Saturday, March 17, 2018

Willis Creek - Grand Staircase National Monument

There is something about a slot canyon that reminds us of our insignificance upon the landscape.  Some hide from that feeling of in-consequence while others seek with wanderlust to find it.  Willis Creek is a great, nontechnical hike, where a back country rambler can easily satisfy the wild wanderlust.

Willis Creek is found within the Grand Staircase Escalante Nation Monument along the Skutumpah road. Take of Highway 12 in Cannonville Utah towards Kodachrome State Park. A few miles below Cannonville, before you cross the Paria River, turn off the oiled road at the Sign that marks Skutumpah road.

It is dirt road from here. In dry conditions you can most likely make it in a two-wheeled vehicle, however I recommend it be a high clearance vehicle and that you have some experience driving in off highway conditions. If there has been rain or if it is raining be advised this road can be treacherous. This is a county road but sometimes it doesn’t get maintained for quite some time, so the conditions can really vary. If it’s raining I really don’t advise you taking this ramble, especially since you are heading to a slot canyon which was created by runoff from storms.

Willis Creek collects all the water pretty much from Bryce Canyon Rainbow & Yovimpa Points to Natural Arch. Willis Creek really collects a lot of water and drains a lot of country. Knowing current weather conditions is a must. If there has been recent rains or there is rain in the forecast for the day recalculate your trip plans.

Willis Creek is a Family favorite for us. Its an easy hike and provides amazing views. You don’t need any ropes or hiking\ technical experience to enjoy these slot canyons. From the trailhead to the Paria is 2.35 miles one way with only about 250 feet of elevation drop.

In the summers the temperatures can reach into the high 80s and this hike can provide some shadowy canyons to hide within as well as running water to cool off in. There is water in the creek so wear appropriate shoes to hike in.

Willis Creek can also be a great Winter back country ramble with the added element of ice flows within the canyon walls.  To experience the freeze and thaw of the ages, grinding down the canyon walls is worth the freezing temperatures.

I would strongly suggest getting ice cleats or crampons if you plan to hike very far. It will greatly enhance your adventure and save your hind-end from repeated slips on the ice.

As with any good back country ramble a good map is essential. I recommend the National Geographic Grand Staircase map. It shows all the major trail-heads and main roads you will need for a good adventure in these parts.