A hike through a narrows or slot canyon is a fantastic activity to line up while you are in southern Utah. Canyoneering is an increasingly popular sport, and many slot canyons require climbing gear and specialized skills as well as a high level of fitness. Cottonwood Narrows offers a great narrows hiking experience in an isolated and little-visited area and does not require any climbing skills or equipment. It does, however, require driving about 14 miles on a gravel road that may be suitable for a passenger car but is better suited to a high-clearance and/or four-wheel drive vehicle.
Heading east on the road to Kodachrome Basin State Park, the paved park road turns left and Cottonwood Canyon Road becomes gravel and continues straight. This road follows the "Cockscomb," a 40-mile-long fold in the earth that makes for spectacular scenery almost all the way to the Arizona border. At just over 13 miles, the road goes over a small saddle into a half-mile valley with very interesting and colored rocks on the left side. Park at the bottom of this valley in the pullout and look for the trailhead marker across the road. It takes a bit of scrambling to get down to the dry creek bed, but once there, turn left and head down the narrows.
Much of the trail is soft sand, so the going is a bit slow, but the scenery and rocks are wonderful, especially in mid- to late-afternoon when the light is not directly overhead. There are a few nice side canyons to explore along the way. The hike can be done as a there-and-back by turning around anywhere along the way. Alternately, at about 1.5 miles the trail exits back to Cottonwood Canyon Road via the south trailhead, and it is a 1-mile hike back up the road to the north trailhead.
This hike is great when combined with Grosvenor Arch, which is reached via a 1-mile access road 3.7 miles back on the right as you head north on Cottonwood Canyon.
NOTE: Cottonwood Canyon Road becomes impassable in wet weather, so if there is any question about the condition of the road, check with the BLM rangers in Cannonville. Always carry extra water, food, and clothing when traveling on remote roads. There is no cell service in this area.