To the east of Colorado City, right against the Utah-Arizona State line, you’ll find Cottonwood Point Wilderness. This 6,860-acre Bureau of Land Management property is protected for recreation purposes for both adventurers and explorers alike.
Peaking on the north of this massive wilderness is the Canaan Mountain Wilderness. This point of attraction has 400 to 1000-foot high multi-covered Navajo sandstone cliffs that make for some stunning rock formations. The Vermilion Cliffs on this side of Arizona are a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Cutting through the row of cliffs is the Cottonwood Canyon, making the wilderness look like two peninsulas of high country on each side.
Covering the lands of this wilderness are pinon, juniper, and sagebrush that runs rampant on this irregular plateau. The elevation in the wilderness switches between 5100 to 6000 feet, and the wetter canyons are thickly filled with willow and cottonwood. The entire wilderness is reminiscent of the landscapes of nearby Zion National Park.
The wilderness has no marked trails which means it gets few visitors, making it a perfect getaway for those seeking ultimate solitude and one-on-one precious time with nature. It is one of the best places for quiet canyon backpacking, hiking, and horse riding.
The wilderness has no limits and no restrictions. As long as you ensure its protection and leave no trace behind, you can use it for any recreational activity you fancy.
Head east from Colorado City, Arizona towards the Utah/Arizona border to reach your destination. Make sure to stock up on necessities before you reach the wilderness region. The closest service station can be found in Colorado City however, the closest major town is St. George, Utah, nearly a 45-minute drive to the west of the wilderness. At St. George you can find access to all kinds of emergency services and supplies.
The wilderness is surrounded by private property on all sides, which usually limits visitors here. Other than old stocks trails, no trails exist in this park. To access the steep slopes and cliffs at the western border of the wilderness, approach from Colorado City. In order to access the southwest corner of the wilderness, set out from the Cane Beds Road, south of Colorado City.
This wilderness doesn’t have its own campground. However, there are plenty of campgrounds nearby. Ponderosa Grove is a BLM campground just 34-minutes’ drive away from the wilderness. It is a quiet, primitive campground named after the canopy of ponderosa pine trees that provide shade to the nine campsites on the campground.
Amenities at the campground include garbage cans, two vault toilets, picnic tables, fire rings and grills, and gravel access road to the sites. Sites are huge enough to accommodate 24-feet long trailers and campers. Campsites can only be attained on a first-come, first-served basis. Campers can bring their pets along on the campground as long as they are leashed and cleaned up after.
Located about an hour's drive from Cottonwood Point Wilderness is Watchman Campground, operated by the government of Utah.
Watchman Campground has 176 regular sites, two wheelchair-accessible sites, and six group sites. The campground has two seasons, one where only-reservations are accepted and other where sites are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Toilets, drinking water, and picnic tables are provided at this facility. There aren’t any full-hookup sites at this campground, however, dump stations are provided. Electric-sites are either 30-amp or 50-amp.
The wilderness doesn’t have any marked trails. However, the area contains a variety of scenic, geological, biological, and cultural values. In order to learn about these values, visitors have to hike through diverse landscapes and uneven terrains. The Vermilion Cliffs and the associated canyons are the main topographic features of the wilderness area, and hence a hike is required to see these sights up close.
Diverse wildlife inhabits the Cottonwood Point Wilderness, and over 100 different species of birds can be found here. You can visit the wilderness at any time of the year and you’ll be able to observe the resident birds, as well as occasional migratory visitors. It is believed that at least 20 species of raptors reside here as well as riparian birds of prey. Peregrine falcon is an endangered species that can be spotted in the region by keener-eyed birdwatchers.
This wilderness has a rich history of Native American occupation. In fact, if you pay attention, you’ll be able to find traces of historic and prehistoric trails, remnants of Anasazi dwellings, old ranch sites, and even ancient rock art. There are also livestock management structures in the wilderness built by the past dwellers of these lands.
This wilderness might receive few human visitors, but the same is not true for the wildlife here. There are plenty of animals that live in these lands. Mule deer, mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes are seen in abundance. The usual population of Arizona desert reptiles such as snakes, arachnids, and insects is also found here.
The unique beauty of Cottonwood Point Wilderness is one of its main attractions. The wilderness is home to a long line of Navajo sandstone cliffs that are colorful and makes for mesmerizing photography opportunities.
The row of these cliffs is divided by small wooded canyons that also capture nicely in a photo. The mix of pinon and juniper woodlands and sagebrush chaparral provides plenty of opportunities to nature photographers to snap some memorable pictures.
Nature enthusiasts and experts would have a great time learning about the type of vegetation of this wilderness and the associated species that reside within it. Pinyon, juniper vegetation, Indian ricegrass, Galleta, Mormon tea, rabbitbrush, and other cacti are found abundant in this area. Furthermore, Riparian vegetation also exists in this wilderness.