The day started a little earlier than normal as travel time to Cannonville, UT is 1h:47m and we needed to find our way a little further than that. One of the very nice features technology has brought into my life is Google maps and the reduction in time spent lost and backtracking to find a location. It still happens, but not nearly as often.
Dropping off the eastern rim of Bryce Canyon and following highway 12, the sun begins to make an appearance. White Hoodoos dot the eastern rim, below Shakespear Point and they are radiant in the morning sun. We stop at Tropic for gas and supplies. Supplies being a drink and morning croissant.
We follow the directions provided in the Wow Guides book, using Google maps to lead us to "Skutumpah Road". The gravel road is a wide, well-used road, the road, however, is obviously a "clay based" road and would be extremely slick when wet. The road appears to be well maintained and has been recently graded, pushing softer dirt to the side. Use caution on the switchbacks as this softer dirt is the downside edge of the road.
Nine miles and we reach the Willis Creek trailhead parking lot and it is full! What a shock. This is quite a surprise and today is Friday and I am used to having the backcountry, especially on a Friday all to myself. Linda and I stretch our legs as we disembark from the Fj and pack our bags with water, lunch, and the camera.
Willis Creek is a non-technical slot canyon, which provides a person the amazing experience of hiking through the narrow confines of a true slot canyon without having to do any downclimbing or rappelling. Willis Creek is simply a stroll, available to horses, mules and children alike (we saw each during our time here).
The creek itself is fed from runoff of Bryce Canyon and you can expect a small stream during even summer. Willis Creek is, however, a slot canyon, please check to make sure that no rain exists, or is expected in the area.
Unsure of the length of our trip we strike out and enter the gully by way of a well-worn path along the bank. Once in the wash, we hop and skip numerous times across the small stream of water, but eventually give up on even this as the water is rarely deep enough to cover the bottom rubber on our shoes.
The canyon is breathtaking, making several changes from slot canyon to a wide canyon as we proceed through the course. Each time the canyon narrows, the walls grow in height as we drop toward Sheep Creek.
We spend more time that expected walking between the narrow confines to enjoy the wide river bottom on the next turn. We keep going, without much thought, as each entrance into the next narrow portion of the trail is more breathtaking than the last. After passing Averett Canyon, the wide river bottom portion becomes the constant and we decide to turn around as a rock the size of a house stands in the middle of this section. It does not come close to touching the sides as we circle around the massive boulder and begin our trip back.
Linda continues to gather story stones for her Jewelry art by Linda business as we wander back toward the trailhead. During our hiking today, we have visited several times with a horse tour group, leading sure-footed and non-claustrophobic horses through the canyon.
The tour group seems to be running a thriving business, and as we begin our hike back, I wonder if that isn't the best way to see the canyon. They are here and gone from view before you know it, and I'm thankful once again, to be on foot and enjoying the length of the day spent in this amazing place.
We make our exit back to the parking lot and continue along Skutumpah Road to our next destination: Bull Valley Gorge,
Willis Creek can also be performed as a loop, connecting Bull Valley Gorge, Sheep Creek and Willis Creek then walking back along the road the 1.8 miles back to your car. It would be an extremely long day hike or an easy overnight backpack.
Bull Valley Gorge is considered off the beaten path as few who enter Willis Creek are willing to venture into Bull Valley Gorge. The parking area is small and sits just on the slot canyon's edge. A long, hike up the canyon is required to drop into the gorge without a rope. Linda and I make the approach hike, but are disappointed with how little we are able to return in the gorge before being forced to backtrack and return. With considerable downclimbing and areas that required at minimum a hand line to descend and return, we quickly ran out of options to continue.
Our adventure in Bull Valley Gorge is over before it begins and as we hike back along the canyon we vow to return again some day with the proper equipment to enjoy the canyon. Bull Valley Gorge is best known for an auto accident which claimed several lives as a truck plummeted into the canyon getting wedged between the narrow walls, crushing the cab of the truck and killing the occupants. The truck is still there, and the narrow pathway over the chasm is simply trees, rocks and dirt filled; not a bridge.
Driving back along highway 12 Through Cannonville and Tropic, we make one final stop at the Mossy Cave trailhead. A family friendly short hike is a Bryce Canyon classic and so sees a lot of use, especially during the summer months. The water is inviting to those searching for a way to cool down after a long day exploring other places in the park.
This water flow is a unique story of pioneer efforts to bring water from the Sevier River to the valley of Tropic. In May of 1891, settlers began digging a ditch to bring the water to the valley. It required 3 years to build, but the ditch water eventually created a true canyon within Bryce Canyon National Park, now known as Water Canyon.
The hoodoos are spectacular and the Mossy Cave is dripping with water as an "underground spring permeates the bedrock. The water slowly dissolves the calcite that bonds the silts and muds of the Ciaron Formation". Forming the grotto seen at trails end.
After dinner at Ruby's Inn we spend a small fortune in the gift shop, buying new books for more adventures in Bryce and the Grand Staircase Momument parks.