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Cottonwood Narrows

This scenic hike travels through a narrow section of Cottonwood Canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. At times, the canyon is narrow enough to touch both walls. This easy hike is suitable for most healthy adults and children. Kids will particularly enjoy this hike with plenty of colorful rocks and fun little obstacles to keep them entertained.

Trailhead

The Cottonwood Narrows hike begins on the Cottonwood Canyon road south of Cannonville, Utah. The Cottonwood Canyon Road is usually passable to passenger cars but be sure to check with the Grand Staircase-Escalante Visitor Center for current conditions, as the road occasionally requires 4WD. The GSENM Visitor Center is located at 10 Center Street in Cannonville, or can be reached by calling (435) 826-5640.

From Cannonville, Utah:

  1. From Highway 12 in Cannonville, turn south onto Main Street/Cottonwood Canyon Road.
  2. Continue south for approximately 20.4 miles to the upper trailhead and parking area on the left side of the road (37.40203,-111.847289).

Although the trailhead is not marked, generic ‘Trail’ signs across the road do indicate the start of the route into the canyon. The trailhead is located at the bottom of a hill amongst very colorful red and white rocks. If you have two vehicles available, you can shorten the hike by dropping off a car at the lower trailhead, one mile farther down the road (37.389029,-111.849378).

The Hike

From the upper parking area, begin hiking on the west side of the road where a marked trail leads to the canyon floor. Once in the wash bottom, turn left and hike down canyon. The walls quickly narrow as the canyon winds through beautiful walls of Navajo Sandstone.

Work your way down canyon, enjoying the sights along the way. There is a short side canyon in the lower end of the Cottonwood Narrows that can be a nice diversion if you have the time (37.39244,-111.853438). The canyon has nearly pure white sand and ends at a large dryfall about 200 yards from the main trail. Watch for the junction on the right after the canyon opens up, about 1.3 miles from the upper parking area.

Near the end of the hike, a large rock fall area blocks easy passage in the watercourse but is easily bypassed by scrambling through the boulders on a worn trail. About 250 yards beyond the rock fall, the canyon opens up and a short trail leads to the lower parking area on the left.

From the lower parking area, walk 1 mile north on the Cottonwood Canyon Road to return to your vehicle. Hiking distance through the canyon from the upper parking area to lower parking area is approximately 1.6 miles. Total hiking distance for the full loop is approximately 2.6 miles.

Rules and Regulations

  • No littering.
  • Pack out all trash, including toilet paper.
  • No campfires are allowed.
  • Permits are required for overnight use and are available for free at the visitor center in Escalante. Permits can also be self-issued at most trailhead registers, including the register at the Egypt Trailhead.

Special Considerations

  • The Cottonwood Canyon Road has a clay base and can quickly become impassable when wet, even for 4WD vehicles. If precipitation is forecasted, it is best to avoid the area entirely.
  • Flash flood risk is high in the Cottonwood Canyon and the surrounding drainage. Do not enter the canyon when significant precipitation is expected anywhere in the drainage area. Even under blue skies, a distant storm can send water surging down to your location. If a flood strikes, seek high ground and wait until the water recedes to a safe level.

Credits

This trail guide provided by Backcountry Post.