates a room in the cave. Photo is from inside of the room looking out toward the cave entrance.

 

A single black pictograph on the ceiling of the Ballroom Cave.

A single black pictograph on the ceiling of the Ballroom Cave.

 

The inside of the cave is monstrous, more cavernous than cave like. Because there is very little light that penetrates the inside, a headlamp or flashlight comes in handy. There are a couple of rooms that are partitioned off by stone walls that were built by its inhabitants. A single black, snake like pictograph is found on the ceiling. Technically there isn’t extensive ruins inside of the cave, yet its sheer size is mind-boggling. The cave is large enough that it could of housed several dozen or more people. It is easy to image the cache of artifacts that were found here by the early Europeans that pillaged this region for artifacts in the late 1800s.

During my visit, I felt like an intruder. Like I was in someones home. In physical form the Anasazi are no longer here, but spiritually I swear that they still exist. Images of the people flashed before my eyes, and the sound of their tools filled my ears. I could hear stones abrasively rubbing against one another, grinding corn into cornmeal. In the corner sat an old wrinkled couple having a conversation in a dialect that I could not understand, while a young men squared the edges of a stone into a block, then placed it neatly on a wall. It was happening all around me, but abruptly came to an end when I tripped over a rock, landing face first into a powdery dust.

The Ballroom Cave is one of my favorite ruins in the Cedar Mesa. I highly recommend it as a must see if you are visiting region.

 

Moki steps lead up to over a dozen metates.

Moki steps lead up to over a dozen metates.

 

View from the far end of Ballroom Cave.

View from the far end of Ballroom Cave.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.