Cottonwood Canyon

We all have a scenic drive that is near and dear to our hearts. There is something about rolling down a road with wind whipping across our cheeks, taking in incredible scenery, that makes us happy inside. Of course what better place to find a classic scenic backway than Southern Utah?

Cottonwood Canyon Road is a 47 mile stretch of pristine, breathtaking landscape. It begins about 30 miles east of Kanab, Utah and carries drivers all the way up to Kodachrome Basin State Park in the north, a few miles from Scenic Byway 12. Whether you choose to remain in your car or partake in some hikes along the way, the drive is one for the books.

Cottonwood Canyon Road was constructed in the early 1960s to allow the construction and maintenance of power lines bringing electricity from the Glen Canyon Dam to several communities in Southern Utah. The road is unpaved and has its fair share of bumps and potholes. It is typically accessible by any 2WD vehicle, though 4WD makes for an easier trip. Avoid the road in cases of rain when it becomes muddy and impassable. The drive is a great way to take in the sights for those who may not be into hiking or just need a rest from adventuring. However, if you are into hiking, there are plenty of great options along the way.

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There are many trails along Cottonwood Canyon Road that hikers may choose to explore. Hackberry Wash, which is 14 miles north of Highway 89, is the trailhead for both Hackberry Canyon and Yellow Rock. Hackberry Canyon is a 4 mile round trip trek through a slot canyon with shallow water. Yellow Rock is a 2.5 mile round trip hike that involves a short steep climb but rewards hikers with vibrant, panoramic views of the yellow sandstone rock. Another popular stop is 25 miles down the road at the Cottonwood Wash Narrows. This is a 3 mile long round trip hike through a narrow slot canyon. Five miles after the narrows you may feel inclined to pull over and stroll down the paved pathway to Grosvenor Arch. This towering arch creates a great photo opportunity and is the road’s most famous landmark.

The road is paved for 9 miles between Cannonville and the turnoff to Kodachrome Basin State Park. Kodachrome Basin State Park is a beautiful stop as well, though there is an entrance fee. Cottonwood Canyon Road takes about two hours to drive one way. This accounts for a generous amount of picture taking pit stops but none of the side hikes. Those wanting to take on one or more of the hikes along the way should allow for a whole day.

If you are a fan of unique, other worldly rock formations and a colorful, ever-changing landscape, add Cottonwood Canyon Road to your trip.

Written by Lauren Kehoe