After leaving Horseshoe Bend, I grabbed some supplies in Page and continued northwest on Highway 89. Crossing over Glen Canyon Dam, I couldn’t help but look over the river (west) side where the Colorado River flows free. Yes, Lake Powell is beautiful, but I can’t help but wonder what Glen Canyon looked like before the dam inundated it. All those side canyons, all those archaeological sites, all those springs and seeps—ah well, time to drive on. I had to find a campsite tonight.
About 26 miles from Page, one of my favorite dirt roads dissects a series of geologic strike valleys in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and heads north towards Cannonville, Utah. Cottonwood Canyon Road, a scenic back-way, is 46 miles long, washboard and rough, but usually passable even to passenger cars during the dry season. (Of course, it’s always a wise idea to check BEFORE you embark. There is no cell phone coverage out there!)
I wanted to camp before an area the local ranchers call “Candyland” so that I could get to it first thing the following morning. It’s a gorgeous colorful section of rock formations that amazes me every time I see it. It’s also the jumping off spot for a hike called the Cottonwood Canyon Narrows, a 3-mile round trip through narrow slot canyons. When I did the hike, it was still quite primitive, but I noticed this last time through that there were brand new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) trailhead signs and a parking area, so things may be more developed now and easier to follow.
I found a great campsite for my first night along the dry wash, but it seemed there were ants everywhere I looked. Since I brought my hammock along on the trip, I decided to set it up for sleeping. I have to say first how much I love my hammock! It is a Byer of Maine Easy Traveler Hammock, not a cheap thing. It’s wide enough to allow for your sleeping pad and bag and not fall out. And Byer provides instructions on “how to” lay in a hammock which really does make a difference. The only thing I do not like about their hammocks is that they are so brightly colored! I don’t want the entire world to see me when I am out there. Oh well…I slept great anyway. (I have since purchased a Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock in nice outdoor colors but haven’t had a chance to use it yet. But they get GREAT reviews.)
I awoke to a lovely morning with a great view! What a way to start the day. I packed up and headed to Candyland. This area is part of is what is known as the Cockscomb. You don’t have to imagine geology here; it is bared before your eyes! What were once horizontal layers of colorful sedimentary rock are now bent, broken and tilted upward–very dramatic! I always stop here and drink in the view.
After eating breakfast and spending time enjoying the view, I continued along the Cottonwood Canyon Road. I took my time and enjoyed the views. My destination this morning was the Cannonville Visitor Center which is run by the BLM. My trip was still open as to the next leg of my journey. At this point my goal was to stay off the highways and to avoid the Salt Lake City area. I was going to see if they had any suggestions for scenic drives; dirt roads would be fine. I wasn’t in a hurry.
Here are some useful links to help you learn more and help you plan a trip to the area:
- BLM’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument website
- Cannonville Local Weather Forecast
- Cottonwood Canyon Road Scenic Backway
- The American Southwest’s page on Cottonwood Canyon Road
Next, I’ll continue on to Hwy 12 through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through the towns of Escalante and Boulder, Utah.