Lick Wash

Overview: Exciting narrow passages in the upper reaches of Lick Wash give way to a wider canyon below, embraced by the bold White Cliffs of Navajo Sandstone studded with tall pines, rising 600 to 800 feet to the mesa rims above.

Start: Lick Wash Trailhead

Distance: 8 miles, round-trip

Approximate hiking time: 4 hours, round-trip

Difficulty: Moderately easy

Trail surface: Wash route

Trailhead access: 4WD advised when road is wet

Best seasons: Apr through mid-June; Sept through Oct

Canine compatibility: Dogs permitted

Water availability: None available; bring your own

Hazards: Flash-flood danger

Permits: Not required

Topo maps: Deer Spring Point USGS quad; BLM Kanab

Finding the trailhead: From UT 12 in the Bryce Valley town of Cannonville, Utah, 33 miles east of Panguitch, Utah, and US 89 and 36 miles west of Escalante, Utah, turn south onto Cottonwood Canyon Road, signed Kodachrome Basin–9. Follow the pavement through Cannonville, then through the broad valley of the upper Paria River. After 2.9 miles Skutumpah Road branches right (southwest), signed Bull Valley Gorge–9, and Kanab–61.

Turn right Skutumpah Road and come to the boundary of Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument after 0.25 mile. After 3 miles, you cross the runoff below the spillway of a dam spanning broad Sheep Creek Wash, ascend to a ridge, then drop down to the dry wash of Averett Canyon after 4.7 miles. After 5.5 miles, avoid a graded road that branches right near the crest of a ridge. Bear left there and descend to the wash of Willis Creek, 6.3 miles from Cottonwood Canyon Road. After 10.9 miles Skutumpah road crosses the narrow bridge spanning cavernous Bull Valley Gorge. Enter signed Bullrush Hollow after 16.9 miles and enjoy the first good views of the towering White Cliffs in the southern distance. After emerging from the woodland at 18.6 miles, you enter the broad brushy basin of Dry Valley, then gradually descend to an unsigned crossing of Lick Wash at 19.9 miles, where the road is subject to washouts. A short distance beyond the wash, immediately before reaching a cattle guard, turn left onto a faint spur road. Follow the spur for 0.1 mile to its end above the banks of Lick Wash and park there.

The hike can also be reached from US 89 in the south. Turn north where a sign indicates Johnson Canyon. This turnoff is located immediately east of milepost 55 and 8 miles east of Kanab, Utah, or 64 miles west of Page, Arizona. Follow the paved Johnson Canyon Road north for 16.2 miles to a signed junction, then turn right onto the good gravel Skutumpah Road, signed for Deer Springs Ranch and Cannonville.

Avoid several signed spur roads leading to the private property of the Deer Springs Ranch between 11.5 and 11.7 miles from the junction. After driving 14.8 miles from the junction at the end of the pavement (31 miles from US 89), you reach the spur road that leads to the trailhead, just before Skutumpah Road crosses Lick Wash.

Hike Information

Lick Wash is one of many largely unknown, uncelebrated canyons carved into the remote White Cliffs of the Grand Staircase in southern Utah. What Lick Wash lacks in notoriety is compensated for by its incomparable beauty. Exciting narrow passages in the upper reaches of the canyon give way to a wider canyon below, embraced by the bold White Cliffs of Navajo Sandstone studded with tall pines, rising 600 to 800 feet to the mesa rims above. The wash is dry, and travel down its sandy and gravelly bed is easy, passable to any hiker.

Begin the hike from the end of the spur road by walking down the rock-strewn wash. Bluffs of Navajo Sandstone, studded with ponderosa pines, rise ahead, and the wash seems to disappear between them. Soon you enter the sandstone-enveloped gorge, which quickly slots up, and you make your way ahead through the narrow slickrock corridor. Within minutes you reach a short fence that spans the gap between the canyon walls. Climb over or crawl through the fence, passing the only obstacle in the canyon.