Kodachrome Basin State Park — Panorama Trail
Overview: Punctuated by the white chimneys of sand pipes, and the orange cliffs, spires, and fin-like ridges of Entrada Sandstone that dominate Kodachrome Basin State Park, this is one of the more spectacular areas in southern Utah, a land renowned for its unique landscapes.
Start: Panorama Trailhead
Distance: 5.4 miles, double loop
Approximate hiking times: 3 to 3.5 hours
Difficulty: Moderately easy
Trail surface: Stagecoach road and constructed trail, well-defined
Trailhead access: 2WD (paved access)
Best seasons: April through early June; September through Octover
Canine compatibility: Leashed dogs permitted
Water availability: None available; bring your own
Topo maps: Henrieville and Cannonville USGS quads (trails and state park not shown on quads; a trail map is available at the visitor center)
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 (the Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Backway), signed Kodachrome Basin–9. Follow this paved road south through Cannonville, then through the broad valley of the upper Paria River. You pass the junction with southwest-bound Skutumpah Road after 2.9 miles, and after 7.4 miles reach the end of pavement on Cottonwood Canyon Road. Turn left here, staying on the paved road, to enter Kodachrome Basin State Park.
Stop at the visitor center after 0.9 mile and pay a small day-use fee, then continue north 0.6 mile to the signed parking area for Panorama Trail, Grand Parade Trail, and Picnic Area.
The signed Panorama Trailhead is located on the left (west) side of the road, 1.6 miles from Cottonwood Canyon Road and 8.8 miles from Cannonville. The twenty-six-unit campground is located 0.4 mile from the trailhead, along the loop at the road’s end.
Kodachrome Basin State Park, a 2,240-acre preserve southeast of Bryce Canyon National Park, is a place of vivid colors and dramatic landforms. This state park is like a national park in miniature. Its concentration of unusual landforms, good access, numerous short trails, and visitor services that include a general store, campground, and cabins, combine to make the park a premier destination.
Six hiking trails traverse the park, most of them less than 1 mile in length. The exception is the Panorama Trail, a nearly level 2.9-mile loop that surveys what is perhaps the finest scenery the park has to offer. Panorama Point, an overlook just above the loop trail, affords an unparalleled vista across the park’s colorful landscape. The 2.5-mile Big Bear Geyser Trail can be taken to extend the trip into a rewarding half-day hike.
One mile of the Panorama Trail is shared by hikers, mountain bikers, and stagecoach tours conducted by the park concessionaire at Trailhead Station from Easter week through mid-October. The remaining singletrack is shared by hikers and mountain bikers only. The Panorama and Big Bear Geyser Trails are the only trails open to mountain bikes in the park.
The sand pipes in the park add a unique dimension to a land dominated by unusual landforms. These white chimney-like spires, averaging 30 to 50 feet in height, are composed of coarse sand that is far more resistant to erosion than the overlying orange Entrada Sandstone. Geologists believe that long ago the park was a geothermal area, with hot springs and geysers much like Yellowstone National Park is today. After the springs and geysers ceased to flow, they filled with sand, and they are the white spires you see today.