The Cougar Canyon Wilderness is a BLM property near the city of Enterprise in the south-west of Utah. The wilderness is one of three interconnecting BLM properties in Utah that lay along the state's border with Nevada, which together create over thirty-thousand acres of protected wildlands for conservation and recreation purposes. The Cougar Canyon Wilderness covers one-third of the total area with beautifully scenic, pine-forested mountain slopes, rugged outcrops, and gorges with burbling perennial streams. Around the upper regions where the Beaver Dam Wash flows, Joshua trees and juniper dot the landscape alongside yucca, barrel, and cholla cactus.
The Cougar Canyon Wilderness is a picturesque place for outback hiking or horse riding, where there are lots of opportunities to spot a great variety of wildlife both in the air and on the ground. While motorized vehicle access to the area is prohibited and camping inside the wilderness is restricted to tents only, there are plenty of good campgrounds close by for anyone wishing to pitch up for a few days and spend time exploring these unspoiled terrains.
The Dixie National Forest to the north-east, the Zion National Park to the east, and the Pine Valley Recreation Area to the south-west all offer excellent RV camping without being too far from the Cougar Canyon Wilderness.
There are not many towns or hamlets close to the Cougar Canyon Wilderness that you can type into a navigational system to help you with directions. The closest is Enterprise, which is twenty-five miles from the easiest access point to the wilderness area. From Enterprise it's a case of traveling west along the UT 219 until you reach the turn-off to Forest Road 6 after around ten miles. This route will take you through parts of the Dixie National Forest, alongside the Enterprise Reservoir to both the Honeycomb Rock Campground and the Enterprise Reservoir Campground.
To get to the border of the wilderness, you'll need to continue along the FR 6 until you see the junction with FR 3. After you've passed the two campgrounds, you'll find the FR 3 meanders through tight curves and switchbacks as it winds around Big Mountain. It's a drive definitely not designed for RVs so pitch camp and use a different vehicle.
If you're motoring your RV down from Twin Falls after exploring the BLM lands of the Bruneau-Jarbridge Rivers Wilderness Area in Idaho, you can expect to be on the southbound US 93 for around six and a half hours. If you're coming from out of state after RV camping in the Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas in Nevada, you'll be pitching camp at your new campground in less than two and a half hours.
The Pine Valley Recreation Area in the Dixie National Forest is located twenty-five miles from Enterprise and has six campgrounds for RV campers. One of the sites is specifically for equestrian campers. Drinking water is available on all six sites but any garbage has to be packed out as no refuse disposal service is provided.
All of the campgrounds are open from May to mid-October. Three operate on a first-come-first-served basis - the Crackfoot, Mitt Moody and Ebenezer Bryce Campgrounds – while the others require prior reservations which can be made via the recreation.gov website.
There are over twenty campgrounds suitable for RVs in the Dixie National Forest. One of the closest to Enterprise is the Honeycomb Rocks Campground, which sits on the edge of the Enterprise Reservoir just ten miles from the city. Access to the site is via well-maintained dirt roads that can be negotiated in a lengthy rig, though it could be tricky for all after a heavy rainfall.
The twenty-one primitive pitches at the campground sit under the shade of cliff sides dotted with multiple mini caves, hence the name honeycomb, and are furnished with picnic tables and grills. It's a scenic campground that's ideal for anyone wanting to enjoy fishing and boating activities as well as explore the Cougar Canyon Wilderness. While there are no utility hook-ups, the site does have drinking water on tap, and vault toilets have been installed.
For anyone interested in history and what life was like in the pioneering days, a visit to the Frontier Homestead State Park Museum is a definite must-do when you're RV camping around the Cougar Canyon Wilderness. The museum is in Cedar City and displays diverse exhibits with artifacts dating back to the mid-1850s.
Alongside the horse-drawn farm equipment are several original wooden homesteads as well as many items relating to the iron industry. The museum also holds workshops on old crafts and has regular live reenactments.
A fun and totally different thing to do when you're in the Cougar Canyon Wilderness is to see some of the area's ghost towns, and there are a few to see.
Grafton sits on the boundaries of the Zion National Park, and when you go, if you suffer a bout of deja vu, don't worry, it's probably because you really have seen it before. The abandoned town was used as a movie set in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Another ghost town, Old Iron Town, is located near Enterprise and is still interesting to see even though it's not as well maintained as Grafton.
There's an endless abundance of wildlife to see throughout the extensive acreage of the Cougar Canyon Wilderness. In the forested areas, you may see large mammals like elk and mule deer, as well as foxes and badgers.
The more elevated regions of the wilderness are home to several species of big felines such as bobcats and mountain lions, while in the wetlands around Beaver Dam Wash, you'll see many small birds, plus the high flying raptors, bald and golden eagles.
While it may be a wilderness, there are excellent fishing opportunities in and around the Cougar Canyon Wilderness.
The Beaver Dam Wash, when in full flow, is renowned for its trout, while the lakes of the Dixie National Forest, including the Enterprise Reservoir and Navajo Lake to name just two, are well known for their multi-species fishing. There you'll be able to catch trophy-sized catfish, bass, bluegill, and kokanee salmon.
For the experienced climber, the Cougar Cliffs Climbing Area managed by the Snow Canyon State Park has routes for canyoneering and rappelling. There are fifteen different climbing routes on the red sandstone cliffs with such diverse names as Petting the Pussy, Arachnophobia, Going for the Throat, and Indecent Exposure.
Anyone planning to undertake canyoneering, climbing or rappelling activities in the park are required to obtain a permit from the park authorities first.
One of the best ways to begin to appreciate the incredible natural beauty of the Cougar Canyon Wilderness is by exploring it on foot. As with all backcountry hiking, you need to set out fully prepared for the experience with lots of water, food and a first aid kit packed in your backpack.
In the Cougar Canyon Wilderness, you can wander more or less wherever your legs take you as there are no designated trails. If you're not sure about heading out into the wilderness over unmapped ground, you'll find over a hundred miles of marked trails running through the Dixie National Forest, any one of which will leave you feeling as if you've had an outdoor adventure.