Cottonwood Trail Hike – Then On the Road North

Kanab, UT

For what turned out to be our last hike in Kanab we  headed just south of town to the Cottonwood  Trailhead.  To get there we drove south on US-89A less than a mile from the traffic light and turned right (west) on Kanab Creek Drive.  After two miles we turned right on to Stanfield Drive, which terminates at the trailhead just below a water tower.

The trail begins by going up the road towards the water tower.  Just a short distance before the tower follow the trail sign to the left.

The trail is easy to follow with some steep spots and a lot of ups and downs as it crosses several ravines and washes.

The Cottonwood Trail goes west for about four miles before ending.  We went two and half miles out before turning around and returning as the wind picked up and the clouds darkened.

We had one more hike planned but two days of rain put an end to that.  We had intended to stay in Kanab for a week before continuing north to Bryce Canyon.  But heavy snow in Bryce and rain all over southeast Utah forced us to stay put a bit longer than planned.  But we did enjoy ourselves the entire time, despite the spells of poor weather.

While in Kanab we stayed at J & J RV Park, a half mile east of the junction of US-89 and US-89A.  It is a basic commercial park with a wide paved road and gravel sites.  The park is fairly new so all the utilities are excellent.  We enjoyed the park and will stay there again if we visit Kanab in the future (a good possibility).

Finally, on Friday the weather cleared sufficiently for us to continue our journey.  We were up early and on the road headed north on US-89.

Good-bye Kanab Creek Bakery

As we said, we had planned a four day stay at Bryce Canyon, but snow and cold caused us to cancel that.  We also had an overnight planned at Jordanelle Lake State Park outside Park City, UT.  But the weather there had snow in the forecast so we booked a site for one night at Utah Lake State Park in Provo, located at a lower elevation.

Heading north on I-15

We have stayed in this park twice in past travels through the area so we knew they had nice pull over sites that would accommodate us, with great views of the mountains to the east.

The view from our window

Deep snow covers the peaks east of Provo

In the morning (Saturday) we will head northeast into Wyoming for a week-long visit in Lander, located in the Wind River Mountains.  The nimble hiker has been busy researching hikes in the area so we will certainly keep busy.

More on that later . . .

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North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Kanab, UT

With a cool, wet, windy day predicted for Kanab we decided to take a drive south to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, a drive of about 80 miles one way.  We left Kanab and headed south on US-89A.  The North Rim is over 8,000 feet of elevation (Kanab is about 5,000) so we anticipated seeing some fresh snow on the ground.  After only about 20 miles we began to climb up and came upon some fresh white stuff.

At Jacob’s Lake we turned right on US-89A and headed south on AZ-67.  As we drove along we passed through a section of the pine forest that had burned in a fire about 15 years ago.  We recall seeing the destruction  here when we rode through it on a motorcycle trip in 2006.  Recovery is a slow process, as the area looks pretty similar to what we saw back then.

As we continued south the temperature dropped.  We drove through a series of snow squalls that made us feel like we were back in Pennsylvania in January.

Once through a squall the sun would peak out and create a beautiful scene with the fresh covering of white.

Not something we anticipated seeing the third week of May! (at least the plow was up)

Arriving at the North Rim Visitor Center we were surprised to find the parking area very crowded, even though they had just opened the previous week and the cabins were still closed.

A young college student worked to keep the streets clear!

After enjoying the views of the canyon (photos to follow) we headed back north toward Kanab.  At times the wind blew hard, creating blizzard like conditions.

But the drive through the snow was definitely worth it.  The views of the canyon were impressive as the sun peaked through the clouds.  We’ll finish this post with a few pictures of the view from the lodge located on the edge of the canyon.


The weather for this week still has quite a bit of rain and wind in it, so we’ll delay our trek north (we’re headed for central Wyoming) for a few more days.  There are a couple more hikes on our to-do list we hope to complete during breaks in the rain.

More on those later . . .

