Date hiked: 07/22/16
Mileage: 12.9 miles; 4.5 hrs
Head Count (how many other hikers I saw): 0 groups.
From its trailhead at the top of Island Mesa, the Alcove Spring Trail almost immediately forfeits 800 feet of elevation on its way down to the Trail Canyon floor. This scramble is strenuous, following tight switchbacks of loose scree and exposed sandstone. Something I read beforehand got me nervous about getting myself cliffed-out, but it’s near impossible to find yourself in that situation. Still, keep a hawk’s eye on the surroundings for cairns, and try to keep to the main trail as the rock around here is highly fragile.
A look at the terrain.
A half mile in, the trail passes near its namesake feature – a giant alcove carved into the thick of the mesa wall. With a shortage of water on the mesa top, Alcove Spring would have played a vital role in survival for the Anasazis who lived here hundreds of years ago. But the present-day trail was most likely forged by cattlemen in the early half of the 20th century looking to get their livestock to water.
Losing more ground, the trail curls north into the heart of Trail Canyon, then bottoms out at about the two mile mark as it meets up with the wash. Hopscotching the sandy terrain, the route finally slips into the central braid two and a half miles in, dwarfed by the towering Wingate Sandstone walls. From here, travel is easy going – though long.
Closing in on fifth and final mile of the hike, the trail rounds out a stubby finger of Horsethief Mesa to your first glimpse at Moses and Zeus.
(From Moab): From Center Street, drive North on U.S. 191 (Main Street) for 11 miles, then turn left onto Utah 313. After 14.6 miles, continue straight onto the Grand View Point/Island in the Sky Road. After 5.7 miles, pay at the fee station, then follow the road another 7.4 miles, where you’ll turn right onto Upheaval Dome Road. The parking area is 3.6 miles beyond the intersection.
42.3 miles; 56 min
Fees: $25/car to enter Canyonlands National Park