Seven Kiva Ruin

Round Trip Distance: 3 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5454 - 5951 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: Lower Road Canyon
Fee: $2/person - $5-$8/camping
Attractions: kivas, scenic canyon

The Seven Kiva Ruin is an Ancestral Puebloan site located in Road Canyon in the Cedar Mesa Area west of Blanding, Utah. The kivas are all nestled within one small south facing alcove in the canyon. While none of the kivas are very large several of them still have roofs that are mostly intact. The fact that there are this many kivas grouped closely together and relatively close to a road makes the Seven Kiva Ruin a popular destination in the Cedar Mesa area. The route leading down into the canyon from the mesa descends a slope of loose talus and boulders that adds quite a bit to the difficulty of an otherwise moderate hike.

The Lower Road Canyon trailhead is about 52 miles from the town of Blanding, Utah. To get there drive south on US Highway 191 for about 4 miles and turn west onto UT-95 toward Natural Bridges National Monument. Follow UT-95 for 28.4 miles and turn left onto UT-261. Continue south for 13.6 miles and turn left onto Cigarette Springs Road. After turning onto UT-261 you will pass the Kane Gulch Ranger Station where there is a small Visitor Center and restrooms that are accessible 24 hours.

After turning onto the Cigarette Springs Road there is a gate at the 0.9 mile point where there is a self service fee station. At the 3.4 mile point the road passes the unmarked trailhead for the upper end of Road Canyon. Around the 4.6 mile point the road crosses a wash and gets a lot rougher from that point on. Careful drivers without moderate clearance vehicles might be able to continue further. If not there is room to pullover and begin hiking from that point. The extra distance will add about 2.8 miles to the round trip distance. From the wash to the trailhead continue following the Cigarette Springs Road for about another 3/4 of a mile and turn left for the final 3/4 of a mile to the trailhead which is at the end of the road.

From the end of the road go to the north side of the parking area and look for a cairned route that drops off the mesa to a slickrock wash that drains into the canyon. There is a popular guide book out there that says to take the trail at the south end of the trailhead. That route is for a trail that follows the rim of the canyon for 2.2 miles to the Citadel Ruin. You can get a good view of the Seven Kiva Ruin from the rim but you can't get down to it from there. To get into the canyon follow the route at the north end of the parking area.

After an initial drop of 15-20 feet follow the bench to the right toward another drainage. The trail wraps around that drainage to the opposite side of the canyon and begins descending a rough talus slope into the canyon.

The descent is steep and in places it gets a bit precarious with some good class 3 scrambling. Careful attention to the cairned route will help a lot.

The trail connects with the main branch of Road Canyon at the base of the drainage. From there the Seven Kiva Ruin is just under 1 mile to the right.

While there is no official trail in Road Canyon the route is obvious. This section of the canyon is a lot easier hiking than some of the upper parts of the canyon are. There is some tall brush but you don't really have to fight your way to get through it and there are only a couple of small patches.

The canyon bends to the left and then again to the right getting wider as it progresses.

The alcove housing the kivas comes up after one more good bend in the canyon. Access to the alcove is at the east end of the rubble pile.

Several of the kivas still have some of their roofs remaining. A kiva with this much roof intact that hasn't been reconstructed is not all that common. Most of them have either caved in long ago, had the timbers taken for some other purpose, or have been either accidently or intentionally burned. At Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado the residents set fire to everything as they were leaving. At other locations like Wupatki National Monument in Arizona everything was sealed up and left as it was as though the occupants might return any day and resume their lives there once again.

A zoom lens will help you get a picture of the inside of this kiva without getting too close to it. Although the paint is faded this kiva still has a lot of the stucco on its walls.

There is an ammo box with some literature inside that gives some details on the site. It must have taken a lot of effort to round up all those rocks. After leaving the alcove we hiked a bit further down Road Canyon before returning to the trailhead.

The slideshow at the end of this post has a few photos that show the section of the trail leading into and out of the canyon. The photos taken on the trip back up to the trailhead seem to show what the trail is like a little better perhaps than those coming down. There is only about 500 feet of elevation change between the mesa and the canyon and that is pretty moderate for the Cedar Mesa area.

The Seven Kiva Ruin site appears to have been used primarily for ceremonial purposes since it looks like the kivas outnumber the living spaces. The site is unusual compared to many others with a total of 7 kivas all grouped together in one place. Since none of the kivas are especially large in size it may be that each one was used for a different ceremony. Ceremonies weren't the only reason men used kivas and some ceremonies weren't completely confined to the inside of a kiva either. Recorded history shows portions of snake dances occurring within a kiva and portions without. It also mentions men going down into their kiva and weaving blankets. Most of the ruins at the site have deteriorated into rubble piles but what is left is still worth visiting. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.