By Dave Webb
Perfect Kiva is located in Bullet Canyon, a tributary to Grand Gulch. To get to the trailhead, drive south on Highway 261, past the Kane Gulch Ranger Station, then look for a dirt road leading west to the trailhead. The road is signed. The turnoff is located about 7.5 miles south of the ranger station. There is a primitive toilet at the trailhead, but no water. (Fill up water containers at the ranger station.)
From the parking area, begin hiking west along an easy and well-marked trail. You will stay up above the canyon for a ways, then drop down a sandstone water slide into the canyon. Hiking down the water slide is usually only moderately difficult, but can be tricky when there is ice, which you may find in early spring or late fall.
The trail goes straight down the canyon. Spur trails branch off in many spots, but it is usually not difficult to identify the main trail. Most spur trails deteriorate quickly; if you get on one just backtrack and find a well-used trail that heads down the canyon.
Always stay on established trails. Much damage occurs to fragile soil and vegetation if you tromp on it.
The major ruins in Bullet Canyon can be seen easily from the main trail, if you are watchful. Mostly are located on the north side of the canyon –usually in protected alcoves with a southern exposure – and are often a couple levels above the canyon bottom. If you see an alcove, examine it for signs of rockwork or rock art. Binoculars really help in this process. In some spots "shields" are prominently painted onto rock walls and mark the site of a ruin.
Perfect Kiva is located in a protected alcove in a small side canyon. It can be seen from the main trail.
When you find Perfect Kiva, note how high it is above the main canyon floor. Several ruins are concentrated in this area at that level. A small ruin can be found by following that contour up the side canyon. The well-known Jailhouse Ruin is located just a short distance farther down Bullet Canyon, at the same contour level.
Kivas were special structures built for religious ceremonies. They are often circular and built into the ground or at a lower level than dwelling units. The kiva here has been restored and is one of the most interesting on the Colorado Plateau. You can climb down into it to get a good look.
The Perfect Kiva alcove shelters all kinds of artifacts. That’s one of the reasons I find it fascinating. Many ruins throughout the southwest have been stripped — everything that can be looted has been hauled away. Perfect Kiva is a wilderness museum with exhibits intact. The last time I was there I saw dozens of pottery shards (some with very impressive designs), ancient corncobs, braded reeds and a very large grindstone (metate). The metate rock has "stations" where several workers could use manos (the smaller stones used to crush grain against the metate) simultaneously. (Perhaps an early assembly line?)