The hike to Split Level is one the shortest and easiest of all the Comb Ridge hikes, it also qualifies as the most beautiful. After a short hike across the open valley, the trail enters a beautiful canyon that curves through red rock cliffs. Trees and vegetation are abundant, and pools of water are cached along the wash that runs through the canyon.
If you pay close attention you will begin finding archeological ruins almost immediately, a single pair of hand prints painted in white are located in the first alcove. Across from the alcove, a high embankment obscures the view of the canyon walls above. Above that embankment is a boulder with several metates ground into it, along with a dozen old, and weathered looking petroglyphs. The canyon walls behind contain dozens of hand prints in orange, along with anthropomorphic figures, and a host of other images in both black and yellow that have faded to the point that they are nearly invisible.
Drop back down into the wash and the Split Level Ruins are dead ahead, from the wash you’ll be able to see the upper shelf of ruins in the distance. A large amphitheater surrounds the ruins from both sides. Along the east side of the amphitheater there are a significant number of petroglyphs, and a few scattered pictographs. I found this quite peculiar; at all the cliff dwelling sites along Comb Ridge pictographs far out numbered petroglyphs. Many of the designs appear very old, sometimes weathered so much that they are hard to see without scanning the wall carefully. This may indicate that the Split Level Ruins are older than other ruins in the vicinity.
Along the north wall pictographs are the dominating type of “rock art,” with some petroglyphs mixed in. One of the more interesting panels is a series of hand prints painted in orange, along with a petroglyph of a pair of hands with fingers three times the length of normal fingers. Is this an artistic expression, or the hands of some sort of monster?
Several structural ruins are located along the north wall, each in various states of disrepair. The prized cliff dwellings ruins sit on a shelf above the north wall, and are not easily accessible. Ropes or a ladder would be mandatory, and the use of either to access cliff dwellings is explicitly against the law.
Split Level Ruins is probably my favorite of the Comb Ridge cliff dwelling sites. I recommend taking some time to explore this canyon further, as there are surprises at every turn.