Julie United States 27 Comments

Cottonwood Canyon Road is a scenic, unpaved road that travels through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It connects the town of Cannonville with Highway 89, just west of Big Water.

Tim and I drove this road during our road trip through Arizona and Utah. Since we were traveling from Page, Arizona up to Escalante, Utah, Cottonwood Canyon Road was the perfect shortcut through Grand Staircase-Escalante. It was a great decision, as this route saved us the time of driving much longer distances on the highways and we got to see a beautiful part of Utah.

Quick Facts

Distance: 46 miles one way

Road Conditions: Most of the road is a dirt and gravel surface. For nine miles, from Cannonville to Kodachrome Basin State Park, the road is paved.

Endpoints: Cottonwood Canyon Road starts (or ends, depending on the direction you are traveling) in Cannonville. It ends at Highway 89 just west of Big Water (GPS coordinates: 37.104983, -111.846877).

When to go: Year round, although the road can be impassable after it rains, even in a 4×4.

Length of Time for the drive: Roughly 2 hours, but this depends on how often you stop to take photos or enjoy the views.

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (points of interest and the driving route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

Our Experience

We drove Cottonwood Canyon Road from south to north. Our journey took just under two hours and we did stop frequently for photos and for a visit at Grosvenor Arch.

During our drive, there were very few other cars on the road. It is a beautiful drive through desert and mountainous terrain. Cows graze alongside the road, you are treated to numerous panoramic vistas, and there are several spots where the scenery is just amazing.

Photos from the Drive

Entering Cottonwood Canyon Road

Turning onto Cottonwood Canyon Road from Highway 89


First section of road

At first, the road is relatively flat and the views are expansive.


View from the Road

We were amazed to see so much greenery here.


In the valley

Entering the canyon.


Grand Staircase Escalante

About halfway into the drive, the scenery is really amazing.


Cottonwood Canyon Road

Mushroom Rock Utah

Driving Utah

Approaching Kodachrome Basin State Park.

Things to Do on Cottonwood Road

There are several trails and viewpoints to visit during the drive.

Grosvenor Arch

Grosvenor Arch Utah

This quick detour is worth it to see these giant, sandstone arches (if you look closely, there are two arches up there). From Cottonwood Canyon Road, it takes just a few minutes to drive to this viewpoint, and then it is just a short walk to get to the arch.

Getting Here: Grosvenor Arch is 30 miles north of Highway 89 and 16 miles south of Cannonville. The GPS coordinates for the parking lot are 37.454383, -111.833030.

Cottonwood Wash Narrows

This easy, 3-mile hike wanders through a narrow sandstone canyon. You will be walking through a creek. Depending on recent weather conditions, the floor of this canyon could be filled with water so your feet can get wet.

Yellow Rock

This is another short and easy hike that takes you on top of a giant, yellow sandstone rock. From the top, enjoy panoramic views of the area. It is 2.5 miles round trip and takes about 3 hours. The trailhead is at Hackberry Wash, 14 miles north of Highway 18 on Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Hackberry Canyon

This short hike through a slot canyon shares the same trailhead and parking lot with Yellow Rock. It is 4 miles round trip and the slot canyon floor may be covered in shallow water, so your feet may get wet.

Cottonwood Canyon Narrows

This trail takes you through a narrow gorge of Cottonwood Creek. The hike is 3 miles round trip and takes about 2 hours. The trailhead is 25.5 miles north of Highway 89 and 20.5 miles south of Cannonville. See the Visit Utah website for more information.

Things to Know Before You Go

What kind of vehicle do you need?

You can do this drive in a 2WD car. During our drive, the road was in good condition, mostly flat with very few ruts or bumps along the way. We saw several cars on this road and they were driving without any difficulties. Having a 4×4 is ideal but not necessary.

I recommend checking road conditions at the Visitor Center before you drive on Cottonwood Canyon Road (especially if you do not have a 4×4). Road conditions can change from month to month, year to year, depending upon weather conditions and maintenance. When we did this in 2017, the road was in excellent condition. However, that is not always the case. In Cannonville and in Big Water (at the start and end of this drive) there is a Visitor Center where you can get updated information.

Tim Driving

If it rains, the road may be impassable

If it recently rained, Cottonwood Canyon Road can be impassable, even if you have a 4×4. You will have to take a detour around Cottonwood Canyon Road.

