tidy worthy visit
Also known as Five Kiva Ruin, this cliff dwelling site sits in an alcove located in Big Canyon just minutes west of Blanding, Utah. The hike is short (less than 1 mile round trip), takes less than a half hour to complete, and has a moderate elevation loss and gain (as compared to other hikes to ruins on Cedar Mesa and Comb Ridge).
The hike begins from the parking area by the red “Five Kiva Pueblo” sign. Even if you choose not to do the hike you can easily see the site by standing next to the sign and looking directly across the canyon (due west). While visible by the naked eye, a zoom lens or binoculars would enable you to see more details and discern one kiva from another.
If you want to reach the ruins the trail quickly starts descending to the canyon bottom. You’ll first make a brief scramble though a crack in the rocks, then you gradually pick your way down. It’s never terribly steep and Tevas or tennis shoes are suitably fine footwear. You’ll see a few different trails going down, all very near each other, so just pick the one that works for you.
In less than 10 minutes you’ll be at the canyon floor and you’ll have to cross a small stream that’s maybe 2 feet across. From there the trail continues across the floor and leads you up the the west side of the canyon. Simply follow the trail to the ruin.
We didn’t have high expectations for the site as we’d been told and had read that’s it’s pretty sterile and has been used as a party location by area teens. Yes, there was graffiti and modern “pictographs“, but we didn’t see any beer bottles or trash. And the site was more extensive than we thought based on looking at it from the trailhead.
The five kivas are easily made out, as are numerous, small rooms behind them. Most of the kivas had a niche in the side and the masonry appears to be of Mesa Verde style. I’ve read that there is evidence of occupation by both Pueblo II and II (which is beyond what our untrained eyes can detect). There are several metates in the north side of the alcove.
We saw no rock writing, corn cobs or pottery pieces at the site, but perhaps there would be below it. Despite the lack of such artifacts, the site was well worth the visit.
Return the way you came. Or, if you’re curious and have the time, explore up and down the canyon. There is at least two granaries and a smaller site in the immediate area that might be worth checking out.
Speaking from experience...If you happen to be towing a medium-sized RV with a full-size truck, you may want to drop the trailer in Blanding before heading to the trailhead. Either that or be prepared to make an 8-point turn (for which you’ll want a spotter to make sure you don’t back the trailer over the edge of the canyon!).
There was a small stream running during our visit and Blanding has seen a considerable drought this year. So, I’d think it probably runs throughout the year.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.