Cottonwood Road Utah


Where? : Cottonwood Road (#400) is a scenic 40-mile dirt road in Kane County, Utah. The north-south direction road connects U.S. Route 89 to South Kodachrome Road (near the town of Cannonville on hwy 12) at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Google Map Link

What? : This well maintained all-vehicle dirt road (when it is not wet) that cut through Grand Staircase-Escalante and pass along the major Cockscomb mountain fold in this harsh remote desert land.

There are few attractions to visit along the road and it is interesting way to cross from hwy 89 to hwy 12 north or south. You can drive it in 3 hr without a stop but plan for a day trip stopping at some of the nice canyon and arches attractions along the way.


When? : All year, when it dry it is good condition to all-vehicles, not recommended when it is wet or after heavy rain.


Due note 1: The road is well maintained and without many bumps but after rain it become muddy and not doable in some places, so it is not recommended to do this drive when it is not dry (consult at BLM Kanab offices).


Due note 2: Bring enough fuel and water for the ride.


Due note 3: Highly recommend camping for the night (before or after the ride) at Kodachrome State Park.


My thoughts: Instead of taking the long main road loop from Kanab to Bryce this is another option to combine day drive + some nice hikes at canyons. If you are going north bound it is highly recommend spending the night at Kodachrome State Park just at the end of the road trail.


The visit:

I will describe the road as I did it south to north (hwy 89 to hwy 12).

If you are “just” driving and enjoying the amazing desert landscape the road will take you 2-3 hr’s depending on your speed (how comfortable is your vehicles at dirt roads) and stops. This is relatively popular cross-country route through Grand Staircase-Escalante so you will not be the only one traveling there but overall it is not so crowded.

If you are using google map is good enough for this road navigation and directions (mainly one road with no option to make navigation mistakes).

The ride:

Drive 32 miles east on US-89 from Kanab, then turn left (north) onto Cottonwood Road at a signpost between mile markers 17 and 18 (coming from Page you need to turn right).

The first 6.4 miles will take you through the high ridge base and then you will get into the Paria River valley.

Paria River is unique by it has running water year round and it create a nice green stretch of cottonwood in the desert landscape. The road is on the east side of the river and after 11.85 miles (from hwy 89) you will reach the Paria Box Trail Head on your left.


Paria Box Trail:

This is a nice 3 miles in and out hike (1.5 miles in each direction) along the Paria river to the place it crosses the rocky ridge. Because the river has water (all year) you will need to cross the running cold water many times in your hike. The first mile is in the open riverbed and then it gets into the mountain section where it is narrower but not real canyon. I walk for almost 2 miles and turn around back to the car.

Warning: be aware of rain condition upstream and flashfloods, although here the river is wide still need to be careful.

Overall this is nice hike, but I must admit it is not highly recommended must do hike.


After getting back to the car keep driving north and after 2.3 miles (14.5 miles from hwy 89) you will reach Lower Hackberry Canyon parking lot on your left.


Lower Hackberry Canyon:

This is nice and recommended hike to do. In many places I saw it has some running water at winter or spring, when I visited (end of Oct. 2020, end of a long summer) all was dry.

This is a great 3-4 miles hike (2 miles in and out) that get into Lower and most scenic of Hackberry Canyon. From the Trail Head go west down a small sandy trail to the streambed, follow the streambed north (right) and it will begin to curve around to the west after about a quarter of a mile and will get you into the canyon.

Most of the trail is in deep riverbed send so the walk is slower than usual. Once you are in the narrow canyon the rocky walls on both sides are going up 60-100 feet apart (this is not slot canyon). There are many cottonwood trees in the canyon and overall this is a nice hike.

After a ~1.5 mile you can see a nice standing rock pillar in the cliffs just above the canyon walls.

Overall, I went into the canyon for about 1 hr (~2 miles), the trail keeps going but I tough this was the interesting part, so I turned around and hiked back to my car.

Plan for 2-3 hr hike with stops, bring enough water with you.


After getting back to your car keep driving north on Cottonwood Road (#400) and after 10 more miles (24.6 miles from hwy 89) you will reach Cottonwood Narrow South Trail Head.


Cottonwood Narrow:

This is a nice, recommended 2 miles hike in the narrow canyon section of the cottonwood river paving it way at the mountain ridge.

You can enter the canyon from both sides TH (south or north) and because this is in-and-out hike (assume you do not want to walk the sun exposed road to go back to your car) it is not so much important which direction you will do the trail.

This is simple easy hike in a nice canyon, the south section is more wide, sandy with vegetation on the side and white color rocks. The north section of the hike it is paving it way through red rock Navajo sandstone formation and get narrower in the north section.

You can get additional ¼ mile hike if you keep going up the canyon when you have the north exit.

Another nice short side hike is after ¼ mile from the south TH turn left into white canyon and after few hundred feet you will reach dead-end nice high waterfall.

Go back to your car and from the south TH drive another 5 miles (29.5 miles from hwy 89) and you will reach Four Mile Bench road going to the right. Turn right and 1.3-mile drive will take you to Grosvenor Arch parking.


Governor Arch:

Very short paved trail will take you to the footstep of Grosvenor Arch, combine two sandstone arches towering 150 ft above the ground. You can walk right up under the arches and look up into the sky.

Overall very nice impressive arch that you shouldn’t miss if you are already in this section of the Grand Staircase Escalante.


After the arch visit head back to the main road turn right (north) and keep going on the main road that will take you to the west, after 9 miles from the junction you will connect to the paved road, just at the entrance for the nice Kodachrome State Park.



Excellent off-road drive, highly recommended experience in the Grand Staircase Escalante desert.

This can be 3 hr drive-through if you are not doing any trail or one day exploration.



The road:


Hackberry Canyon


Cottonwood Narrow:


Grosvenor Arch: