High Adventure - Hiking Round Valley Draw
We parked near the edge of a normal-looking wash called Round Valley Draw and then started hiking. Just a few yards downstream a large crack appeared right in the middle of the wash and within a few yards more the crack grew to 20-30 feet deep (but only 3-4 feet wide). From that point on, it just kept on getting deeper and deeper.
The crack, now a full-fledged "slot canyon," draws the hiker forward, into a unique and mysterious world where wonders await behind sheer rock walls, massive choke stones and beyond deep pools. The attraction is great, but do not enter this particular slot unless: 1) you are an experienced hiker; 2) you are capable of climbing through narrow (less than two foot wide) cracks while working your way down 10 to 15 foot drop offs (chimneying skills and a length of climbing rope come in very handy in this canyon); 3) you are not afraid of running into midget rattlesnakes while trapped in a two-foot wide slot with 500 foot vertical walls.
(As a footnote, we don't ever kill the rattlesnakes we encounter while hiking in the slot canyons, or anywhere else for that matter. We feel strongly that they are an important part of the canyon ecosystem and should be left alone. Don't tease them, throw rocks or otherwise hurt them. Figure out a way to get past without getting bitten and simply leave them alone.)
Work your way into the crack where it first starts to form and then head downstream. Although this may appear difficult, it actually is one of the easier parts of the hike. If you have trouble getting into the slot, don't go on this hike!
The hike will take from four to six hours, depending on how good you are at getting over the obstacles in the canyon and on how long you spend exploring the place. Turning back and trying to go up the canyon would be extremely difficult and isn't recommended. Once you enter the canyon, plan on finishing the hike.
You will run into three difficult rock jams which may or may not have water at their bases. We entered the canyon shortly after a major rainstorm and all of the water pockets were full. Several were almost waist deep, with a foot or so of gooey clay at the bottom. Unless there has been no rain for several months, plan on getting wet in this one.
The first two rock jams will slow you down a bit but aren't too difficult to get over. The third one will require you to work your way through a narrow crack while chimneying down a 10 to 15 foot vertical fall. You'll end up under a dark, muddy overhang and on the edge of a waist deep pool of water — and there is only one way to get through the pool — wade!
A mile or so down the wash the slot begins to widen and a major tributary comes in from the right (north). Look for a large cairn about eye level on the right side of the canyon as you are facing downstream. Although it is a fairly step climb, you can exit here and then hike along the rim of the canyon and back to your car (that's what we did), or you can continue down the wash and into Hackberry Canyon. Once in Hackberry Canyon, hike upstream and out, about two and a half miles beyond the first exit. Plan a full day for the hike if you do this.
I have never hiked that part of Hackberry but hear it is easy; in the past some people have even taken ORV's part way down. Further down, Hackberry offers a very good albeit challenging long canyon hike.
To get to Round Valley Draw, drive south from Salt Lake City to the town of Cannonville and then turn south onto the Kodachrome Basin/ Cottonwood Wash road. The road is paved right up to the Kodachrome Basin State Park turn-off. Past the park the road is graded dirt and is generally passable in a touring car-except after it rains. After a good rain the road becomes an impassible quagmire, difficult even for experienced 4x4 enthusiasts. Check the weather forecast carefully before venturing down the Cottonwood Wash road.
Drive south passed the turnoff for Kodachrome Basin State Park, then continue south for almost six more miles until you see a small sign near the bottom of a wash indicating the direction to Round Valley Draw and the Rush Bed Road.
Turn right (south) onto the Rush Bed Road and travel down it until the road begins to climb away from the wash (about 1.6 miles). At this point you will see a dirt track going off to the right. If you are in a touring car, park here and hike down the track until it ends (about a mile). If you have a high clearance vehicle, drive down the track until it ends. At the end of the track the wash will be on your right (north).