Hiking the Cottonwood Wash Trail, San Rafael Swell
Searching for petroglyphs is fun – but please don’t touch! These are very fragile pieces left from ancient Indians that have lasted more than 800 years. Let’s keep our history alive!
Here is a driving map to the Cottonwood Wash cutoff road via Castle Dale, Utah. Past this, Google doesn’t understand how to reach the TH. Drive 30 miles along the Green River cutoff Road. You’ll come to a 4-way intersection. The better road looks like the one further to the East, but instead take the one more to the West, marked by a brown sign that says “Old Spanish Trail – Route” (see photos below). Turn right here and reset your odometer. At 2.4 miles drive past the Big Hole Wash sign. At 8.3 miles turn right at the small sign for Cottonwood Canyon, then pass a larger more official sign for Cottonwood Canyon. At 8.8 miles reach the end of the road, where the trail begins. Our Nissan Pathfinder (4×4) made it with no issues except for some bumper scrapes. I would not attempt this road with anything less than an SUV.
Distance: 2 miles RT
Elevation gain: 250 ft
Time: 1 hour
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? Yes!
Make sure you turn down this route for Cottonwood Wash Road (not the more Eastern route). Reset your odometer.
At 2.3 miles pass Big Hole Wash.
Go through the gate, making sure to close it after.
At 8.3 miles turn right for Cottonwood Canyon.
Pass one more sign.
At the end of the road is a large turn around, fire pit, and the trailhead.
Drop down the wash and start hiking up the canyon, West.
Really cool “huecos” in the wall. Huecos are depressions in a wall where the rock layer was weak, and eventually collapsed, leaving what looks like holes in a wall.
Walk up the wash about 500 ft. I used my 30L LITE Waymark Gear Co pack and it worked great for a short hike!
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After 500 ft or so, hike up what looks like a ramp leading to the cliff base.
Here you’ll find several petroglyphs.
Looking West into the canyon.
Really cool petroglyphs!
1881 was a big year for Pioneers as they made their way West.
Do you think the sheep are being led, or being killed for food?
The dogs were pretty happy to find clean water to cool off in, even though it wasn’t even 60F!
Exploring new terrain with my baby.
Can you spot Cottonwood Wash Arch?
At first we missed the next set of petroglyphs and kept hiking – this rock formation reminded me of a fortress.
Completely dry wash in October.
Not that hot (55-60F), yet the dogs were thirsty!
We hiked a total of 1 mile down Cottonwood Wash and didn’t spot anything else so we turned around.
On the way back we finally saw the other set of petroglyphs (not all are pictured).
Check out my video!
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The 6 Best Trails in the San Rafael Swell
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