Sand in Our Shoes: Hiking the Escalante, Day 2

Grosvenor Arch

Day: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I got up early and drove up the hill to Bryce Lodge to pick up sack lunches we had ordered the night before. It was 28 degrees on top of Bryce, much colder than in the temperate valley below where we spent the night. When I returned to our room, I woke the crew so we could begin our day.

After a leisurely breakfast, we drove east to Cannonville to begin our activity of the day. While in Cannonville, I purchased a couple of gallons of water as emergency reserve to leave in the car. I re-fueled the tank and stopped at the BLM Visitor Center to get the latest info on road conditions. Despite the info on the BLM website that says it’s open 7 days a week from mid-March to mid-November, we found the Visitor’s Center locked with a note on the door saying it’s closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Oh well. Fortunately there was a bulletin board outside with current weather and road condition information.

It’s vital that you take the time to learn the status of the roads you intend to travel and you are aware of the weather forecast in the area. People can and do die in slot canyons from flash floods and on dirt roads because they become trapped and they die of exposure before someone else happens upon you. So this may be a good point to digress a bit and discuss some preparedness issues. I make no representations that this list is complete, but it may serve you as a guide or food for thought if you are contemplating a similar excursion. For all of our day hikes, we had:

  • A 4 wheel drive SUV, full of gas, tires checked and 2 gallons of water in reserve in the vehicle. Why the water? Well, what if you’ve been hiking out in the heat all day and you get back to your car, thirsty because you’ve sucked down all the water you’ve been carrying on your hike, and find it’s now dusk and you’ve got a flat tire or the car won’t start for whatever reason. Now you’re alone, 20+ miles away from the nearest town and without water. Not good. Wait, why not just call 911 on your cell phone? Not a bad idea, except for the fact that there’s no wireless service in most remote areas. On second thought, maybe we should have had 5 gallons with us…
  • The latest info on the road conditions and weather
  • Each hiker had a day pack, with a 3 liter Water Bag and a 1 liter Nalgene.
  • Rain Jackets, 1 per
  • Extra Clothing for each (lightweight 3/4 zip fleece, long sleeve polypro shirts, and bottom half of zip-off pants)
  • Emergency Blanket (can also serve as an emergency tarp)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Knife
  • Compass
  • Emergency whistle
  • Detailed map of area
  • Sunglasses & sunscreen
  • Wide brimmed hat, for all
  • Fire starter, flint, matches & Bic Lighter
  • Food for hike
  • Extra food
  • 1 pair of trekking poles, mostly to deal with potential injuries and transport
  • Duct Tape, taped to each trekking pole
  • 1 bandanna, worn by me

Much of this list is captured in the 10 essentials. Additionally, we each wore:

  • a lightweight, short-sleeved, polypro t-shirt
  • zip-off convertible hiking pants.
  • 3/4 length hiking socks and sock liners
  • Solomon trail runners

Much of this gear is detailed on our Boy Scout Troop’s website.

Anyway, on with our day.

From town, we drove down Cottonwood Canyon Road to the Round Valley Draw trailhead. From the trailhead, it’s a 20 minute walk down the sandy wash to the point where the canyon begins.

Daniel at beginning of Round Valley Draw Slot

Based on the description in the link above, it seemed like a fairly easy family excursion. We quickly learned that the “3-stage, 15 foot drop” a few feet into the canyon offered no clear way down. To us, it seemed just wide enough to paw at frantically as you plummet the entire 15 foot length. So the plan to hike through the canyon starting at this point and exiting to the right and climbing up over the side plateau back to the starting point was quickly abandoned. Instead, we decided to try to hike up and around the canyon to the planned exit point, then up through the canyon a bit and return up and around the way we came in. This would potentially double the length of the entire hike and the alloted 3 hours.

Coming down the slot

a quick drop

Hiking up to the plateau.

The hike up to the plateau was steep and sandy, and at mid-day, pretty hot.

Once up there, we had great views west to Bryce and Powell Point. We hiked along the top of the plateau along a footpath that ultimately degraded into random cow paths. Consulting our map, it was clear that if we continued our trek cross-country we would eventually walk into a jeep trail that would lead to the beginning of the drainage that would take us down to the back end of the canyon. However, we were burning time and the effort to find the jeep trail, hike down canyon, explore the slot and then return back up and over the plateau was more than we signed up for as an initial “easy” hike. The views were nice, but the view to effort ratio dictated we quit and return back to the car. As it stood, we had invested about 3 hours into the experience. So the first slot canyon experience was a bust. No matter. These things happen when you trudge off the beaten path and set out to explore remote areas.

Up top


Walking back down

Grosvenor Arch

Back at the car, we drove back to Cottonwood Canyon Road and continued south to visit Grosvenor Arch, were we took some more pictures and ate our lunch.

After lunch, we continued south to Cottonwood Wash Narrows. which begins at a well marked trailhead 22 miles south of Cannonville. It’s a very pretty canyon, which slots quickly if you hike to the right and opens more broadly, with towering walls, when you hike to the left. We hiked in both directions and had a great time.

When we finished hiking in the Cottonwood Wash, we drove back up the road to Cannonville, then on east to Escalante, which would serve as our base camp for the remainder of our trip.

Cottonwood Wash Narrows

Daniel at entrance to wash


Here’s a view to the East of the Coxcomb formation, along Cottonwood Canyon Road, heading back to Cannonville.

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