Kodachrome Basin State Park

Hiking in Kodachrome Basin State Park Utah (from a Local)

Kodachrome Basin State park is an area of sharp contrasts, spires, and beautiful desert colors. It is often overlooked as a place to explore because of the nearby Big 5 National Parks nearby like Bryce Canyon and Grand Staircase Escalante Park. This is a pit stop on your road trip through the Utah National parks you should definitely include.

As a local Utahan I frequently visit Southern Utah as an escape from the inversions in Salt Lake City. All you have to do is say a park is dog-friendly and I will be going to visit. Kodachrome has much more to offer than just being dog-friendly though. There are plenty of things to do in Kodachrome like primitive camping, mountain biking, horse back riding, atv trails and plenty of hiking. It is also where you can see the unique cryptobiotic crust (a soil bacteria) that takes hundreds of years to form because many of the trails are virtually undisturbed. 

Kodachrome Basin State Park

These rock formations seem to shoot up out of the ground into the air with no reasonable explanation as to why. Some of these spires can rise nearly 170 feet into the air, with different colorations striating the spire making for a unique natural structure. There was one spire that I could not figure out for the life of me if it was a petrified tree or just an odd rock. Arches in this park are, uniquely, on the tops of the mountain rather than closer to the ground like in Arches National Park. The Grosvenor Arch is one of these arches that is located about 11 miles from Kodachrome Basin that is the most well-known arch in this area. A white towering arch that is the perfect place for those epic Instagram photos.

Kodachrome Basin State Park

There are 67 different monolithic stone spires identified in Kodachrome Basin State Park. Geologists are still baffled by their formation to this day. Several theories are circulating as to how, when and why these spires were formed. One of these theories is this area used to be covered in water and over time the area wore the stone down and the waters dried up leaving Kodachrome Basin as we know it today.

Traveler Tips Before Visiting Kodachrome Basin 

Are Dogs allowed at Kodachrome Basin State Park? Dogs are allowed in Kodachrome Basin State Park. You should be aware the reflection of the sun off the Sandstone rocks in the summer adds additional heat, and can burn your dogs paws so be sure to bring some doggie booties for them. There is little to no water on any of the trails so you will need to bring your own. 

Cost: It is $8 per vehicle to get into the park. 

When is the best time to visit Kodachrome basin? Spring and fall are going to be a bit busier, but you will also be welcomed by wild flowers. I personally go in the midst of winter on the warmer weekends, you really have the whole place to yourself. 

How to get to Kodachrome basin

If you are coming from Salt Lake City to Kodachrome Basin State Park, you want to take I-15 South towards St George. Just before you get to Dixie National Forest you are going to swing a left onto I-40 towards Cannonville. You will see Cottonwood canyon road, which is paved, and make your way to the pay station. It is an easy drive, but I would not try and drive the route from Salt Lake City if it is snowing. The roads can be very dangerous with multiple slide-offs. If you are coming from Las Vega in the winter, that drive will have clearer roads without snow.

Here is a map I made for you on how to get to Kodachrome Basin State Park. Another option is to fly into the St George Airport. It is much smaller than the Salt Lake Airport, and may require a little more money to get there.

You have another option of flying into Las Vegas and driving three and a half hours to Kodachrome Basin State Park as well. The drive to this area is much prettier driving from Salt Lake rather than Vegas. There is about a 2 hour stretch of road where it is dry, not, and NOTHING is around you. 

Kodachrome Basin State Park


Hiking in Kodachrome Basin

Kodachrome Basin State Park has loads of activities for you to do and experience. With hiking trails, horseback riding trails, mountain biking trails, ATV trails and with all the unique rock formations, is truly a photographers paradise.

Bree (my roommate) and I had so much fun imagining what the rock formations looked like, just as you would imagine shapes in the clouds. There were a few of the rock formations that had us in stitches from laughing.

Kodachrome Basin State Park

Angel's Palace Trail

Trail Type: Loop, lightly trafficked         Trail Details: 1.4 miles, 226 feet of elevation gain         

Exposure: Full exposure to Sun                 Amenities: Bathrooms and parking are available 

The trailhead is across the street from where you park. In the winter there are no restrooms open, nor are there any garbage cans - so be prepared before you go.

As you start this trail it is deceivingly marked with arrows that point to the right way. Maybe it was because we were hiking this trail in the winter, I don't really know, but about 1/4 of the way into the trail the arrows started to point the wrong way, the posts had blown over, or there were two arrows pointing two different ways on the fork, but then no other signpost.

What you want to do is get over the hill onto the other side. There is a cliff with an unbelievable view of the valley below. Coming around the corner you are struck with a breathtaking view of a mountain face that begins in a reddish orange and bleeds into a white multi-point peak that without evening knowing the name of the trail, I named it, "Heaven's Castle".

We spent quite a bit of time here, taking pictures, enjoying the view and wishing we could pitch a tent in this spot and forget the world and let nature heal our souls. If you do not have time to do any other trail, this is the trail I would suggest doing. It is 1.6 miles and is fairly easy to hike. It is an exposed trail to the sun, so it is fantastic to hike in winter and will be quite hot in the winter.

Hiking in Kodachrome Basin State Park

Shakespeare Arch Trail 

UPDATE: This arch has now collapsed as of May 2019. 

