Alcove Spring

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 12.8 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 4169 - 5689 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 6 hrs.
Trailhead: Alcove Spring
Fee: $30/vehicle
Attractions: Scenic geology, backpacking




The Alcove Spring trail is located in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah. The trail begins off of the Upheaval Dome road where it makes a steep descent down a mostly primitive route into Trail Canyon. From there it follows a normally dry wash for another 5 miles until it reaches the Taylor Canyon Road and comes to an end. Near the end of the trail hikers are treated to views of the Moses and Zeus rock formations. Primitive campsites can be reserved through the Park Service for those interested in backpacking.


The Alcove Spring trailhead is about 9.9 miles from the Island in the Sky Visitor Center on the Upheaval Dome Road. This same trailhead is used for the unmarked trail to the False Kiva. The trail to the False Kiva is on the other side of the road and about 2 tenths of a mile south.


From the trailhead the route leads toward the rim of the canyon where it begins descending a sloped bench in the direction of a large alcove.


Much of the rest of the route that leads down into the canyon can be seen as the trail passes below the alcove. Making use of wide ledges and ramps the trail is one of the easiest of those that leads off of the Island of the Sky to the canyons below. The trail is rocky in places but exposure to cliff edges and such is minimal. On this day we noticed fresh bighorn tracks and scat that were only hours old but they had left the trail just below the alcove and headed toward a secluded area to the north of the trail.


By the time the trail has reached the 2 mile point it has leveled off and is heading down the main channel of the canyon. Hiking is very easy for this part of the trail as it cuts across the area above the wash that runs down the middle of the canyon.


Around the 3 mile point the trail enters the main wash which becomes the route for the next several miles. The dirt in the wash is a little soft in places but it is easy enough to pick out a path that is firm enough not to be drudgery. Compared to the trail in and out of the canyon the miles spent in the wash fly by pretty quick.


By the 5 mile point glimpses of the Moses and Zeus rock formations begin appearing over the ridge on the right hand side of the trail.


As the canyons merge the trail leaves the wash at a spot that is well marked by cairns. After a very short distance it comes to the junction of the Alcove Spring and Moses and Zeus trail.


From that junction it is another tenth of a mile or so to the Taylor Canyon Road and a quarter mile or so to the campground. High clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles can access the campground from the White Rim Road which is 5 miles or so away at the mouth of Taylor Canyon.


Since you asked, Moses is the tall spire that appears to be looking either down at or over the shorter spire which is Zeus. The spire that stands alone in the middle of the ridge is Aphrodite. From this angle Aphrodite appears to be in the middle of 2 other spires. You can see her more clearly in the photo that was taken from the other side of the ridge. The Moses and Zeus trail climbs up to the base of Zeus and travels around the ridge where it crosses between Aphrodite and Zeus before looping back.


Back near the trailhead there is an arch near the end of the point of a cliff that has a rock formation that looks like a little duck sitting in front of it. We thought we had the name for the arch at one time or another but were unable to turn it up for this post.


For us the climb back out of the canyon didn't seem all that tough be we were only day hiking so we didn't have the extra burden of heavy packs to deal with. The steepest part of the climb is a little past the alcove and by then you are so close to the trailhead that you know the end is near, and for us our celebratory Monster drinks were chilling out in the cooler awaiting our arrival. The sign at the trailhead indicates an elevation change of 1,300 feet. According to our GPS the change in elevation from one end of the trail to the other is 1,520 feet. Add on another 500 feet or so if you hike the Moses and Zeus trail and you end up with a pretty decent workout. Our total round trip distance for both trails combined came out to 15 miles. With all the picture taking the time for both was around 8 hours. Those that like hiking the trails off of the Island in the Sky as much as we do are going to love the Alcove Spring trail. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.