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Mansard Petroglyphs Trail

Kanab, UT

Just a few miles east of Kanab is a nice hike to an interesting alcove containing a panel of ancient petroglyphs, called the Mansard Panel.  The hike is just under five miles out and back and presents a challenging gain in elevation (more than 1,000 feet).

To get to the trailhead we drove east on US-89 for six miles (just past mile marker 59) and turned left (north) on Vista Drive Road.  Looking north you can see the alcove in the distance.

View of the alcove from Vista Drive Road

A quick right turn on Grande Vermillion Ave. and then two left turns will lead you to the parking area.  Sounds tricky, but the route to the trail is clearly marked on the street signs.

Nice large parking area

Mansard Trailhead

The route begins with roughly a mile slope up a steep grade before arriving at the top of the Vermilion Cliffs.  Once at the top, you follow a sandy plateau to the base of the White Cliffs.

The saddle above us is the end of the steepest section of the trail

The most difficult section is an eight foot scramble up some rocks, but there are enough hand holds and steps to make this a pretty easy climb.  The trail is pet friendly but dogs may have a difficult time getting up this section.

Once up at the saddle there is a great view of the White Cliffs, where the petroglyphs are located.

The next half of the hike is a more gradual gain, at times through loose sand.

As you approach the base of the cliffs the path joins a Jeep road for a short time.

A short distance down the Jeep road leads to the end of the road, with the alcove just over a sandy ridge.

A marked path leads you down along the base of the cliff to the alcove.

Approaching the alcove

This site is unusual compared to most sites we have explored.  The drawings are not high up on a rock wall, but on a smooth, sloping sandstone rock at ground level.  Also, there are two long slides carved into the rock that are very unusual and not found at any other site.

John and Pam standing next to their motorcycle

Lunch with a view – the saddle is left center of the photo

The nimble hiker bounds down the rock scramble

Back down the steep section below the saddle

Colorful flowers grew all along the trail, especially the lower section.

Yellow Sego Lily

We planned to depart Kanab the next day (Sunday) but heavy rain is in the forecast, so we have extended our stay here a few days to let the weather clear.  There are a number of adventures we still have to do so the longer stay is not a problem.

More on those adventures later . . .

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Peek-a-Boo Canyon

Kanab, Utah

One of the highlights of a visit to Kanab is a trip to nearby Peek-a-Boo Canyon.  Sometimes called Red Canyon on maps, this beautiful slot canyon is a .7  walk out and back through a narrow slot filled with colorful rock formations on soaring rock walls.

The hike through the canyon is the easy part of this adventure.  The difficult part is the 3.4 mile ride on a narrow road through deep sand.  To get to the road leading to the canyon we drove north from Kanab on US-89 to just past mile marker 72 where there is a clearly marked right turn (east) into what is called the staging area.  The large lot accommodates vehicles with trailers towing four-wheelers as well as parking for those without four-wheel drive who wish to hike the road to the canyon (not recommended, as this sand is deep!).  It is also a good spot for those who wish to let some air out of their tires to give better traction in the deep sand (we opted not to air down).

We completed the drive to the slot without a problem, but found it to be one of the more challenging Jeep drives we have done.  A sign at the parking area states that four-wheel drive is required and all-wheel drive is discouraged.  If you don’t have a four-wheel drive high clearance vehicle and/or you have never driven in deep sand, this road is not for you.  It would be better to sign on to one of the tours in town that have the proper equipment and experienced drivers.

Upon arriving at the entrance to the slot we found a group of six who arrived in a Hummer owned by one of the local tour groups.

End of the road – The Tour Group Hummer is seen on the right

Entrance to the slot

We decided to give the tour group a few minutes to get started so we first went up a little side canyon hike we saw in Sue and Dave’s blog (Beluga’s Excellent Adventure).  It is just a short path, but ends below a neat rock formation.

