Cottonwood Narrows Off Cottonwood Canyon Road.

How To Hike Cottonwood Narrows Off Cottonwood Canyon Road

Congratulations, you just hit the jackpot! Cottonwood Narrows is one of my favorite hikes in Southern Utah due to the towering canyon walls, fact it is dog friendly, and because it is remotely located off one of my all-time favorite Utah backroads.

This underrated Southern Utah hike is surely going to blow your mind as well. While it doesn’t get as narrow as a slot canyon, the experience all around is definitely worth the drive.

In this post I’m going to guide you through reaching the trailhead, which way to hike the narrows, and provide tips for a safe adventure!

Cottonwood Narrows Hike Stats

  • Hiking Distance | 3.3 – 4.5 miles RT
  • Difficulty | Easy
  • Elevation Gain | 405 feet
  • Total Time | 1-1.5 hours
  • Permits/Fees | None unless you are camping in the area. Pick up a free permit from the nearest visitor’s center!
  • Trailhead | The Narrows North or Cottonwood Narrows South.
  • Road Conditions | Well graded dirt road, 2WD okay. 4×4 required when wet, and likely impassible even then.
  • Dogs Allowed | Yes, dog friendly.

Below is a map of the Cottonwood Narrows route.

Cottonwood Narrows Route Map.

There are two trailhead options when it comes to hiking the Cottonwood Narrows- North or South. Both run from one end to the other and connect with Cottonwood Canyon Road.

When researching prior to my visit this was a bit confusing, so let’s break it down, below.

Cottonwood Narrows North Vs. South

When hiking Cottonwood Narrows you’ll either hike from the North Trailhead to the South Trailhead, or vise versa, and come out on Cottonwood Canyon Road.

You honestly can’t go wrong with the direction you hike Cottonwood Narrows. It all just depends on where you can find parking and which direction you are coming from. You’ll still hike the same amount and see all of the same pretty sights!

Of course when you hike opposite directions through canyons like this, the experience can be different. So, you have two options here.

  1. Hike from North to South (or vise versa) and turn around and hike back through the narrows. The total milage for hiking this way is 4.58 miles. This route is shown depicted in light blue in the map above.
  2. Hike North to South (or vise versa) and walk along Cottonwood Canyon Road to the end you started from. The portion along the road is only 1.0 mile, so your total milage would be 3.3 miles. This route is depicted in purple on the map above.

I hiked South to North and returned along Cottonwood Canyon road for blog purposes because I wanted to get the stats. Honestly, this was a stunning option because you walk along one of the most epic portions of the road! See the image below.

Getting To Cottonwood Narrows

Both trailheads are located down a stunning dirt road in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This road is called Cottonwood Canyon Road and it connects from US-12 between Cannonville and Escalante to US-89 between Kanab and Big Water. The trailheads are pretty deep along the road from both directions.

Typically a well conditioned 2WD car can make a trip down this road, but having an SUV at the least would be helpful. You also don’t want to travel when covered with snow, ice, or when wet! The dirt here turns into a clay like mud and you will get stuck.

Read up on this epic back road here- EVERYTHING To Know About Driving Cottonwood Canyon Road and check out the other hikes in the area too!

This road is not suited for large rigs such as buses, fifth wheels, and large campers. It gets narrow, windy, and steep.

Best Time To Hike Cottonwood Narrows

You’ll pretty much be at the mercy of Cottonwood Canyon Road! While it may be drivable year round, it will be impassible when wet after heavy rains or snow storms. Only drive this road when is dry and clear!

For updated road conditions check this website.

That being said, typically late spring, summer, and fall are great times! Of course during these seasons you have to be weary about rainstorms. Never enter narrows or slot canyons during heavy rain for risk of flash flooding.

I visited in April and you can see my pictures are very cloudy and stormy! It wasn’t raining, but I did hurry along because towards the end of my drive it began sprinkling and I did not want to get caught on this road!

Summer will be extremely warm, but because this is in a canyon you’ll likely have shade. I believe this would be okay to knock out very early in the morning since it is short.

This is the desert and during the summer temperatures will be 90+ degrees which is way too hot for our furry friends. Please, leave them at home if you visit during the summer, or don’t hike at all. The sand will get warm and be way too hot for their paws!

The Hike: Cottonwood Narrows

The wonderful thing about Cottonwood Narrows is that it hardly climbs any elevation. Honestly, you won’t even notice!

When I visited there were no large obstacles in the way so the entire hike was easy going. Of course this can always change if a storm decides to drag something through, or rocks from the canyon walls give way and fall down.

Cottonwood Narrows In Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Along the way you’ll be presented with little off-chutes that allow for further exploration. Monty and I explored a couple, but they didn’t go very far and weren’t much more interesting than the narrows themselves. Still, sometimes it is fun to do a little extra exploring.

In April the ground was hard which meant the sand wasn’t deep or a complete slog. There was no water to be seen in the canyon and I’m not sure if any flows through here during or after rainstorms.

Take your time hiking through Cottonwood Narrows because it does go by quickly! It is shaded and very peaceful, especially when there is no one else to be seen. This hike is pretty remote, so there are high chances you may have it to yourself.

You may also like:

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.