Kachina Tree / Women's Village Loop

Almost every visiting photographer that has researched Boynton Canyon wants to know, “where is THE tree?” This question always refers to the Kachina Tree.
For years the few locals who knew the answer kept it secret. The photograph that caught everyone’s attention online was captured by Michael Fatali in the early morning, when the sun strikes a small tree growing in the shelter of the arch. That photo has since been reproduced by a number of others. The best time of day to capture a great photo is in the mid-morning.

What is a Kachina?

Kachina is a Hopi word meaning “spirit father.” Kachina spirits are central to Hopi religion and the masked ceremonies that take place, where they represent the spiritual essence of things in the real world. These spirits are believed to visit the Hopi villages during the first half of the year. Kachinas are understood as having human-like relationships, such as having uncles, sisters, and grandmothers, as well as marrying and having children.

Kachinas are also depicted in small, heavily ornamented carved-wood dolls, which are traditionally made by Hopi men and presented to girls; the boys receive bows and arrows instead. These wooden dolls are used to teach the girls about the identities of the kachinas and the symbolism of their regalia. Boys will learn these things during their initiation into the Kachina dances.

Why is this called the Kachina Tree?

The tree is actually an Emory Oak Tree. The tree was named by one of the many photographers who have visited. It was given this name because of the way it bends forward to reach the sunlight, which resembles the way some Kachinas bend during the dances. You'll find many cliff dwellings in Boynton Canyon left behind by the Sinagua, one of several ancient cultures that combined to form the modern Hopi.

There are cliff dwellings on the route up, as well as a giant crack in the cliff wall (shown in the photo above) that resembles a larger version of the Boynton Subway. The spire and this is crack make an excellent detour for photographers. They are off the route (on the right as you are going up) to the Kachina Tree. 


To reach the Kachina Tree, park in the paid parking area for Boynton Canyon (Red Rock Pass required) or use the free roadside parking, which adds at least 1/10th of a mile to the hike.
Once on the Boynton Canyon trail proceed 100 yards to the junction with Deadman's Pass and turn left. This section of the trail goes under Kachina Woman Rock (on your right) and around the Enchantment Resort (on your left).
After approximately 1 mile you are past the resort and the trail drops down to the canyon floor. At that point you will be able to see the spire (shown above) on your left. You will also be able to see the last house at Enchantment Resort and three water tanks. The route to the Kachina Cave lies between the spire and the tanks. It passes very close to the last house at Enchantment.
View of the Kachina Tree from the Boynton Canyon system trail
Shortly the system trail crosses the dry steambed. Immediately start looking for a social trail on the left. The first one you pass will work, but the second one (shown below) is better.
Critical turn for the Kachina Tree
This faint social trail immediately bends to the left and enters a small wash. If you have picked the right wash you will quickly (before starting uphill) come to a Forest Service sign announcing that there are archaeological sites in the area. Find that sign (shown below) and before proceeding!
Forest Service sign

You'll stay in the wash for about 40 yards after you pass the sign, ducking under some brush here and there. Keep an eye out on the right, because the trail you want is going to exit the wash and climb up on the slickrock (shown in the two photos below). You could stay in the wash, but there will be a lot more brush.
Uphill turn out of the wash
See the greenery between the photographer and the spire in the photo below? Take an immediate left when you get to the top of the hill - BEFORE you reach the greenery.  From here the social trail starts to become more defined and easier to follow.
Kachina Tree critical turn
The photo below shows the first cliff dwelling. When you reach  this cliff dwelling stay along the cliff wall to continue up.  

From there the footpath parallels to the wash most of the way, crossing over it and back several times as you near the top (shown below). The Kachina Tree Cave (it's really an arch) is almost directly above the cliff dwelling, but you do have to get around that cliff part. You're almost there! 
Crossing over the wash
The ledge the Kachina Tree sits on can be walked in both directions, and the reward for doing so is more incredible views and a two room ruin. Be aware this is definitely not for those afraid of heights.
Arriving at the Kachina Tree you will see this view


RATED: Moderate due to some route finding and a steep uphill climb. The social trail is much easier to follow if you keep in mind where it is going. The top of this drainage will be visible the entire way. The route mostly follows the right side of the wash, approximately 50 feet above the normally dry creek bed. Near the top the social trail briefly switches over to the left side of the wash.
34.920711 -111.856111
34.919889 -111.859556
3.2 miles out and back
545 ft
2.5 hours round trip from parking area
All year, early morning
No. Please do not visit archaeological sites with you pet.

Where Can You Go From Here?
The Women's Village & Bypass Canyon

The easiest way back to the parking lot is to simply go back down the way you came. But, even if that is your plan, you should at least hike the short distance to the top of that drainage before leaving -- for a quick peak into what I call Bypass Canyon (shown below).

View of Bypass Canyon from the Kachina Tree

From the Kachina Tree there are three ways to reach the Women's Village without having to return to the system trail again.

Experienced hikers can take the more scenic (and more difficult) Bypass Ledge to visit Women’s Village or return to the parking area. This is an exciting but difficult route that we've devoted an entire page to describing. Be sure to download the GPS tracks before attempting it.  At the other end of the Bypass Ledge is a Birthing Cave, the Women's Village and one of my Top 10 Views.

From the Kachina Tree Cave it is also possible to take the ledge wrapping around to the left and walk all the way to the Women's Village. Where the Bypass Ledge goes around the "backside" so to speak, this route goes around the Boynton Canyon side. This is definitely the fastest and easiest way, but it's not for those with a fear of heights, since the ledge is narrow in the beginning of the route.

The third way to reach the Women's Village is to drop back down from the Kachina Tree Cave and go back to the spire you passed on the way up. From the spire simply follow the base of the cliff northward to the next drainage over.