On day 7, Blake and I woke up in Snow Canyon excited to pick up Phelan from the airport! Meanwhile, in Arizona, the other part of our group was waiting to see if they scored our permit for Cottonwood Campground. Long story short, the people ahead of us on the waiting list wanted the permit for the next night, not the night we wanted. They were waiting to see if the next day had become available, and in turn ended up declining the permit we wanted, so we ended up getting it.
As soon as our group found out they had a permit, they decided to make the 7 mile hike down into Cottonwood so they could make the most of their time down in the canyon. Since the weather was still frigid, they called us to let us know that our current clothing might not suffice…
Back in St. George, Blake and I packed up our stuff and headed to Owens Loop, a short hike that overlooks the cute little red rock town of St. George. We got a little lost getting there, and since we had were unable to find a marked trailhead, we were more than confused after driving around for about 30-45 minutes. We had difficulty because Owens Loop doesn't start out as Owens Loop- It starts at the Brooks Nature Trail at the small city park, Brooks Nature Park, on Main Street. About 0.3 miles into the Brooks Trail, You’ll see a merger sign for Owens Loop.Round trip, the trail falls close to 2.6 miles. However, the nice part is that you don't have to do all of the 2.6 miles to get a good view. As soon as you merge to the Owens Loop trail, you'll find awesome overlooks and carved out red rocks, perfect for something to do in St.George that might not be so strenuous.
While on the hike, we met an adorable older couple and starting making small talk. We asked them for breakfast recommendations in town and they directed us to Bear Paw Cafe… Best. Breakfast. Ever! We ordered Biscuits and gravy and my day was made!!
After enjoying our breakfast at Bear Paw, we headed over to the Goodwill of Utah, Deseret Industries. We stocked up on sweaters, vest, and long johns for us and the other part of our group that had already hiked into Cottonwood. Then, we made the drive to the very remote St. George Airport to pick up Phelan and head to the North Rim.
We picked up Phey around 12pm and began our three hour drive to the North Rim. Once we got close to the canyon, it began to snow and hail heavily. We all stayed in the car at the trailhead while we packed every single PBJ we could make into our bags, and put on every layer of clothing we had bought at DI. There are clean water sources at the trailhead, along the trail, and in the campground at Cottonwood, so luckily that wasn't an issue!
Call us crazy, and we definitely were crazy, but we started our 7 mile hike at 4pm with dark clouds above our heads and hail coming down hard. We only had one shot to stay the night in Cottonwood, and this was it. If we didn't make the hike, we would just have to sit at the trailhead and wait for our group to come back up the next day.
Since we had no cellphone service, we couldn't communicate with the ones already in Cottonwood to let them know where we were, if we were hiking down tonight, and if we would even be there at all! So, they just sat and waited patiently for us. About half way down, the temperature had gotten warmer, but the wind began to pick up and the thunder started rolling. So… we started running. No seriously… We ran the entire last half of the trail due to the storm moving in, and made it to camp in record time- about 2 hours and 30 minutes. Once we found Cottonwood, we started running through camp like crazy people looking for our friends tents and yelling their names. It was raining, so everyone in the camp had retreated to their tents. Once they heard us, Matt, Jamie, Kimmy, Mandy, and Alex all came running out of their tents and I have never been so happy and relieved in my life to see those goofballs.
We quickly set up our tent and called it a night, excited to explore the bottom of the canyon in the daylight.
Helpful Hints for Cottonwood-
- Make sure to properly display your permit on the permit box outside your campsite.
- The weather gets significantly warmer as soon as you start hiking down into the canyon, so wear light layers if you are cold at the trailhead, as you will most likely be removing them pretty soon into your hike.
- Bring water containers
- You MUST utilize the provided trash canisters at each camp to avoid wild animals getting into your stuff.
- There are a ton of trail runners on South Kaibab who are running rim to rim, or even rim to rim to rim, so when you're walking on the trails, always step aside for those running.