More Things to do in the Area

We did not do any of the short hikes located right on Cottonwood Canyon Road, although we did make the short detour out to Grosvenor Arch. We had limited time, time we were saving for Hole-in-the-Rock Road and the hikes to Zebra Slot Canyon and Peekaboo and Spooky Gulches. For us, Cottonwood Canyon Road was a scenic shortcut between Page, Arizona and Escalante, Utah.

There is plenty more to see and do in Grand Staircase-Escalante. This place is huge and absolutely amazing to explore. It does not have the same popularity as nearby Bryce Canyon and Zion, so the trails are less crowded and this part of Utah feels more remote.

One hike that we did not have time for (but is first on our list on a return visit here) is Coyote Gulch. This is an all day hike, almost 11 miles in length, but some people split the hike into 2 days as a backpacking trip.

If you have any questions about driving Cottonwood Canyon Road, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information about Utah

Planning a trip to Utah? Read all of our articles in our Utah Travel Guide.


Grand Staircase Escalante Road


All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

Comments 27

  1. Did this drive 12/07/21. The view is indeed amazing.

    The ground was a tad bit moist when I did the drive in my FWD camper van. I managed but I would echo everyone’s concern though that rain really drastically changes the road in a way that would be completely UNPASSABLE. Please becareful when attempting the drive and err on the side of excess preparation/caution.

  2. Mid October the southern half of the road had been recently regraded, we had no trouble in a rental 2wd Chevy Blazer. Saw several sedans. This is an amazing drive, not to be missed.

    1. Post
  3. We naively drove north up this road on a beautiful February day (2 SUVs, one a 4 wheeler). As the sun melted the nearby ice/snow the road became a morass and 13 miles in (no phone access) we were stuck. Got out (backtracked), leaving the 2 wheel drive. It cost a grand to get it out and road-worthy (had to take off wheels to remove extremely tenacious mud—wheel-wells jammed tight). So please be careful. Len S

  4. Very cool documentation! I just moved to Page, AZ and was looking for another “short-cut” up to Bryce when I saw this road on a GoogleMap and wondered how well maintained it was. I’ve often taken the Johnson Canyon road just out of Kanab, but Cottonwood looks way more scenic! I’ve got family about an hour North of Bryce, so this will be a fun, new ‘scenic route’ to visit family. Thanks for the post!

    1. Post
      1. Hello Earth Trekkers – I love your information and stories…
        We are in Bryce doing some dry camping in Dixie national forest.. we would like to head south to Kodachrome and then down the cottonwood Road- But i have a f 150 pick truck and i pulling a 21 foot travel trailer with high cleaners… Do you think if we are careful we can drive the cottonwood road with e the truck and trailer? Thanks in advance.

        1. Post

          We are not aware of any vehicle restrictions on Cottonwood Road. If it hasn’t rained recently you should be OK. Have fun in Bryce and Kodachrome Basin! If you want to write in after your drive down Cottonwood Road with any updates/tips for those with trailers, it would help future readers. Cheers, Julie

  5. This is exactly where I completed my 15 days of “stop the spread” initial COVID-19 lockdown. It is also where I marked my living location for the decennial census on April 1 2020. Barely saw another human for the whole two weeks. Plan to do that again sometime in the future.

  6. Thanks to your blog, we drove this route today from Cannonville to Highway 89. I had just turned to my hubby and said, “So much nicer than Hole in the Rock Road, huh?” when the paved road ended! But I’m so glad we chose this route! We had some deer, mountain goats and cows along our journey. The Paria river had frozen in some places and was beautiful to see as it followed along the route. We stopped at Grosvenor Arch and had the whole place to ourselves! Actually, we pretty much had Cottonwood Road to ourselves even though the condition were dry. I WOULD NOT attempt this road in even slightly wet or dark conditions (we were in a car with all-wheel drive). Cell service was non-existent in some areas and very minimal traffic.

    1. Post

      This is such a cool drive. That’s awesome that you got to see some wildlife along the way. You picked a very good time to visit Utah since crowd levels are so low. Enjoy the rest of your trip! Cheers, Julie

  7. So you did the drive, the walk under Grosvernor Arch and shot all those beautifull pics in less than two hours?

    1. Post

      Yes, we did the drive in about two hours. We did it early and there weren’t many cars on the road when we did this.