Trail Type: Loop, lightly trafficked         Trail Details: 1.4 miles, 226 feet of elevation gain      Exposure: Full exposure to Sun                  Amenities: Bathrooms and parking are available 

I think I enjoyed hiking this trail more than actually reaching Shakespeare Arch. The trail had fun little areas that you could explore the riverbed and a beautiful view of a surrounding valley. This trail is not well marked and is a 2.6-mile loop. There is no water here for you or your dogs. Most trails in Kodachrome Basin are exposed to the sun, with very little shade.

When we arrived at the Arch it was disappointing. I almost said out loud, 'That's it?! Well.......that's.........cute'. Not exactly a reward for the 2.6-mile moderate hike in, but the views along the way, the dogs enjoying the sand and playing in it & the comedy of Bree getting lost on the trail and almost getting stuck on the edge of a cliff is what made this hike fun for me. 

Despite the Arch now being collapsed, I still feel that this trail is worthwhile to hike on. 

Zebra Slot Canyon

Trail Type: Out and Back trafficked       Trail Details: 7.8 miles, 551 feet of elevation gain     

Exposure: full exposure until the slot canyon, and then (depending on the time of year) there is standing water          

Amenities: Bathrooms and parking are available 

To get to Zebra Slot Canyon you will turn on the Hole-in-the-Rock road, then go past 3 cattle-guards. The parking area will be on the right hand side, it looks like a sandy turnout. Be sure to stop by the BLM office to ensure the slot canyon is safe. If there is rain, imminent rain, or recent flash flood it may not be safe to hike this area. Make your way to Harris Wash (large dried up river bed), and follow this on the left hand side all the way to the slot canyon opening. I suggest looking this up on Google Earth and printing a map that will lead you to the slot entrance. There are lots of people that get lost here because they make their own trails trying to find the entrance. 

Leave your packs at the beginning of the trail because it can get really tight squeezing down the slot canyon at certain points. I suggest a Camelbak backpack because in the summer these areas can get really hot. 

Panorama Trail

Trail Type: Loop, moderately trafficked      Trail Details: 2.9 miles, 262 feet of elevation gain    

 Exposure: Full exposure to Sun                  Amenities: Bathrooms and parking are available 

This trail brings you to gorgeous lookout (if you take the left fork) and if you go in spring will be enthralled by the desert spring flowers. If you keep exploring this trail, you will also find an Indian Cave (clearly marked). It truly is a trail for the whole family, including your dog. I definitely would NOT do this hike in summer though. The full exposure to the sun will be really hot on your dog, and those in your party. The start of the trail is across from the first parking lot on the right hand side after the information booth. 

Grosvenor Arch

Trail Type: Out and back trail, moderately trafficked    

Trail Details: 0.2 miles, 22 feet of elevation gain     

Exposure: Full exposure to Sun                     Amenities: Bathrooms and parking are available 

To get to Grosvenor Arch take state route 12 south of Cannonville for approximately 9 miles. This is a paved road to the Kodachrome State Park turnoff. Continue on Cottonwood Canyon Road, a graded dirt road, for another 10 miles to the Grosvenor Arch parking lot. Cottonwood Canyon Road continues through the Grand Staircase Escalante NM.

These towering arches rise an impressive 150ft/45m into the air right off of a paved, and short trail. If you thought Arch was impressive, you will certainly be impressed with these. Giant off-white sandstone arches that rise abruptly from the ground. 

Hiking in Kodachrome Basin State Park

Sandpipes and Rock Formations

These are best seen from the Grand Parade area on the east side of the park. Kodachrome Basin State Park is unique because of the single monolithic spires that dot the park.

Why Visit Kodachrome Basin?  

Kodachrome Basin is definitely a place I will return to, it is off the beaten path. It is unique and has locations that have not been over Instagrammed and feel special when you visit. The colors of this area are striking, and around every corner, you will have both shocking and spectacular surprises.

There is so much to explore in this Park. I would give yourself at least three days to explore all the corners of Kodachrome basin adequately. Bryce Canyon National Park, Dead Horse Point, Moab, Zion National Park are just a short ride away as well, although not as dog friendly.

Where to Stay near Kodachrome Basin

Camping near Kodachrome Basin

The easiest and cheapest place to stay is typically in the Basic Land Management areas, or the Camping Areas near Kodachrome Basin. Most of these camping areas are very safe to stay in but make sure to keep your dogs on a leash as there are bobcats and coyotes in the area.

Basic Campgrounds can cost you up to $20.00 per night, and you will most likely need cash to pay for these as they are typically envelope drop places. Park rangers come by around 6-7am and check cars for the campsite tickets in the window. The Park Rangers compare it to their list of envelope drops and how much you paid. If they catch you staying without paying, you can get a large fine.

Where To Stay in Kodachrome Basin in the Winter

I would stay in Cannonville at a hotel. Kodachrome Basin State Park can have unpredictable and harsh weather changes at all hours of the day. The temperatures drop dramatically at night and hypothermia can be a problem unless you are properly equipped. Many of the campsites are also closed in the Kodachrome Basin area without restroom facilities.

The hotel that we stayed at was Ruby's Inn in Cannonville Utah. This hotel is just outside Bryce Canyon National Park and allows dogs both inside the hotel rooms and inside the common areas, but not in the grocery store. If the weather is too harsh, they have loads of activities (both in the winter and in the summer). There is an indoor pool, grocery store, convenience store, shows, restrooms, even a fireplace with cozy chairs and couches that you can crack open a book and feel as if you are staying in a grandiose cabin. Their prices are reasonable, especially in the off-season & there are refrigerators, microwave, and warm showers to chase away the chill in every room.

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