Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hike 2011.038 -- Spring Creek Canyon Wilderness Study Area, Near Kanarraville, Utah

Hiked Monday, June 6.

I was in the Cedar City area a few days ago. Before going, I did an Internet search for area hikes and came to this page, from the webpage for Cedar City.

I'm somewhat familiar with the general area, having visited all of the area national parks numerous times. My initial hiking plan was just to revisit the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park. It had been a number of years since my last trip there, but I knew there was one short (five mile hike) there that I hadn't done before, and that I could (if feeling well enough on Tuesday) take a 14.2 mile trek to revisit Kolob Arch. However, one significant thing had changed since my last visit: Kolob Canyons is now subject to the same $25 visitor fee as the rest of Zion National Park.

Since I had opted for an Adventure Pass a few months ago rather than the America the Beautiful Pass, I would have had to pay $25 to take take my one or two hikes here. And while I stopped at this visitor center on Sunday evening as I drove towards Cedar City and ALMOST decided to go ahead and pay my 7-day entry fee, I did not. Upon further reflection, I figured I would visit someplace cheaper this time. Kolob Canyons isn't going anywhere. I'll visit it some other time, perhaps when I DO have an America the Beautiful Pass.

I then perused the Cedar City page I mentioned above, and considered my options. I thought about either Cedar Breaks National Monument ($4) or Cascade Falls, near Navajo Lake. However, I was scared off by the tales of a heavy snow year. Even well into Monday evening (because of the geography, physics and politics of time zones, the sun doesn't set on Cedar City until almost 9pm), I debated options, before finally settling on Spring Canyon. It was pretty close, sounded interesting, and was short enough that I could do it in the three hours or so I would have before dark.

From Cedar City, I headed south on I-15. I took Exit 51, then turned left, towards Kanarraville. According to my flyer, I was to look for "the dirt road as you leave the town limits," and turn left. It was actually about five miles along "Main Street" before I even reached Kanarraville. Farms and ranches were on both sides, with I-15 to the right and mountains to your left. It is also very clear when you actually reached the town of Kanarraville: The fields are replaced by houses and shops along both sides of the road. Then, at the south end, the houses stopped, and that seemed to be the town limit. And sure enough, on the left side, there was an unsigned dirt road, heading to the left at about a 45 degree angle from my direction of travel.

Next, my little flyer said I should follow this dirt road road "about one mile to a parking area." At .8 mile on my odometer, the road reached what looked like a parking area, so I parked. There was no large sign here (nor was there any sort of sign where this dirt road hit Main Street). At the parking area, there were only small yellow signs marking U.S. Public Lands, and telling you a permit was needed to remove any plant or material from this territory.

Along the hill in the area are other signs indicating this is a wilderness study area, meaning that motorized vehicles are prohibited.

From the trailhead, several use trails and road paths headed in various directions. I headed east, in the direction that seemed most obvious. After going over a slight rise, this trail descended towards a small stream--one that a person could leap entirely across in a single bound. I deduced that this was Spring Creek.

Limestone walls rose on either side at the mouth of the canyon. The trail crossed the stream several more times before eventually rising a bit to the south. The canyon also widened, but the growth remained thick--a mixture of chaparral, grasses, deciduous trees, and the occasional conifer. Wildflowers were also common.

Some looked familiar. I saw a lot of phlox. Another flower I saw appeared similar to western wallflowers I knew from the San Gabriel Mountains, except that the petals were yellow instead of orange-gold. A third looked somewhat similar blue dicks, although the flowers appeared more open than the southern California version.

The limestone soon gave way to sandstone, and red became the color of choice. Distant outcroppings were approached and passed. Soon, I was walking in a grassy meadow, with the trail leading towards a small gap in the wall ahead. I'm estimating it was about 1 mile from the trailhead to this gap.

From there, the going was a little slower. In many places, there was very little room between the canyon walls and the small stream. Overhanging rocks crowded in from above.

The sandstone was carved and eroded in fantastic shapes. Still, the flow through this canyon must not be too powerful, as many trees, large and small, grew in the small slices of soil between the walls. You still shouldn't be here if there's a thunderstorm upstream, but obviously if the flash floods were really powerful, there wouldn't be any thing other than annual growth going on down here.

After about a mile of repeated stream crossings, I came to a place that seemed to be an intersection of sorts. While the water and main stream appeared to continue straight ahead, a broad channel also came in from the left.

I continued about another 1/2 mile beyond, to where it seemed it would be extremely difficult to continue without walking through the water. I took many pictures near the end, where the light on some of the rocks created an amazing red glow. This contrasted with the trees that grew in this crevice in the earth, and with the light blue sky.

The return to the car from here took just over an hour. This was with minimal stops. Some of this was over sandy soil, so I'll estimate a bit over 4 miles round trip.

The small blurb in the flyer I linked to said this was a 2 mile round trip trail. However, at one point, it also says to "follow the stream bed for 1.5 miles." I did not reach a point where climbing skills were necessary. The ability to walk on water would have been helpful, but climbing skills were not needed. At any rate, that's why I think the 2 miles is more of a one-way rather than round-trip distance. That, and my walking time back, lead me to think I traveled closer to two miles each way than one mile each way.

On the way back, I turned up from Main Street where I saw a sign for Kanarraville Falls parking area. I drove up there, not knowing what to expect. When I reached the top, it said there was a ten dollar parking fee, and no on-street parking was legal in Kanarraville. Since I had no idea how long the hike would be or what I would see, I elected not to explore this.

I looked on the Internet after I got back to my hotel room. It would seem that Kanarraville Canyon is narrower, and with a heavier water flow than Spring Creek. It's impossible to hike without getting wet, but the canyon and falls appear quite impressive. With the proper shoes, clothing, and waterproof camera, this would be a worthy trip. It definitely appears common on trail write-ups, images, and YouTube videos.

There are posts for the Spring Creek Canyon hike, too. There just aren't as many. Also, if you search under google images, most of the hits are actually for Kanarraville (or Kanarra) Creek and Canyon. I guess that's why Cedar City is trying to publicize Spring Creek Canyon a little.


  1. Locals know not to go into Spring Creek Canyon without a weapon. It is notorious for Mountain Lion attacks on hikers. You are lucky you got out alive.

  2. If there was any substance to the previous claim by at least one article of mountain lion attacks in this area would pop up on the most basic of google searches - not even one came up with a specific search including the canyon name. Nice try.

  3. And, with that, I hereby gavel the matter closed.

    I am apparently getting less tolerant in my middle age. In the absence of any non-anonymous, objective evidence to the contrary, I'll be deleting future comments on this matter.

    No, this isn't a violation of your right to free speech. You're free to post about what ever you want on your own blog.