Utah's Kodachrome Basin lives up to colorful name

Often eclipsed by nearby scenic attractions such as Bryce Canyon National Park, Southern Utah's intriguing Kodachrome Basin State Park deserves a closer look. Located at the edge of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, this park offers a variety of activities and amenities. At 5,800 feet elevation, Kodachrome Basin is a year-round park, especially attractive in autumn with its generally dry, clear weather, balmy days and nippy nights.

The entrance to Kodachrome Basin is 22 miles from Bryce Canyon off scenic Utah Route 12 and about 270 miles from Las Vegas. Southern Nevadans drive north on Interstate 15 to reach Southern Utah. Several scenic approaches may be used to get to Kodachrome Basin. One of the most popular access routes follows Utah Route 9 from I-15 through Zion National Park to U.S. Highway 89. Head north on U.S. 89 to Route 12. Drive past Bryce Canyon about a dozen miles to Cannonville. Turn there onto the paved nine-mile park road. Pause in Cannonville at the interagency visitor center for information on the area.

Kodachrome Basin State Park exists because of its fascinating geology. The layers of stone revealed there tell a story of the past 180 million years. It is a tale of violence, upheaval and change, of vast inland seas, huge wind-borne dunes and volcanic eruptions. The multicolored layers contrast with each other, the deep blue sky, the scattered evergreens of the pygmy forest and the high-desert vegetation. These colorful contrasts led to the National Geographic Society's proposal in 1949 to use the name of the Kodak camera company's popular Kodachrome color film for the name of the park. Kodak readily agreed.

The 2,240-acre park protects unusual formations with origins still not completely understood. Called sand pipes or chimney rocks, nearly 70 stone monoliths point skyward throughout the park, ranging from 6 feet to more than 170 feet tall. These might be the remains mineralized geyser columns through semiliquid or even solidified layers. The minerals deposited were harder than the surrounding layers. When erosion wore away the stone layers, the strange spires were left standing.

Kodachrome Basin offers picnicking, camping, a visitor center, ranger programs, restrooms and water. A trail system includes miles of hiking within the park. Some trails are open to mountain bikers and equestrians as well as hikers. Expect to pay a $6-per-vehicle day-use fee in Kodachrome Basin. The park campground contains 36 individual sites and two group areas. Campers have access to water, hot showers, firewood and an RV dump station. Camping costs $16 per night for sites without hookups and $25 for the four RV sites with full hookups. Only a few campsites are available without reservations. Reserve campsites at 800-322-3770, especially if your visit falls on a weekend or holiday.

Park concessions include motel-style cabin accommodations, a convenience store and horseback trail rides. Red Stone Cabins maintains six cabins for rent within the park and a general store for camping supplies and other goods. Each cabin has a porch with a table, chairs and a gas barbecue. A fire pit is provided behind each unit. Open year-round, the cabins are in most demand from Easter to mid-October, when rates run $99 per night. Rates are about half that amount the rest of the year. Call 435-679-8536 for reservations or reserve online at redstonecabins.com.

Red Canyon Trail Rides provides guided rides in the Bryce Canyon area. In Kodachrome Basin, one- or two-hour trail rides explore the beautiful Panorama Trail. Rides cost $40 for one hour and $60 for two hours. For more information, call 435-834-5441 or visit redcanyontrailrides.com.

Adjacent lands provide access to all-terrain vehicle routes and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. A graded road open to passenger traffic in dry weather leaves the park road to head south 46 miles through Cottonwood Canyon along the Paria River to U.S. 89. Beautiful Grosvenor Arch, a striking double natural arch named for longtime National Geographic chief Gilbert Grosvenor, is about 11 miles from the park along the Paria River route.

Margo Bartlett Pesek's column appears on Sundays.