Cool rock formation on the side trail

Once in the canyon we spent most of the hike looking up at the beautiful colors and patterns on the rocks above us.  We soon caught up with the tour group and they were kind enough to let us pass,  allowing us to enjoy the canyon in solitude.

The “Moqui Steps” up the canyon wall in the photo below are believed to have been cut by the early Anasazi who lived in the area.  These steps lead to a granary above, where corn and other supplies were stored.

It rained the day before our visit so there were a couple of spots where water ran down the rocks.  The canyon must be moist for most of the year as evidenced by the moss along some spots.


Once back in Kanab we decided to celebrate a successful Jeep drive and cool hike through the Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon with a treat at a local bakery.  The Kanab Creek Bakery has great coffee and pastries.  We had a pastry called Kouign-amann, a Breton cake described in the New York Times as “the fattiest pastry in all of Europe.” The name comes from the Breton language words for “butter” and “cake.”


We also bought a loaf of French Boule bread that was the best bread ever!  Since we’ll be in Kanab for a few extra days to avoid some rain showers, another visit to Kanab Creek Bakery appears to be in our future!

But we have another hike planned for tomorrow to help walk off those extra calories.  More on that later . . .

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South Fork Indian Canyon and Hidden Lake

Kanab, UT

South Fork Indian Canyon, located just a few miles northwest of Kanab, contains an alcove along a steep cliff with a nice display of pictographs painted between 452 AD and 62 BC.  The trip to the alcove involves a drive through some deep sand and a short hike down a steep cliff.  To get there we headed north on US-89 for 7.2 miles.  Just past mile marker 71 we turned west on Hancock Road.  After 5.9 miles on the paved Hancock Road we turned left (south) on the dirt road 50.  It is not really a dirt road as much as a sand road.  A four  wheel drive vehicle is required as the sand is very deep in spots.

The road runs right along the boundary for Coral Pink  Sand Dunes State Park, passing a sandy, steep path leading into the park.

After 3.4 miles on the narrow, sandy path the road ended in a small parking area at the trailhead.

Sue and Dave (Beluga’s Excellent Adventure) drove to the trailhead during a recent visit.  But they decided to skip the hike to the pictographs when they saw the sign indicating that there was a 1700 foot elevation change.

Oops, turns out someone added an extra zero when they made the sign, and the elevation change is only 170 feet!

Canyon view near the trailhead

The hike to the pictographs is less than a mile (one way) but there are a couple of steep sections.  A flyer we picked up at the visitor center said the difficulty level was easy.  We would rate it more moderate due to that steepness.

Making our way along the base of a high stone wall, we soon came to a large alcove containing the pictographs.

Heading back up the trail along the high stone wall

The steepest part of the trail

On our way back to Kanab we took a little side trip to visit Hidden Lake (called Underground Lake on Google maps).  To get to the lake we turned on to Angel Canyon Road.  This is a loop road that begins and ends on the east side of US-89 and runs through the Best Friends Animal Society,  which is the largest facility of its kind in the US.   About half way around the loop there is a turn onto a side road heading east.  This narrow dirt road soon crosses a cool, narrow channel of Kanab Creek before winding another .8 of a mile (stay to the left at the Y) ending at the lake.

Kanab Creek

Hidden Lake is really just a small pond of water inside a rock alcove.  But it is a cool spot for a quick visit.

Hidden Lake

Driving back out, just a short distance from the lake, we spotted an alcove above us.  A narrow side road seemed to lead up to it so we drove up to check it out.  It appeared to be a storage area for early inhabitants of the area.

Someone at the visitor center later told us they believe the inhabitants built round storage containers (cisterns) and filled them with a variety of things including grain and even dead bodies at times.

Several round cisterns are bordered by slanted flat rocks

Along the east side of US-89 between the two junctions with the loop of Angel’s Canyon Road you can see a few large openings in the rocks.

