The Cave Canyon Towers Ruin, also called the
Cave Tower Ruins, Mule Canyon Towers, Seven Tower Ruins or Five
Tower Site, features the remains of towers perched on both sides of the
head of Cave Canyon, a short steep side canyon on the west side of Mule
canyon. The site is easily accessed from Hwy 95 and is a great place to
experience the tower construction of the Anasazi.
The access to the Cave Canyon Towers is on the south side
of Hwy 95 at about mile 102.5. There is a gate to a spur road that you
can open and drive through. Always close this gate behind you when you
pass through it! The spur road should be considered 4wd only but the
road is short and its easy to park near the gate and walk to the towers.
The road ends in an open, unstructured parking area. There
is no specific trail to the towers which are just north/east of the
parking area. Its easy to find a trail heading to the east and you will
very quickly spot the Towers. They are located on both sides of the
head of Cave Canyon with one significant tower still standing on each
side of the canyon.
Cave Tower Ruins sit at the head of a short tributary of Mule Canyon.
It consists of both the towers on the canyon top and multiple groups
of structures tucked into the cliff overhangs on both sides of the
There is no way off knowing the exact
purpose of these towers. While they seem like they are defensive in
nature we should not be too quick to assign that role. They are not
closely associated with a village so there is no logical place for them
to be protecting. There is a water source at the head of Cave Canyon
and it is possible that this had some bearing on the use of the towers,
perhaps for religious reasons. The towers were multi-storied and their
height undoubtedly provided great observation opportunities. The ruined
tower at the Mule Canyon Ruin
is a mile north of here and the towers would have been within the line of sight of each other.
Although there is no substantial village associated with
the towers, there are a number of small sites and structures tucked
into the alcoves on both sides of the canyon. As the canyon drops
steeply from the towers, the exposed rock layers provide a lot of good
building sites. With binoculars you can spot a few sites below the
south/west rim and a number of structures and small building groups on
the north/east side of the canyon. Access to the sites on the
south/west wall is impractical and access to the sites on the
north/east side requires a pretty good scramble and the ability to pick
There are structures tucked into the alcoves on both sides of the
canyon. However, the sites on the south/west side are not accessible while
the sites on the north/east side of the canyon are.
If you are determined to try to reach the cliff dwellings
that are obvious when looking down at the north/east wall of the
canyon, you will find a spot where you can drop over the rim of the
canyon that is at the end of a faint trail heading toward the canyon
edge from the main tower ruin on the same side of the canyon. Following
this route requires a step down as your first move into the canyon and
usually there are rocks piled on the ledge below to help with this
step. Once you have reached the ledge you can pick your way down and
along the canyon wall.
None of the cliff
dwellings in the canyon, or the towers on the rim, have been stabilized
or restored in any fashion. These are delicate ruins and it is critical
that you enjoy them from enough distance that you do not disturb
them in any fashion. Stay out of them and off of them - do what you can
to keep them preserved for many years into the future.
Although I've visited this site several times I've never
noted how many towers I count and I've read a number of different
accounts of how many towers there are. I have seen it reported as 5, 6
or 7 towers. When you visit you can decide for yourself how many there
are. Even though they are common at Hovenweep, there are few towers on
Cedar Mesa and this is a great place to see them.
Cave Canyon is a short steep canyon that joins Mule Canyon
a bit south of where it crosses under Hwy 95. Mule Canyon is
interesting as it has two upper forks, each of which are deep and steep
walled canyons (South Fork Mule Canyon North Fork Mule Creek
Typically canyons get deeper as they approach their lower ends but Mule
Canyon gets very shallow in the middle. From the highway crossing up
canyon to the junction of the two forks Mule Canyon is very flat and
shallow. The canyon gets deep quickly after the highway and Cave
Canyon drops just as quickly. In fact, Cave Canyon is the only
practical access point for hiking into the upper section of Mule Canyon
below Hwy 95. While many people hike a mile or two into Mule Canyon
from the lower end, few visit the middle/upper sections of the canyon.
Although Cave Canyon does provide excellent
hiking, most people visit to explore the Cave Canyon Towers. While not
as elaborate or well preserved as other ruins, this is the best place
to see tower ruins on Cedar Mesa. The access is easy and exploring the
Cave Canyon Towers Ruin is a short trip that can be combined with one
or more other short hikes to make a full day.