This story originally appeared on Business Insider.
Grant Johnson was living in a 19-foot trailer in Utah when, in 1995, he was presented with the opportunity to purchase 40 acres of land in the state’s rugged wilderness.
Johnson was told the site was abandoned by a 1970s cult, but it was the perfect setting for him to achieve a long-held dream: transforming a boulder on the property into his home, using dynamite and his own two hands.
Johnson, who worked in Utah’s uranium mines and as a backcountry guide, was inspired by the Moab Desert’s famous “Hole N” The Rock” attraction, a family home carved out of a sandstone cliff.
He spent $25,000 and the next 20 years perfecting his new abode — and now anyone on Airbnb can rent a bedroom in the special space for about $350 a night and the whole three-bedroom cave for about $1,000 a night.
@airbnb this stay is as solid as a rock thanks to host grant ? #airbnbpartner #airbnb #boulder #utah ♬ original sound – airbnb
Johnson’s property is located in southern Utah, about a four-hour drive north of the Grand Canyon and near the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, known for its cascading rock formations.
Johnson lives in the cave with his partner when they’re not renting it out, and they also run the property as a homestead and grow tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and corn, some of which they sell.
Johnson even raises horses, cows, pigs, and turkeys — and is planning to build them a cave barn of their own.
“It’s a lifetime art project,” he told Insider.
He carved the walls by hand using light and sound as guides
Johnson purchased dynamite from a contact through his mining work, who trusted him to use the equipment properly.
“That was in the 90s, so I was able to buy dynamite and just sign a paper. Now it’s a lot more difficult,” he said.
The first blast came in the winter of 1995. Johnson returned to the site for the next eight years to hollow out the space he wanted, eventually landing at around 5,700 square feet.
His first time stepping into the cave he created, he couldn’t help but be in awe.
“Nothing has been in this space since the dinosaurs,” he said. “It’s a 100-million-year-old rock.”
An instrument in Johnson’s music room, left, and Johnson on the 40-acre property. Grant Johnson
In 2005, Johnson employed a pro-builder friend to help finish the project. Together they poured the cement flooring and installed giant sheets of tempered glass that closed the cave off from the wilderness.
There are six openings in the boulder, all facing different directions, that had to be sealed before the space could be inhabitable. The last sheet was installed in January 2014, which is when Johnson moved into the space.
During that time, Johnson also molded the walls and doorways of the cave himself. He used a technique where he would drill parallel holes and tie them together with a perimeter cord, which cracked the rock in the desired shape.
“It’s a lot of acrobatics, which is truly difficult,” he told Insider.
During the sculpting process, he played with the light and sound of the space. During the winters, he’d sometimes sit in the space, during sunsets or especially during the equinox, and observe how the cave refracted the sunlight.
“I’d just sit down and if I noticed something that didn’t fit or that wasn’t curved right, I would get the drill,” he told Insider.
While he was carving, he’d also play a harmonica and adjust his plans based on the best pitches he could find. It’s paid off. Since moving in, Johnson has hosted many musicians, concerts, and even a group of Tibetan monks in the space.
“They did their throat singing and that sound has never left,” he said.
One of Johnson’s musician friends has even named different rooms after different keys. The living room is “E.”
You can rent the property on Airbnb for $1,000 per night
The cave now even welcomes visitors on Airbnb. The “west end” room, with its own staircase leading up to a private balcony, rents out for $350 per night. For $1,000, guests can rent out the entire three-bedroom property, and Johnson and his partner will vacate and stay in a cabin nearby.
A view onto Johnson’s remote property. Courtesy of Grant Johnson
Guests of the Airbnb are invited to climb on the cave outside and use a rope swing in front of the property. The listing also indicates that sense of adventure extends inside, where guests should be aware of “rugged rock stairs” connecting the rooms of the cave.
The cave runs off-grid and uses water to power things that are plugged into sockets, though the listing makes a point to note that hair dryers and pancake griddles, particularly, are too much for the hydro-electric system to handle. Also one major thing to note: There’s no WiFi.
“The desert holds special energy and this space resonates with it. This is where you come to disconnect from the rest of the world,” one Airbnb user wrote in a May 2022 review. “The comfort, cleanliness and beauty of it far exceeded any expectations those in our group had.”
The guest’s parting advice: “Drive a 4WD. Bring some extra water. Cherish your time there. Unwind. Go hike. Unplug and appreciate the space.”
Johnson said he loves to watch guests marvel at the unspoiled natural surroundings and hear how they feel more connected to nature by staying in the cave. He recommends every guest climbs out to the patio on the west end at night, and watch the still, desert night.
“You can’t ask for more dark sky. You can’t ask for more quiet,” he said.
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