These openings are part of what are called the Sand Caves.  Just a bit before mile marker 70 there is a small area on the west side of the highway where we parked.  After crossing the highway going east we found a path leading to the steep wall of slickrock.  It is a bit of a climb to get up, but after a short distance there is a path along the ridge leading to the caves.

These sand caves were man made when they began mining for the sand in the area.  The mining process was short lived, leaving theses cool caves for us to explore.

The end of the caves

Three adventures within a few miles of Kanab!  And the coolest place to visit is in the same area.  We plan to go there tomorrow so stay tuned!

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The Toadstools and Lick Wash

Kanab, UT

A few years ago  Linday, a blog follower from England, wrote and said she and husband Neil would be visiting the U.S. and would be traveling through the same town as us.  We took advantage of that opportunity to meet (interestingly it was at Lake Mead).  Since then we have crossed paths a number of times as they visit the U.S. often.  They recently arrived in Los Angeles, rented a vehicle, and set out on a month trip across the west, mostly through southern Utah.  When we found they would be driving through Kanab on their way to Page, AZ, we arranged to meet for a short hike at the Toadstool Hoodoos, about 40 miles east of Kanab on US 89 on the route to Page.

Neil and John head toward the hoodoos

From a parking area on the north side of the highway it is a short walk to the area with the hoodoos.

Lindsay and Neil

Sego Lilies – the state flower of Utah

After a brief but pleasant visit, Lindsay and Neil continued east to Page, while we headed west back to Kanab.  We know we will meet them again in future travels.

The next day we drove nine miles east on US-89 and turned north on to Johnson Canyon Road headed for Lick Wash Slot Canyon.   After 16 miles the pavement ends and Johnson Canyon Road turns to dirt.  At that point we turned right (east) on to Skutumpah Road, a maintained dirt road.

We continued on Skutumpah for 14.8 miles and turned right just past a “Flood Area” sign.  The side road ends at the trailhead, less than a mile from the main road.

A road guard keeps an eye (actually two) on traffic

Lick Wash Slot Canyon trailhead

Lick Wash goes for about four miles to where it empties into Park Wash (when they have water).  We went a bit over two miles through a series of slots to where the canyon opens up before turning around and hiking back to the trailhead.

The slot areas we went through were quite beautiful.

Driving back on Skutumpah Road we had to contend with guards blocking our path.  After some heated negotiations with the leader, we were allowed to continue.

Next up for us here in Kanab is a visit to some Indian artwork.  More on that later . . .

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Blog Vacation Ends – Back on the Road

Kanab, UT

Well, it has been a while since our last blog.  Oh wait, we just checked and it has been over seven months!  So why the lengthy break?  It would appear to be caused by (1) an extended period of living in our home in Boulder City without much travel, and (2) a combination of blogging fatigue and laziness.  Our main reason for maintaining this blog since going full-time in 2010 has been to document interesting locations and experiences we encounter in our travels.  Since our last blog from Colorado we returned to Nevada and have spent most of the time there, enjoying visits from family and friends and exploring  the area around Lake Mead.  Many of the hikes we have done there are repeats that we have included in blogs from previous visits so we didn’t want to repeat ourselves.

We did take the motorhome to Borrego Springs, CA for the month of January for some time on the golf course and spending time with friends Dave and Sue (Beluga’s Excellent Adventures).  But since we have blogged about that area numerous times during previous visits, we didn’t really have anything new to add (combined with that phenomenon called laziness).

Our plan was to hit the road again in early March, taking advantage of Spring weather and pre-vacation crowds.  But Pam’s mother, who lives in northern New York, decided to sell her house and move into an apartment.  She is getting up there in age (although still healthy and active) and needed our help for the move.  So we recently flew east (on an airplane) to Baltimore, rented a pick-up, and headed north.  After an overnight in York, PA to visit our daughter, Jessica, we drove to the St. Lawrence River town of Clayton.  It took a few days but before we left Fran was comfortably set up in her new apartment.

