How does this work?
Moab, Utah, United States

False Kiva Hike

Island In The Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, United States

Viewed 35470 times
    This guide contains photos
 (4 votes, 3 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 1.6 miles / 2.6 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Overview: False Kiva is a Class II archeological site located in an alcove in Canyonlands National Park. It's also known from the famous photograph by Wally Pacholka, showing the milky way in all it's glory. When you get there you'll be amazed by the silence of the alcove and the view ahead. You'll have a view on the Canyons and the Candlestick tower in the distance. The best time of day to photograph is late afternoon, certainly take a good hour to wait for the good light to drop.

Tips: It's not a very difficult trail, some people just get confused by the trail itself & end up at the rim above the alcove, instead of on the trail that leads to the alcove itself.

Park in the pullout at the first waypoint, walk back a couple hundred feet & you'll see the very obvious unmarked trailhead on the other side of the road at the second waypoint. The trailhead itself is located between a bunch of branches that are braided together, it's pretty obvious when you see them. This is something the rangers of the park did to mark the trailhead.

The trail is very easy in the beginning, almost promenade-like. It's very obvious to follow, although an outdoor GPS device will make it even easier of course.

Keep on heading down and you'll eventually reach the rim. You'll need to follow a path that leads down the side of the canyon. It can be tricky from time to time because of all the loose stones, make sure your footing is okay before you descend!

Anyone with a fear of heights may want to think twice about this part, you'll have to come to grips with it. Once you descend, you'll see the alcove on the right and above you. You will walk down to a ledge can freak some people out, but don't worry. Walk all the way over to the small trees and you will see the path that leads back up into the alcove itself.


In October 2012 I did this trail again and the trail has been maintained a lot better now. There are a lot of cairns to show you the way, although some parts might be a little unclear at first. Just keep looking and you'll find the next pile of stones within 10-15ft or so.

Points of Interest



Park your car in this pullout on Upheavel Dome Road.


The trail begins here, the waypoint is located on the other side of the road (compared to the parking)

Trail waypoint

Just keep going :-)

Trail waypoint


Trail waypoint


Canyon Rim

You'll reach the edge of the rim at this waypoint


Be careful with all the loose stones, make sure your footage is okay!

Trail waypoint

Head on down, the alcove should be located to the right and above you.

Almost there!

Head up to the little trees and you'll see the footpath going back up to the alcove itself.

False Kiva

This is the Kiva itself, enjoy the view!
Pictures in this guide taken by: ohnoitsfraa
Two comments -

First - I have no idea what "two man-made bushes" means. We started following a drainage that had lots of footoprints instead of the trail that was just 40 feet farther down the road.

Second. This was not an easy hike. Once we got on the trail, it was easy to follow. The difficult part was climbing down a small gully, with one brief exposed section. We were prepaired for this and it was a non-issue. Once we got to the rim, things got confusing. There were many, many cairns, but they lead straight down, never up. I stoped my group (non-hikers) and went down at least 500 to 800 feet and didn't find the kiva. Because of the vertical terrain, it was hard to tell if I was on the correct route or not. I kept feeling I was on the some trail that lead to the bottom rather than a trail that lead to the Kiva. The route I followed was well marked with cairns every ten feet or so. If I was on the correct route and just didn't go far enough, I would say the route is far from easy, it is difficult and requring good athletic ability. The climb back up was of course not easy. The non-hikers would find it outright brutal.

In summary - This is NOT an easy route, to find and follow.

Visited on Jun 08, 2014

by dvdhns on Jun 11, 2014
This app (guide) for False Kiva was extremely helpful kept me from false trails and wasting energy. I would rate it more difficult than Easy (snow ice in spots and the final climb to the alcove was challenging)The cairns place in stragetic places were very helpful also
Visited on Feb 21, 2013

by larrygaskill on Mar 01, 2013
I just wanted to say 'thank you' for your work. This link was my main resource when I first visited False Kiva back in Jul '12. I know a lot of people try to keep this spot a secret, but many people find it nonetheless. But in the spirit of keeping it secret, I only share it with those whom I know have the best intentions of visiting the site and not ruining it. Again, thank you!
Visited on Jul 26, 2012

by randyarellano on Feb 26, 2013

False Kiva Hike Trail Map

POIs: numbers | icons View large Trail Map

Have an iPhone or Android?

  • Map your route while you move
  • Add trip photos to your map instantly
  • Share trips right from your phone
  • Find and follow trips from other travelers

Available For:
iPhone | Android

About the Author

1 guide
view ohnoitsfraa's profile

False Kiva Hike 3 Day Forecast

Extended Forecast
Other Resources
How To Get There
Get directions from: