Beautiful canyon dayhike
Cottonwood Canyon Road, which bisects the western portion of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, is one of the best used and maintained roads in the monument, which really may not be saying much. It is also the base for many of the popular canyon hikes in the western monument, including the Paria Box, Yellow Rock, Castle Rock, Hackberry Canyon, Cottonwood Narrows, and several others that aren't as well known.
Hackberry Canyon is one of the most popular of the Cottonwood Canyon Road hikes, and it is done generally one of two ways. The first is as a dayhike into the lower part of Hackberry Canyon, and the other is as a through-hike up Hackberry Canyon to Round Valley Draw. This description will cover the lower portion of Hackberry.
From the trailhead, 14.4 miles up CCR from US89, hike down to the bottom of Cottonwood Canyon, where Cottonwood Creek is flowing. Cross the creek and follow the trail upstream a bit on the bench. The canyon opens to your left, and the trail drops down into the creek bed. From here there isn't much in the way of a trail, but the route is obvious - just head upcanyon. Your feet will likely get wet as a perennial stream flows through Hackberry Canyon. Generally the stream is only a few inches deep, but can be deeper after spring runoff. Summer monsoon storms can cause flash floods in the canyon, so be extra careful and check the weather before hiking this canyon during the summer.
As you move upcanyon, you are passing through the geologic formation known as The Cockscomb. Here the layers of rock, normally horizontal, have been pushed towards vertical when the Kaibab Monocline was uplifted. Streams already flowing in the area, like the Paria River, cut across the uplifting rocks, while new streams like Hackberry were forced to carve their courses through the softest rock they could find. As you hike upcanyon you are first walking through the Navajo Formation, which is primarily white in color in this area. Further upstream, around 1.75 miles from the trailhead, you start getting into the red Moenave Formation. Most day hikers generally turn around and return to their vehicles after 2 miles or so, but the stream in the canyon is present in the lower 10 miles of the canyon.
Monsoon storms can also turn CCR into a quagmire, so even if you don't get flooded out of Hackberry Canyon, you may not be able to leave the parking area! Make sure to check in with with the visitor's center in Big Water, Utah, on the current road conditions before leaving on this hike.
Another potential danger is quicksand. While generally not a threat to life and limb, it can be a scary experience. If you encounter sand or mud that seems "springy" or notice that the sand appears to flow into footprints and such, make sure you keep moving. If you have to slow down and begin to get stuck, move slowly, don't panic, and increase your surface area on the quicksand by laying down and crawling to dry ground. Generally, however, quicksand in Hackberry is shallow and sporadic, and usually easily avoided.
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
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