• Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    2.6 Miles

Scenic

This 2.6 mile isn't too strenuous, but is rocky in parts. The exact geo-coordinates of False Kiva are 38.415860, -109.917388. Once you arrive, explore the historic, Native American ceremonial and Class 2 archeological site.

False Kiva is an off the beaten path destination located in the “Island in the Sky” district of Canyonlands National Park, a bit outside of Moab, Utah. It is an archaeological site containing a large circle of rocks supposedly (hence the “false”) constructed by Native Americans as a place of ceremony. To reach the parking area, you must enter the park from the Island in the Sky entrance on the north end of the park and follow the main park road until turning right onto Upheaval Dome Road. Once you’ve turned, follow this for roughly 3.5 miles. You will see a small pullout on the right side of the road where you should park. The trail starts across the street behind the brush used as a trail marker.

The hike into false kiva not necessarily strenuous one, but the difficulty lies in following the somewhat ambiguous trail through the desert. A GPS is very handy, but with a good eye and some patience you’ll get to the same place. The trail begins traversing through the Utah Desert, showcasing the incredible plant life in the area with a variety of cacti, desert wildflowers and desert soil crust. After about a mile of hiking you’ll reach the canyon rim and be greeted by an expansive of the canyon and Candlestick Tower. From here the trail descends right taking you down the cliff face leading you to your first view of the Kiva. Follow the switchbacks up towards the cave and you’ll encounter the Kiva.

False Kiva offers grandiose views of Canyonlands, an up close look at Native American ruins, and a tranquil spot to watch the light change or catch a glimpse of the milky way. Canyonlands National Park is considered a dark spot with almost no light interference, making it an ideal place for stargazing.

Since your destination is an official archaeological site, the park rangers generally keep it on the hush unless you ask them specifically. The trail gets a bit ambiguous at points but a GPS and a good eye for Cairns can keep you on the right track. There is a fee for any vehicle entering the park. Any camping must be at a designated campsite and reserved through the park service.

Pack List

  • Water (…you’re in the desert)
  • Hiking Boots
  • GPS or Map
  • Camera with tripod if you’re interested in night photography
  • Headlamp
  • Money for a 7-day vehicle pass
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Reviews

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The hike to these ruins is very cool. It is helpful to swing by the visitor center on the way in and ask a ranger about how to get to the trail and what to look for. The trail wasn't hard to follow, and the ruins were in good shape.

7 months ago
7 months ago

The hike is especially stunning in the morning! The turn out that is 3.5 miles down the road is the turnout for the "Alcove Spring Trail." Once you've parked there walk back down Upheaval Dome until you spot the trail markers on the opposite side of the road.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

I absolutely love this spot, no matter the season or the day. I was a part of a crew who had to do "trail" maintenance out here last summer in order to combat some of the impacts from the increase in visitation , but each of us can do our part in preserving special places like these for generations to come! Definitely ask a ranger for directions to False Kiva by name as we have the most up-to-date and often the safest routes for you to take. And try not to step on that bumpy lumpy soil called cryptobiotic soil - it's the reason the desert is alive. :)

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

Recently visited this spot for the first time after receiving a recommendation from a fellow photographer. When we got to the cave, the sun was just setting and turning the monuments and cliffs into a deep crimson. You could really feel the spiritual connection to the ancient site, and it was so quiet!

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

This has been a favorite stop for years and every time I can't help but feel the power of this area. Help keep it special by not crossing the wire fence or disturbing the ruins, be courteous to other users as well.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Eric Schuette Explorer

I love adventure and exploring. Currently a school psychologist who tries to spend my free-time hiking, climbing, fishing, and celebrating with a good beer in Colorado. On Instagram @ericschuettephotography Cheers!!!

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