The Nautilus is a unique rock formation located around 45 miles east of Kanab, Utah. The sign for the Paria Ranger Station on the right side of the road marks the turn from Highway 89. The trailhead is accessible via any passenger vehicle using White House Trailhead Road, though it is unpaved and should not be navigated without four wheel drive in wet weather. The second wash about a mile and a half down the road marks the start of the trail, and vehicles may be parked here respectfully. The path begins on the left side of the second wash.
The trail is flat and about a mile long round trip. There are no signs marking the trail, so it is important to follow along the wash toward the sandstone cliffs. The trail crosses through a wooden fence before The Nautilus appears a half mile in on the right hand side. From the wash, the formation appears to be a large opening in the rock.
The Nautilus was formed over thousands of years by water rushing through the sandstone rock. It is a fragile rock formation and should be handled with care. Hikers will want to get views of The Nautilus from the top and bottom. The top portion of the rock is the thinnest layer, so it is important to be careful not to chip or break off pieces of the rock. Tread carefully and do not hang or climb on the delicate rock. To obtain the best photos of the formation from every angle, a cloudy day will help avoid large shadows cast by the overhanging rock.The Nautilus is about twelve feet tall.
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The hike is best done in the morning or late afternoon as there is little shade and plenty of sun exposure. It is rated easy with little overall elevation gain and relatively shallow sand. It is a great hike for kids, dogs, and people of any fitness level. It is best to avoid the trail during rain since the trail follows the wash, risking a flash flood. If the hike to the Nautilus is not long enough, there are plenty of cool areas between the rocks just past the formation.
The Nautilus is a beautiful reminder of how unique and special the landscape in Southern Utah truly is. The swirling gap through the sandstone composed of white, gray, yellow, and red colors is mesmerizing. Nature creates amazing pieces of art over many human lifetimes that we are lucky enough to enjoy in just a matter of minutes.
Written by: Lauren Kehoe