So now we’re back in the west and off on a new adventure.  Tentative plans are to go north into Montana with a goal of visiting the capitol city of Helena, before circling back to the south.  With stops along the way in both directions, we will travel for about six weeks before returning to Boulder City.

Right now we are at our first stop in Kanab, UT, a small town just north of the state line with Arizona on the west side of Utah.  We stayed here years ago on a whirlwind motorcycle trip but didn’t get a chance to explore the back roads and hiking trails.

Our first adventure was a visit to the Grosvenor Arch, a unique sandstone double arch located in the western portion of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  The arch is along Cottonwood Canyon Road, a 48 mile dirt road that runs between UT-12 near Kodachrome State Park in the north, and US-89 in the south.  The road is sometimes a bit narrow and can become impassible during bad weather.  We have attempted to visit this arch twice on previous visits to the area.  Our first attempt, from the north, was stopped by heavy rains which made the road a muddy mess.  A few years later we were staying in Page, AZ near Lake Powell and tried a visit from the south but the road was closed due to winter damage.  Sue and Dave visited the area about a month ago and reported that the road had been recently graded and was in good shape.  We didn’t want to miss this opportunity, so we headed there on our first day in Kanab.

To get to the arch we drove about 45 miles east on US-89.  The only danger on that road is the chance of getting run over by the numerous tour buses traveling between Kanab and Page.  While the road is fairly straight and paved, getting passed by a 45 foot bus while you are going 70 is a bit disconcerting.  While slowing to make the turn on to Cottonwood Canyon Road we had a close encounter with a bus whose driver was apparently unable to see our left turn signal.

Turning to the north on Cottonwood Canyon Road we settled in to enjoy the beautiful scenery on the 30 mile trip (18 miles if you come in from the north).  The photos below show just a hint of the beauty along the drive.

We arrived at the arch to find a small parking area with three other cars.  The site is well maintained and has an outhouse restroom and cement picnic tables.  There is a concrete sidewalk that goes almost to the base of the arch.  The first thing we did was to sit at one of the tables and enjoy a “lunch with a view.”

Grosvenor Arch is actually two sandstone arches towering 150 feet above the ground.  Originally called Butler Arch, it was re-named  by a National Geographic Expedition after Gilbert Grosvenor, an early president of the National Geographic Society and the first full time editor of National Geographic Magazine.

Two young newlyweds photo bombed a great photo of the arches!

A short hike around the back of the rock formation reveals a double window in one of the peaks above the arch.

The desert is still in bloom, with some Claret Cup and Evening Primrose near the arch.

About five miles south of the arch is the trailhead for Cottonwood Narrows.  There are actually two trailheads about a mile apart.  You can make this a loop hike by hiking the canyon and returning on the road.  We parked at the lower trailhead and hiked up the canyon.  But instead of returning on the road we hiked back down the canyon, as the views in the opposite direction are always so different (and more interesting than the road).  The hike through the canyon is designated as moderate, but if you start where we did, there is a bit of rock scrambling before things level out.  It is suppose to be a mile and a half one way, but we found it to be a bit more than two miles.

A bit of scrambling to start the hike . . .

. . . but things quickly smooth out

Returning to the Jeep we continued down the road for another ten miles (14.5 miles from US-89) to the Lower Hackberry Trailhead.

Parking for the Lower Hackberry Trailhead

This moderately hike is one of the more scenic and popular canyon routes in the area.  The trail really just follows a stream bed through a cool canyon.  Backpackers follow the stream for many miles into the wilderness for overnight adventures.  We just went about a mile up the canyon to enjoy the water and soaring cliffs.

The trailhead

In the early spring you spend most of the hike walking in the ankle deep stream.  The water has receded enough now for us to just need to wade in some shallow water as we made our way up the canyon.

After a long day of driving and hiking, we enjoyed a nice meal at on of the local restaurants.  We’ll be here for a week and have a number of adventures planned.

More on those later . . .

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