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Utah Backcountry – Cottonwood Canyon Highway • PhotoTraces


We began our exploration of Utah’s backcountry with low-hanging fruit—the Cottonwood Canyon Highway. This unpaved highway connects US 89 on the south finish with Utah’s Scene Byway 12 on the north finish. The highway runs previous Kodachrome State Park the place we camped, which is why it made sense to begin our journey with Cottonwood Canyon Highway.

The Grand Staircase-Escalante Nationwide Monument is an unlimited, mountainous space in Southern Utah with US 89 operating alongside the border of the nationwide monument and US 12 operating alongside the northern border. If you might want to get from Lake Powel to the Escalante space, for instance, it’s a must to take an enormous 300-mile detour and drive across the complete Grand Staircase-Escalante Nationwide Monument. Cottonwood Canyon Highway is a 46-mile shortcut that runs by the mountains.

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The highway is in comparatively good situation and I don’t imagine {that a} 4×4 automotive is completely obligatory. In some areas, although, the highway is fairly steep and tough. And, like with most grime roads in Utah, it turns into impassable in rain.

It’s a good observe to at all times cease by any Bureau of Land Administration Workplace to seek out out if the highway is open and inquire about its situations. The workplace can present very important info like if a flash flood precipitated a landslide within the space.

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Essentially the most scenic a part of the drive

We drove Cottonwood Canyon Highway twice—as soon as from north to south after which from south to north. I didn’t see any benefit of driving a method over one other.

Associated: Gude to Bryce Canion Nationwide Park

The northern a part of the highway is extra mountainous and scenic. Whenever you strategy the final leg of the drive when driving from south to north, there’s a spot on high of the mountain crossing the place you may cease and revel in an unobstructed view of Bryce Canyon on the left facet and the Kodachrome Basin on the proper. It’s merely breathtaking.

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You’ll be able to see the Bryce Canyon within the Background
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The southern a part of the drive is flatter with nearly no vegetation. All you see are badlands and desert. It is vitally totally different, however it’s nonetheless spectacular in its personal approach.

Associated: Valley of the Gods Dust Highway Drive

It was the second half of September, which remains to be a busy vacationer season in Utah. However I used to be stunned by how few automobiles we encountered alongside our drive—5 to 6 at most for each drives mixed.  

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Utah Backcountry - Cottonwood Canyon Road 6
In some locations the Cottonwood Canyon Highway will be tough

Grosvenor Arch

When you should not have time to discover totally different areas alongside Cottonwood Canyon Highway, the one cease you have to make is on the Grosvenor Arch. It’s situated just one km from the principle highway and is accessible by automotive.

Associated: Exploring Monument Valley Scenic Drive

The Grosvenor Arch is essentially the most spectacular rock formation alongside the drive with two pure arches crowning the highest of the tall ridge.

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Grosvenor Arch
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Grosvenor Arch

Cottonwood Wash Narrows

If in case you have a few hours to spare, take a straightforward three-mile hike alongside the underside of the slender canyon. Like I mentioned, it’s a straightforward, uncomplicated hike with its solely problem being the doorway on the south finish. The doorway is roofed in enormous rocks from a landslide, however the climbing is simple.

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Mountaineering the Cottonwood Wash Narrows

Last Phrases

All in all, Cottonwood Canyon Highway is the simplest strategy to begin exploring Utah’s backcountry. It’s the excellent drive for sightseeing and pictures, however it additionally serves as a shortcut to Bryce Canyon Nationwide Park and Home Rock Highway in Escalante.

2019 Replace – Misadventure on Cottonwood Highway

In August 2019, we went on one other driving journey to Utah. We spent two weeks driving a Jeep Wrangler alongside Utah’s backcountry roads to achieve essentially the most distant and secluded areas of the southwest. 

Exploring Cottonwood Canyon Highway was not in our plans, however we used it usually as a shortcut to get from the Vermilion Cliffs and Lake Powell to the Escalante space. 

Sooner or later, after spending three days driving the final word off-road vacation spot to the White Rim Path in Canyonlands Nationwide Park, we have been lastly on our strategy to Kodachrome. On the finish of the 500km drive, we have been wanting to get to the campground earlier than dusk, so we took the Cottonwood Canyon highway shortcut. 

August in Utah is monsoon season. You get sudden, brief, and extreme rainfall nearly daily. Simply earlier than finishing the Cottonwood grime highway part of the drive, we bumped into rain. The clay highway instantly grew to become impassible and we nearly crashed the Jeep as we drove down the steep hill. 

Associated: Organizing New Zealand South Island Picture Journey

I fully misplaced management of the SUV and anticipated an unavoidable crash. However on the final second, the Jeep straightened itself. I assume the traction management kicked in since we slid slowly to the underside of the hill. 

Right here is how the Jeep regarded. A layer of moist clay coated all of the tires, which left the tires with zero traction. I understood firsthand why clay roads in Utah develop into impassable when moist. It doesn’t matter what automobile you drive or if in case you have chains or spikes. 

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We clay on the Cottonwood Canyon Highway

We couldn’t drive in any respect. The one choice we had was to arrange camp on the facet of the highway and wait till the highway dried up. 

Fortunately, we had all our tenting gear, meals, and water with us. 

The next morning, the highway was nonetheless moist and sticky. Driving was not an choice, so we spent your entire day mountain climbing and accomplished the Cottonwood Wash Narrows hike once more. It wasn’t till the early night when the day’s warmth dried up the clay that we may full the final 10km of grime highway. 

Now I do know that clay and water don’t go properly collectively relating to driving. 

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