For many families making their rounds of the Utah 5 National Parks, a visit to Bryce Canyon is a highly anticipated stop. With its sweeping vistas and spectacular hikes, Bryce offers something for everyone. But with most of the camping options concentrated immediately around Bryce, families that want to escape the crowds and explore Bryce and beyond should consider base camping about thirty minutes away at Kodachrome Basin State Park.
Kodachrome Basin State Park Campground:
We stayed in the Basin Campground loop in Site 26, which was a full-hookup site (electric, water, and sewer) with an asphalt pad and a nicely landscaped picnic area–all for only $35 a night! But the real treat of our site was the view: The Kodachrome Basin circles the campground, creating epic vistas. (One of the photos we took of the campground was from up on the Angel’s Palace Trail, and you can see how the campground is nestled within the canyon walls.)
We thought sites 26-33 were the best in the Basin Campground: 26, 28, 30, 32 are pull-throughs, while 27, 29, 31, 33 are back-ins. There are two other campground loops: Arch Campground only has water and electric, pit toilets, and gravel roads; Bryce View Campground is all primitive with pit toilets.
Kodachrome offers some great amenities, including spa-style bathrooms (the showerhead faucets are rain shower ones!) and a laundromat. In the park there is also a place you can schedule trail rides. The park visitor center has a small gift shop (plus novelty ice cream perfect for hot days!) and a small interpretative section about the park. Kodachrome is also a dark sky state park, so it’s popular with those who want to do star gazing. And for the kids there is a Junior Ranger badge program they can complete during their stay as well as a penny press geocache challenge.
While staying at Kodachrome make sure you take advantage of the great hiking in the park, some of which starts just yards from the campground. We did the Angel’s Palace Trail, which is only about 1.5 miles long. The trail begins with an initial climb but then levels out as you explore the plateau from which you can walk different directions to take in the sweeping vistas. (Parents should know there are a few places along this trail with steep drop offs.) Other good options to check out near the campground would be the Nature Trail or the Grand Parade Trail.
Kodachrome was also our base camp for exploring Bryce Canyon and the Grand Staircase-Escalante region:
Bryce Canyon National Park is about 35 minutes drive time from Kodachrome. The drive between the parks is quite scenic and you even pass one of the popular NPS trailheads that is outside the main gate: Mossy Cave. At Bryce there really is something for everyone. If you are able to hike, the park offers a variety of trails that range in difficulty from easy to strenuous. If you are not able to hike, or if you only have a brief amount of time to visit the park, you can also enjoy the scenic drive and stop at the numerous vistas along the way. At a later date I plan to write a full post about our visit to Bryce, highlighting what we did and what we loved while we were there. In the meantime here are a few pictures we took during our visit (Bryce is truly a magical place!):
From Kodachrome campground you can get to some parts of Grand Staircase-Escalante within minutes, while other sections will take closer to an hour or more. The portion of Cottonwood Canyon Road that leads to Grosvenor Arch begins right next to the entrance to Kodachrome. You have to travel about 10 miles down this washboarded, dirt road to reach the parking lot for the arch. Since the region had not had a lot of rain, we were able to traverse it in our two-wheel drive van, but it’s important to check road conditions ahead of time. We visited in the heat of the afternoon, so we didn’t stay long, but it was a neat arch to see: There’s a mini arch to the left of the main one.
We also did two hikes in Grand Staircase-Escalante, one we loved (the Willis Creek Slot Canyon) and one that was pretty brutal because of the heat and sand (the 6-mile Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail):
Willis Creek Slot Canyon
To get to Willis Creek Slot Canyon we followed Skutumpah Road (a dirt road) for about 5.5 miles all the way to the trailhead parking lot. (Since the region had been very dry, we did not have a problem traversing the road in our two-wheel drive van, but you should always check road conditions before attempting the drive.) The trail begins across the road from the parking lot: After walking through some brush and down a hill you will start following the creek bed and the canyon walls will eventually begin to narrow in around you. The canyon walls are beautiful, and during most parts of the day the walls provide shade from the sun. Although the creek was barely flowing in spots, the kids enjoyed the chance to explore and wind their way through the canyon. We hiked about 1.5 miles in before turning around.
(Note: As with all slot canyons, there is a risk of flash flooding. Check weather conditions before hiking and never hike when rain is expected.)
Lower Calf Creek Falls
Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail is one of those popular hikes where the parking lot fills up early, so you need to plan accordingly if you want to get a spot. (The parking lot was full by about 9:30 on the morning of our summer visit.) Hiking early in the morning during the summer is advisable because most of the trail is in the sun and a significant portion of the trail is on sand. Dogs are allowed on this trail, but keep in mind that the sand will become very hot on your dog’s feet as the day wears on. We got a later start than we had intended, which meant we were hiking back around the hottest part of the day. Jarrett ended up having to carry our dog out because the sand was too hot. (If you plan to do a lot of summer hiking with your dog, you may want to consider investing in special dog booties.)
The reason this is such a popular hiking spot is the sweet reward at the end of the trail: a waterfall! After hiking through the heat, the frigid water was so refreshing to swim in! Lots of families and other hikers were enjoying the water as well as picnic lunches (there is no trash service so you must pack out whatever you pack in).
Note: Bring cash because there is a $5 day use fee that you must pay when you arrive at the lower falls parking lot. The parking lot provides a water filling station.
Camping at Kodachrome offers families the opportunity to escape the crowds while experiencing the breathtaking beauty of Bryce and the land beyond. With its proximity to other destinations like Grand Staircase-Escalante and its affordable camping fees, Kodachrome is an ideal location to base camp. Don’t miss a chance to explore this state park on your epic West adventure!