Seven Kivas

Distance: 2.8 - 4.4 miles (round trip)

BLM, Monticello, Utah office, near Blanding in Southeast Utah

Introduction

View of a partial intact roof on  one of the kivas

Seldom does a short a hike take you to such a fascinating archaeology site. Seven Kivas, just a 1.4 mile hike down scenic Road Canyon, is located on a low bench along the north side of the wash. The kivas are in various states of decay. Remarkably the roofs on two of the kivas are still partially intact providing visitors the rare opportunity to study the techniques used to build these structures.

Access to the site is via a short, steep trail that descends to the canyon floor and then heads down canyon for about mile to the ruins. The canyon is quite scenic and hiking along the wash is enjoyable and relatively easy.

Trailhead to Seven Kivas

View of Road Canyon from the trail to the rim

The trailhead for Seven Kivas is located down the Cigarette Spring Road, which is 9.7 miles south of the Kane Gulch Ranger Station on UT 261. Hikers with two-wheel drive vehicles should park along Cigarette Springs Road and walk 0.8 miles down the spur road to the trailhead parking area. (See driving directions below.) Total round trip hiking distance for hikers with 2WD passenger vehicles is 4.4 miles versus 2.8 miles from the 4WD parking area.

From the 4WD parking area, walk northeast along a boot beaten trail and then follow a cairned route entering the first drainage to the right (east). Soon the trail turns southeast, descending slickrock ledges and slopes to a pour-off near the head of the drainage. Rock cairns mark the trail as it curves around a slickrock ledge just above a pour-off and then turns northeast, dropping steeply down a rocky slope.

Carefully follow the cairns that mark the trail’s course as it switchbacks down slickrock ledges and friction pitches. Reach the confluence of the drainage with Road Canyon at 0.4 miles after losing over 400-ft. Be sure to note this spot so you do not miss the turn on the return leg of the hike.

At the confluence turn right (southeast) and head down scenic Road Canyon. The sinuous trail weaves between the wash and the adjacent benches, echoing the canyon’s twists and turns. Red and white sandstone walls, sculpted by wind and water into ledges, bays, alcoves and overhangs stained by desert varnish, rise 400-ft above the canyon floor. Junipers, pinyon pines, grasses and sagebrush grow along the canyon’s floor and the ledges protruding from the sandstone walls.

As the canyon curves to the north around the first bend at 0.6 miles, look for a small granary tucked in a narrow alcove along the canyon’s southeastern wall. Soon the canyon makes a “U”-turn to the southeast and travels down the slickrock clad wash, which may contain running water in the spring or after a rainfall.

At 0.8 miles the canyon rounds another bend and heads northeast. Ahead you will soon see a hoodoo rising along the canyon’s southeastern wall. As you come abreast of the hoodoo a side canyon opens to the north, 1.1 miles from the trailhead. Pass the side canyon and continue following the wash as it curves to the southeast and then back to the north.

At 1.3 miles the canyon widens and the trail swings to the east. Here the floor of the canyon is covered in a huge expanse of slickrock. A short distance along the north side of the canyon is an alcove on a low ledge. This is Seven Kivas.

To protect the site the BLM has erected chains to keep people from climbing the fragile slopes directly in front of the site. Instead, look for the boot beaten path on the right (east) side of the site climbing through boulders to the top of the bench.

This fascinating site is very fragile. Please be very careful during your visit. Do not sit, climb or step on the walls of any structures, walk on the roofs of the kivas or attempt to enter the structures. Leave any pot shards, corn cobs or other relic where you found them. Treat the site with reverence and respect. What you are looking at is both priceless and irreplaceable. Please see the BLM page for the etiquette when visiting archaeology ruins and rock art before setting out on this hike.

The site, as the name suggests, consists of seven kivas thought to be 700 to 800 years old. Two of the kiva’s still include partially intact roofs. As you study these structures note that the roofs are constructed in layers. Larger wood beams support a network of small beams or sticks. Wattling or matting, typically composed of bark or other vegetative matter, is placed atop the smaller beams and then covered with adobe.

If you look inside one of the kivas you will see some of the original plaster work. The vertical support beam in the middle of the kiva is not original but installed by the BLM to prevent the roof from collapsing.

The other kivas are in poor shape. Mortar is missing on many of the exposed walls. The BLM has placed chains around the site to prevent people from walking across on the most sensitive areas of the site. Please respect these closures.

In addition to the kivas there appear to be a few other structures in this alcove. There are also a few structures in the alcove to the east of the site.

After investigating this interesting site retrace your steps to the side drainage and then follow the cairned route to the rim and trailhead. Those looking for a slightly long hike you might want to continue up canyon past the confluence of the drainage for about 0.6 miles. Look for a steep trail ascending the sandy bench along the north side of the wash as the canyon bends to the west. (This is the second bend to the west up canyon from the drainage.) As you climb the bench, look for alcoves along the north wall. A few of the alcoves contain ruins that are in very bad shape along with some pictographs and petroglyphs. Please do not touch the rock art.

Hike Facts

  • Distance: 2.8 - 4.4 miles (round trip)
  • Elevation: 5,970-ft. - 5,445-ft.
  • Elevation Gain: -525-ft.
  • Difficulty: easy-moderate
  • Basecamp(s): Blanding / Mexican Hat
  • Region: Southeast Utah

 

Elevation Profile

Elevation profile - Road Canyon to Seven Kivas

 

 

Driving Directions

From Blanding: Drive south on US 191 S for 4 miles and turn right (west) on UT-95 N. Follow UT-95 for 28.4 miles and turn left (south) on UT-261 S. Head south on UT 261 for 13.6 miles and turn left (east) on the County Road 239 / Cigarette Springs, located between mile posts 19 and 20. The turn is 9.7 miles south of the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. There is a BLM sign for the Cigarette Springs Road setback from the highway. Follow the dirt road (County Road 239) for 6.1 miles to an unmarked spur road on the left and travel 0.8 miles to the end of the road on the rim of Road Canyon. This road is only recommended for 4WD vehicles. Hikers with two-wheel drive vehicles should park along Cigarette Springs Road and walk the spur road. Cigarette Springs Road and the unmarked spur road can be sandy and rough in places and become impassable when wet.

From Mexican Hat: Head north on US-163 for 3.9 miles and turn left (north) on UT-261 N. Follow UT-261 north for 19.1 miles and turn right (east) on the County Road 239 / Cigarette Springs, located between mile posts 20 and 19. There is a BLM sign for the Cigarette Springs Road setback from the highway. Follow the dirt road (County Road 239) for 6.1 miles to an unmarked spur road on the left and travel 0.8 miles to the end of the road on the rim of Road Canyon. This road is only recommended for 4WD vehicles. Hikers with two-wheel drive vehicles should park along Cigarette Springs Road and walk the spur road. Cigarette Springs Road and the unmarked spur road can be sandy and rough in places and become impassable when wet. Note: a short section of UT-261 climbs steep gravel switchback up the Moki Dugway.

 

Trail Resources