  8. We’ll be out there next week. Do you think we could drive the Cottonwood Road with a 4×4 and pulling a 22′ camper? We would not attempt it if it has rained at all. But we are looking for an easier way to get from Page to Bryce Canyon. Thanks!

    1. Post

      Hello Mary. We don’t have any experience pulling a trailer but my gut instinct is that it is better to skip Cottonwood Canyon Road. Road conditions change a lot from month to month and year by year. If you really wanted to give it a try, you could check in at the Visitor Center in Big Water and get their recommendations. Cheers, Julie

  9. My wife and I drove the Cottnwood road in Oct 2018. Another memorable adventure, but I wouldn’t do it again in a 2WD! We were driving from Page, AZ to Bryce Canyon NP. My wife was reading a travel book and noticed Cottonwood Rd which you would likely miss if you weren’t really looking for it. We found it and turned off 89. We immediately stopped and looked at the “road” for a few minutes before going on. We decided we could always turn back if we needed to. It had rained the night before and we soon had our first encounter with mud that we barely got through and we knew there was no going back. The scenery was spectacular!! We soon noticed there was only one other set of tire tracks on the dirt road, and that there was no phone service. Close to the other end was our second encounter with mud that was worse than the first and we’d decided we needed to get a running start to get through. We never saw another vehicle until Kodachrome State Park. The ranger at the entrance admired our mud-covered Impala and was amazed when we told him how we got there. They had been only allowing 4WD vehicles. I would recommend the drive if there had been no rain for a few days. Kodachrome State Park is beautiful!

    1. Post

      Hello Jimmie. Thanks for writing in to us and sharing your experience. I can only imagine how challenging this drive was, in a car, in the mud. I’m glad you made it through the entire drive without any major mishaps! Cheers, Julie

    2. I drove it 8 years ago.in a Dodge Stratus.. I also had to stop and think about going on the road..the sign read “unimproved road”. I soon found out what that meant.. There was absolutely no other vehicles around until we saw some road graters when we reached the end… Beautiful scenery.. just me and my doggie

  10. Thanks for the detailed information on Southern Utah. I live in Northern Utah and love to explore. If you ever want a full day slot adventure in Escalante, check out Egypt 3 slot canyon. I would say older teens and adults only on that one, and I love how it goes on and on. Also, Little Wild Horse Canyon is longer and a blast with kids and its right next door to Goblin Valley.

    Come to Northern Utah sometime. The alpine lakes and trails are amazing. Check out the High Uintas, the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons in SLC, and Timpanogus Caves, and Timpanogus Peak (15 miles round trip from Timpanooke or 24 miles from Aspen Grove). If you like mountain biking, the Crest Trail is epic, especially in the fall.

    1. Post

      Hello Melissa! Thanks for all of these suggestions. In one month Tim and I will be returning to Utah. We got permits to hike the Narrows in Zion and then we have about 4 days where we drive north to explore Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands. It’s not enough time but Utah is awesome…already thinking about another visit in 2019. 🙂 Happy hiking! Cheers, Julie

      1. Hey Julie,

        We love your blog and we refer to it often! We especially love the southern Utah area and have found your articles very helpful, informative and fun! We recently purchased a home in Kanab for our family to enjoy and we would love to share it with you! It looks like you will be back in the area soon, so please let us know and we would be flattered to host you and your family. I have provided the link below so you can consider it as you plan your next trip to the area. https://evolvevacationrental.com/421741?sleeps=1

        Happy trails to you!

        Scott and Eden Rasmussen

        1. Post

          Wow, thanks for the offer! Kanab is a great home base for exploring that whole area. Yes, we will be back in the area in two weeks, but just for a few days. We have 2 days in Zion to hike the Narrows and then we fly right back home. Thanks again for the offer! 🙂 Cheers, Julie

          1. Quick trip but the perfect time to explore the narrows. You should have the place to yourself! Enjoy!

            Keep us in mind for your next trip out this way. Offer stands!


          2. Post
  11. Having ridden Cottonwood Canyon road on a motorcycle, with rain starting at about the halfway point and stranding us nearly until dark, I would say: There is no “may be” about the “impassable when wet”. This applies for every single non-paved road out in that part of the country – when you see a sign at the start of a road that shows the “impassable when wet” warning, it is not telling you that you might get stuck, it is informing you of the certainty. If there’s even the barest threat of rain, either carry everything you need to spend an overnight on the road, or do not travel the road.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *