Comb Ridge is a massive expanse of rock that stretches from Kayenta, Arizona to Elk Ridge, Utah. Most of this ridge crosses the Navajo Reservation, making it little-visited by outsiders. One stretch, however, lays between US Route 163 and Utah Route 95. This most accessible stretch of The Comb also houses a bewildering variety of Anasazi remains. Hole House Ruin is just one.
Bluff and Mexican Hat have few services - Comb Ridge itself has none. It can be scorching hot during the summer and buried under feet of snow in the winter. Be prepared.
Around 2000 years ago, wandering hunter-gatherers moved through the Comb Ridge area. These people became more sedentary over time and evolved the culture that archaeologists now call "Basketmaker". Eventually these Basketmakers began making pottery and building above-ground masonry structures. This transition marked the beginning of another archaeologically defined culture, the Anasazi. In reality, this transition was probably gradual and would have been almost unnoticeable to the people involved. Around 800 years ago Comb Ridge, along with most of the southwest, was abandoned. People migrated south to join large pueblos, leaving behind their small villages. Hole House Ruin is one of those left behind.
A note about the name: On the USGS topographical map, this ruin is simply marked "cliff dwellings" in an unnamed canyon. Kelsey refers to it as a "split level" ruin, but a ruin by this name already exists in Grand Gulch. Without being able to access Utah site numbers, and to avoid confusion with the Grand Gulch site, I have been calling this ruin Hole House, due to the preponderance of large and small "holes" or sockets along the ruin's back wall.
The hike is fairly simple. Starting from the parking lot, you descend to the bottom of the broad wash next to the parking area. Follow the easy-to-find trail across the wash and ascend the steep alluvial slope. Once on top you are at the trickiest portion of the hike - finding your way across the sage and tumbleweed pasture to the next wash crossing. There are many cow trails through this area, so it is easy to be confused. Two things to remember - the canyon you are shooting for is the one on the right, and that the main trail down the next wash is just to the right of the grove of willows and Cottonwoods directly ahead of you when you climb out of the first wash.
Head across the alluvial "mesa" to the second wash. Remember, you want to be just north of the grove of trees. The trail again drops steeply into the wash and climbs back up in a short span. After climbing out of the wash (again!), follow the trail towards the slickrock in front of you. There are cairns that guide you across the slickrock and down into the canyon Hole House is located in. Once you are in the canyon, the trail is well worn and easy to follow. You will pass two Navajo male hogans - one near the mouth of the canyon, and one near the ruins themselves.
There are two sections to the ruin. The lower section has been badly looted and destroyed by pothunters, visitors, and cattle. The upper section is still mostly intact, consisting of a large granary apparently. The ledge that it sits on slopes down to the canyon floor downstream of the lower ruin. The traverse up to the upper ruin should not be undertaken by the meek!
Spend some time exploring the ruin - while beat up, it is still a nice location with lots of handprints and some other rock art. The canyon itself is also very pretty and is worth exploring a bit as well. Once you have explored to your heart's delight, simply make your way back to your waiting vehicle the same way you came. It would also be possible to turn this hike into a longer loop by poking into any of the other nearby drainages.
None. Bring all you need.
limited space at the trailhead - there are better car camping spots along Butler Wash Road. It is possible to backpack along Comb Ridge, but it is not very popular. - Jan 16 2011 Rob del Desierto