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False Kiva

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

False Kiva, a Class II Archeological Site hidden within the remote Island in the Sky District of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, is a hauntingly beautiful ruin tucked high above the canyon in a vast alcove—it’s classification means it is not featured in park literature, nor will it be found on a park map, and chances are you will have the entire site to yourself.

Finding the ruins, reached only by an unofficial trail, can prove quite difficult—on our first try we ended up on the wrong path, one that lead to the edge of the cliff high above the ruin itself. From that point there was no way to get to our destination, short of rappelling, without heading back the way we came and then finding the correct trail—words of wisdom, if your wife says the trail is further up the road be sure to listen.

To reach the unofficial trailhead, drive to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands and take SR 313 to the Upheaval Dome Road to the Alcove Spring Trail parking area—cross the road and hike back about 300 yards towards SR 313, looking to the right for an obvious trail leading west. You will see several sandy footpaths leading through the desert, but the one you need is near a curve in the road—a dead give-away that you are in the right place will be when you come to several roadside logs that the rangers placed to deter parking.

Once on the path, hike for a few minutes until you reach the edge of a cliff—continue descending along the slickrock to the left, watching for well-placed cairns to guide you in the right direction. The sandy trail picks back up at the base of the cliff, reaching the edge of the canyon rim soon after—steeply descend the talus slope to the right, again following cairns (rock piles) that mark the trail through the wash.

At the canyon’s edge look up to your right and you will see the massive alcove that contains False Kiva—continue hiking to the northern end of the alcove, watching for a switchback that will take you back up towards the ruin

High above Canyonlands, wrapped in silence and humbled by the spectacular scenery laid out below your feet, you will be in complete awe of this amazing and special place—the ruin, a circular ring of stones, is framed by the high ceiling of the cave, with the canyon as its backdrop. You couldn’t ask for a more picture-perfect desert landscape—the only thing missing is a towering butte in the distance, oh wait! It has that too—Candlestick Tower rises out of the immense canyon like a skyscraper.

We spent nearly an hour, just the two of us alone with the desert, admiring the beauty of False Kiva and Canyonlands before retracing our steps back to the car—the climb out of the canyon can be steep and treacherous in spots, thanks to loose rocks on the talus slope, but if you take your time you can avoid accidents and enjoy your return hike. The out and back hike gains just a little over 300 feet in about a mile, so pace yourself and bring sun protection and plenty of water—after the hike is complete, mark one off the bucket list and celebrate with a beer in Moab!


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