Could there be anywhere a more colorfully named site than Kodachrome Basin State Park?
As the name implies, this Utah reserve is a site for city-sore eyes, worth a trip in its own right, but also an excellent side trip if you’re headed up to Bryce Canyon or taking the celebrated drive along Scenic Byway 12.
The site’s name dates from 1948 when the National Geographic Society made an expedition to the area. Expedition members were so awed by the colors in the rocks that they named the site Kodachrome Flat, for a brand of film which was enormously popular for color photography. After the 2,240-acre park was established in 1963, Kodak Film Corporation, which owned the brand, consented to its use in the park name.
The park is home to one large arch and 67 sedimentary sandpipes. The latter are monolithic spires, some as small as six feet while others reach heights of more than 150 feet. Just driving around the park you will be able to see some of the most spectacular spires but heading out on the trails will add even more delight to your visit. The layers of sandstone here began forming as long as 180 million years ago.
There are five official trails in the park, ranging from one-half mile to six miles round-trip. The half-mile loop Nature Trail is a good one to start with as there are informational signs along the way, identifying various plants and animals and explaining the park geology. Inquisitive children particularly like it. Although not paved, it has a hard-surface trail and is ADA accessible and there are several resting benches along the trail.
The park sits at an elevation of 5,800 feet in a semi-desert in the upper Sonoran life zone. The primary trees found here are pinyon pine and juniper. Other plants include big sage, Mormon tea, Fremont holly, roundleaf buffalo berry and prickly pear cactus. Mammals found here include mule deer, mountain lions, white-tailed antelope, ground squirrels and coyotes.
The Shakespeare Arch/Sentinal Trail is a 1.7-mile loop. The natural arch lies about one-half mile into the hike, and towers about 75 feet from the ground. The tallest spire in the area is the 70-foot Chimney Rock, which stands just outside the park’s boundary. You can access it via one-and-a-half miles of well-maintained gravel road from the park.
There is a campground with about 30 sites, and each can accommodate two tents. They can be reserved ahead of time by calling (800)322-3770 or at www.reserveamerica.com. If camping isn’t your thing, there are also six cabins available in the park. These fill up fast so be sure to make reservations at (435)679-8536 or www.redstonecabins.com.
Eleven miles south, in the grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, you will find Grosvenor Arch. This is a rare and elaborate double arch, and looking at it is well worth a side trip. The gravel road accessing it is normally very good, but becomes impassable after rain. Although there are fine views of the arch from the parking area, the arch’s base is only a 200-yard walk away, via a paved flat trail.
Kodachrome Basin State Park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. year-round. For questions, contact (435)679-8562, www.stateparks.utah.gov.
And as the name suggests, bring a camera.