A Land of Monolithic Stone Spires: Kodachrome Basin

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If ever a state park was made to be photographed, it is Kodachrome Basin State Park. In fact, in 1948, members of the National Geographic Society visited the park to photograph a feature for the magazine, and gave it the nickname “Kodachrome” after the popular Kodak film of the day. When the area became a state park in 1962, it was named Chimney Rock State Park instead because of legal concerns, but later, Kodak granted permission and Kodachrome stuck.

The first official name, “Chimney Rock” is also poignant, however, because it is one of the most popular features within the park, along with the area’s 67 monolithic stone spires, called sedimentary pipes. Their multicolored sandstone layers are beautiful and seem to glow in juxtaposition to any sky, be it a cloudy day or the bold blue hues on a clear day.

Some geologists believe that these spires were formed because the area was once filled with hot springs and geysers. These eventually filled and solidified, while over time, the surrounding Entrada sandstone eroded. The pipes range from six feet tall to 160.

Kodachrome Basin covers 2,240 acres and is surrounded by Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument on three sides. With its proximity to other popular destinations down Cottonwood Road, it makes for a spectacular basecamp or a stop on an event-filled day in the desert.

What Makes it Great

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Pillars shaded red, pink, white, yellow, and gray are only the start to the greatness of Kodachrome Basin State Park. There are also natural arches, views for days, and a stunningly stark landscape.

Many of the gorgeous rock columns in the park can be seen while driving, but it’s worth your time to get out and explore. Some of the popular sites include Chimney Rock, Shakespeare Arch, and Ballerina Geyser.

Take your pick at any number of the exceptional hikes in the park, or do several. For starters, the Nature Loop Trail is an easy half-mile hike on a hard surface that is ADA accessible.

If you can handle a 3.5-mile easy to moderate trail, the Panorama Loop Trail is a must. There are slight slopes, so be sure to pay attention around them when hiking with children. This hike climbs up high, so you can see views in all directions of the park; the scenery is simply outstanding. An added bonus, like most parks, once you venture a mile off the road, you will be well away from the crowds. From the Panorama Loop, you can also tack on an additional 2.5-mile jaunt with the Big Bear Geyser Cool Cave Loop Spur.

Rounding out the activities in the park, a concessionaire offers horseback rides and other activities and services. Because of the lack of light pollution in the area, it is a stunning place to stargaze should you decide to camp here.

What You’ll Remember

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Trying to count all of the pillars you see (we lost track at 19, but we’re writers, not math people); the way the variegated rock shimmers at dawn and dusk; the view from the top of the Panorama Loop Trail.

Who is Going to Love It

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The notion that National Geographic Society named the park after color film should be a hint that this natural space will appeal to photographers. But there are interpretive trails that are handicap-accessible and hiking trails for all levels.

GPS Coordinates, Parking, and Regulations

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GPS Coordinates:
(37.516081, -111.994110)

The day-use fee is $8 per vehicle, while Utah residents 62 and older get in for $4 per vehicle.

This park is open year-round, 6 a.m. - 10 p.m., and is popular during spring and fall, when temperatures are the most comfortable. If you’d like to see an abundance of stars in juxtaposition with the Milky Way, plan your trip around a new moon—you will not be disappointed. Dogs are allowed in the park, but must be kept on leash at all times.

Website: http://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/kodachrome-basin/

Difficulty: 1 - 2.5 (depending on hike, or lack thereof)

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