Mesa Arch sucks. So bad. Mesa Arch is a reminder for why I hate people. We first went to Mesa Arch last year in 2014 at the end of September on a Tuesday. The idea that a late fall weekday would bring fewer tourists ended up slapping in the face with disappointment as we were painfully proven wrong. Fast forward one year to now, another Tuesday during the week of Thanksgiving. Once again we ignorantly assumed (more like hoped) that there would be fewer tourists given it was so late in the season. Nope. Instead, the experience was worse.
But, just like last year, bus loads of Asian tourists appeared literally a minute before sunrise. They could be heard before they could be seen. Pouring over the hill in masses, their anxiousness in the form of excited shouts and cries as if they were bargaining at the daily market splintered my ears. And once within several feet of the arch, they whipped out the selfie sticks and tablets, and proceeded to scramble under tripods of photographers who had been waiting there longer than they. This was the Mesa Arch sunrise.
It’s no wonder that nature lovers steer clear away from this place. Isn’t the point to get away from it all? We were the only onlookers at Mesa Arch who watched the catastrophe from a distance; everyone else ran, pushed, shoved, and destroyed the would-be silence of the desert. Unless you’re lucky enough to have temperatures that prevent tourists from coming (let’s say 10ºF), don’t bother coming to this part of Canyonlands at sunrise. We only wish that there could be tripod and tour bus-free days. Ha, if only…
At least this wasn’t going to be the highlight of our day. There was more in store for us.
Avid hikers will know about False Kiva, but tourists won’t. The short out and back trail to False Kiva is not marked on maps, nor is it talked about at the visitor center unless it is mentioned. Even its “trailhead” is purposely obscured. But if you know what you’re looking for, it’s obvious. Plenty of footsteps and cairns dot the trail leading up into the False Kiva. No one quite knows the history of this archeological site, and the mystery of whether or not it actually is a kiva gives it its name. I couldn’t wait to see False Kiva, not just for its “secret” location and guarantee of complete solitude, but because of its views.
We parked at the Alcove Spring Trailhead, the nearest parking area to the False Kiva trail. Then we walked back less than a quarter mile down the road we drove up and easily found the somewhat hidden trail on the west side of the road.
Round trip time including time to take photos was about an hour and a half. And as expected, we had the whole trail and archeological site to ourselves. YAY. Screw you, Mesa Arch!