Travelreports,  USA 2018 (EN)

On the road in the Grand Staircase – Day 9 – 22.09.2018

Today’s destination was Escalante, a small town in the midst of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument – or in short: GSENM. The whole region from Zion to the Grand Canyon in the south and up to Capitol Reef in the east is called “Grand Staircase”. So we’ve already been in the Grand Staircase for a couple of days and just continued further.

On this day we planned for several destinations with shorter hikes: We started on the Skutumpah Road (BLM500) to Willi Creek and Bull Vally Gorge. Afterwards we followed the Cottonwood Canyon Road for a couple of miles to the Grosvenor Arch and ended the day in the Kodachrome Basin State Park.

Skutumpah Road

It’s about 15 miles from Bryce Canyon to the small town Cannonville. This is the start of the Cottonwood Canyon Road (CCR), which leads through the Grand Staircase to Kanab. It’s actually the shortest route from here to the Lake Powell Area with Page, Az. The CCR is, just like the diverging Skutumpah Road, a dirt road, which you shouldn’t drive after it rains. During Autumn the chances for rain are quite low, normally it doesn’t rain during the summer or in eary autumn.

Our first hike took us to the Willis Creek via Skutumpah Road. Once you’re on this dirt road, there’s a sign welcoming you to the National Monument.

Welcome to the Grand Staircase

It’s about 6 miles from the sign to the Trailhead, it’s all dirt. The Skutumpah Road leads through a diverse landscape, crossing some dips with a little bit of water. Which isn’t a problem during this time of year.

The Skutumpah Road
Willis Creek Trailhead

The Willis Creek itself isn’t much of a river, nothing more than a small creek. The hike itself follows the creek through a couple of smaller Slotcanyons. But don’t underestimate the Willis Creek, if it rains in the right area, the creek can become a large stream, this stream shaped the canyons.

Willis Creek leads through a Slotcanyon

The hike itself is quite easy and is only about 5 miles. The Creek flows through several different Sltocanyons and it’s a lot of fun to hike this route.

Instead of 5 miles, we hiked in total about 7 Miles. To be honest, it doesn’t make much sense to continue after 2.5 miles, there aren’t any more Slotcanyons coming after this mark. You’ll just be hiking through the wide riverbed of the creek. You’ll have to turn around either way. All in all, it’s a nice short hike, a good hike to start the day.

Next stop was Bull Valley Gorge, another Canyon in the Grand Staircase. This one is just about 2 miles from Willis Creek and you’ll reach it quite fast.

Bull Valley Gorge Trailhead

We started into the wrong direction and just hiked a bit along the rim, we also didn’t find a way down into the gorge. On our way back we met other hikers, who told us that there’s probably a way down on the other side of the road. Although we still would have had some time, we didn’t hike down into the gorge fand decided to drive back, there were still a couple of other things to do today.

As you can see, you can also have great views into the Gorge from the Rim.

Grosvenor Arch

Our next stop was supposed to be the Kodachrome Basin State Park. But I took another look at the map (and the travel guide) and decided to continue a bit on the Cottonwood Canyon Road, to the Grosvenor Arch. I thought, I hadn’t seen it in 2017, when I drove the full CCR from Kanab to Escalante.

Don’t drive here when it’s muddy
Cottonwood Canyon Road

It’s about 23 miles from Bull Valley Gorge to the Grosvenor Arch Trailhead, most of it once again Dirt Road. The only paved part of the CCR is from Cannonville to Kodachrome Basin SP. If you want to drive here, make sure to know the weather forecast and take at least a SUV. Even if you only want to drive to the Grosvenor Arch.

We already saw the Arch when we arrived at the Trailhead and from there it’s only a couple of meters until you reach the arch. But when we arrived, I realized, that I had seen the Arch already the previous year. Nevertheless, we did this small hike.

Grosvenor Arch
Grosvenor Arch (2)

There isn’t much more to do than walk towards the Arch and maybe walk a bit around. After a couple of minutes we drove back to Kodachrome Basin Sate Park. From the Cottonwood Canyon Road you could see the smoke from the Riggs Fire in Bryce Canyon.

Smoke from the Riggs Fire in Bryce Canyon

Kodachrome Basin State Park

The road to Kodachrome Basin State Park diverges from the CCR after a couple of miles from Cannonville. I already wanted to see this Park back in 2017, but I didn’t have the time to do it. This was supposed to change this time.

The Kodachrome Basin State Park is managed by the State Utah, therefore it’s not a part of the GSENM, although it lies directly next to the National Monument. Therefore the entrance to the park is not part of the America the Beautiful Pass, you have to pay a fee of about $15. But these dollars are a good investment.

In the park we drove to Chimney Rock first. Chimney Rock is a needle which is more or less standing alone in the landscape. You also have a great view into the Cottonwood Valley from here.

Chimney Rock: Lonely…
… but not alone.
View into the Cottonwood Valley

Just driving through a park isn’t much fun, so we still wanted to do at least one small hike and drove to the Basin Campground. This is where the Angel’s Palace Trail starts, a short 1.5 mile long route. It’s a bit above the Basin floor and offers some great views into the Kodachrome Basin.

There wasn’t much time left for us here, when we finished this Trail. It was already after 6 pm and the sun was about to set. We did hope to find a scenic view for sunset along the Highway 12, but we didn’t find anything suitable and so we drove directly to Escalante.

In Escalante we had booked a small cabin, did shower and went for dinner to the Circle D Eatery where we had a Burger to finish the day.

All together, it’s been another awesome day, but for the Kodachrome Basin SP and for Bull Valley Gorge you’ll need more time. In the State Park are a couple of Campgrounds which just need to be reserved in time. For my next visit in the Grand Staircase there are two things I’ll do: Visit once again Bull Valley Gorge and the Kodachrome Basin State Park.

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