After visiting Bryce Canyon last April, it was our intention to visit the Willis Slot Canyon in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument area; however, the safety guidelines say to stay out of the slot canyons when rain is threatening. Water levels in the narrow slot canyons can rise rapidly even from rain far away, leaving you with no way to escape the deep water and debris. Additionally, many of the dirt roads that go out to the remote areas are made of clay, and become impassable even with a 4-wheel drive in wet weather. With the morning skies darkening, we followed our instincts to make other plans, even in the face of disappointment.
Just down the road from Cannonville, UT is Kodachrome Basin State Park. It wasn’t on our vacation agenda, and I had only skimmed the park’s details when researching our vacation. It certainly doesn’t get the attention that all the National Parks get. It was near where we had been planning to go, and the road out to the park was paved. We decided to go check it out.
There is a BLM operated visitor center in Cannonville, and it’s advertised as being open 7 days a week during the Spring and Summer months. We stopped to check it out, but the parking lot was empty, and everything was closed. In fact, the overgrown landscaping made it look like it hadn’t been open in a while. Many of the towns we passed through had this look. So if you’re counting on purchasing maps, guide books, or other supplies at specific places, you may be out of luck. It’s best to get stuff when you see it available.
Luckily we found human activity down at the State Park. We paid our entrance fee and talked to the person working the booth. From the State Parks Website:
Sixty-seven monolithic stone spires called sedimentary pipes accentuate multi-hued sandstone layers revealing 180 million years of geologic time. The color and beauty found here prompted a 1948 National Geographic Society expedition to name the area Kodachrome after the popular color film.
Compared with Zion and Bryce Canyon, this park felt deserted. It was a nice change of pace from the throngs of people at the more popular parks, and was very relaxing. We parked at a trailhead, and picked a short hike that wouldn’t get us too far away from the car if it started raining.
Shortly after entering the park, we found a parking area with a few trailheads. We picked The Grand Parade Trail, an easy, one mile scenic trail that follows along the park road. It sounded like the perfect choice for the day’s weather.
Along the Grand Parade Trail, there were optional side trails into box canyons we encountered along the way. The weather was holding steady, only sprinkling at times, and allowed us to stray further away from trail. Exploring the washes up the box canyons was fun, and led us into some very scenic areas.
With the giant, swirly, deep brownish red rocks all around us it was hard not to imagine walking around a land of chocolate fudge. You couldn’t help but feel the sandstone periodically just to make sure. We all spread out and wandered around, investigating whatever caught our eyes.
After finishing our trail, we decided to explore the campground. The campground was well maintained, quiet, and close to fun places to explore. The park also has a store, and there are cabins to rent. Had we not been planning to head to Escalante that evening, we may have stayed.
We had planned to hit the road, but a nature trail near the group area caught our attention. The nature trail was a fun little interpretive loop around interesting rock formations and some of the local plants and trees. We also played on a big mound of slickrock that was just begging to be climbed before we left the park.
Mountain biking is also allowed on many of the trails in the park, and would probably be a decent way to see some of the longer trails. We saw a couple of mountain bikers finishing a ride, and we saw plenty of tire tracks out on the trails. You’d definitely want to be careful in the silty clay though if it started to rain. The trails would turn to gumbo, and you’d be dragging your bike back to the trailhead.
Kodachrome Basin State Park is definitely worth visiting. It’s remote, quiet, and a nice break from the crowds of the nearby National Parks. There is plenty to do and see without a lot of walking, making it a great place for kids. Longer trails are available in the park for the more adventurous. I’m looking forward to another visit to see the stuff we missed!
Utah State Parks Page: http://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/kodachrome
More photos from this trip on Flickr HERE.