Kodachrome Basin State Park: What to Do & See In a Day

Last Updated on: 10th December 2023, 12:58 am

The southern half of Utah is home to so many parks and unique landmarks that plenty of great destinations get lost in the shuffle. Kodachrome Basin State Park is one such overlooked site. Yet if you plan in advance, it makes for an easy stopover between Bryce Canyon (or Zion) and Capitol Reef National Park.

Kodak’s Kodachrome film was first introduced in 1935. Known for its warm colors, it quickly made a big impact, especially considering how most people had only ever seen black-and-white photos. And when National Geographic led a photography expedition here in 1949, they nicknamed the area Kodachrome Flat.

After becoming a State Park in 1963, it was renamed to Kodachrome Basin. And even in our digital era, the park’s rich red and caramel-colored hues – not to mention its dozens of unique spires – help make it a photographer’s paradise.

In the following guide, we’ll mainly be focusing on the park’s two main hikes, though you’ll also learn about some additional hiking options. Most of Kodachrome Basin lacks reception, so be sure to have a trail map that works offline, such as AllTrail or onX Backcountry. Both require annual subscriptions that cost about $30 per year.

At the time of writing, Kodachrome Basin State Park costs $10 per vehicle to enter, and you should plan on spending several hours here at the very least.

At the very end of this article, you can also learn about nearby attractions and the best places to stay in the area.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail

The Panorama Trail Long Loop

The Panorama Trail would have to be Kodachrome Basin State Park’s flagship hike. There are a few different variations to it, and you can easily do a shortened version if you have limited time. But here we’ll be covering the full Panorama Trail Long Loop.

The full loop, which we’ll be describing as done counterclockwise, is six miles (9.7 km). And according to AllTrails, it’s supposed to take around 2 hours and 15 minutes.

While it would take me considerably longer due to an issue with my leg and a few wrong turns, I imagine that most people could finish in a couple of hours if they’re in good health. All in all, it’s mostly quite flat.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
The Fred Flinstone Spire

The loop trail has numerous landmarks to check out along the journey, many of which are clearly marked by signs. One of the earlier landmarks is known as Indian Cave, which I sadly had to skip. 

During my visit, the trail was largely empty except for a large group who started around the same time as me. And as they hung out in the Indian Cave, I decided to keep moving and leave them behind.

But the cave is said to be home to some petroglyphs and unique handprints.

Kodachrome Basin State Park is known for having nearly 70 tall rock spires, and this loop hike takes you past quite a few of them. Near the beginning of the trail, you’ll pass the humorously titled Fred Flinstone Spire, which does indeed resemble the iconic cartoon character.

And past the Indian Cave is the long and narrow Ballerina Spire.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Ballerina Spire

When seeing these spires all by themselves, it’s easy to picture them as some sort of growth that once emerged from the ground. But they were originally part of much bigger formations that gradually eroded away, and the spires are now all that remain.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Hat Shop

Geologists do believe, however, that the remaining spires were comprised of harder rock than that which surrounded them. 

The difference in hardness may have been the result of flowing water in ancient times, which left a buildup of sedimentary deposits. And over time, the sediment was cemented together, becoming particularly hard.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail

The first part of the Panorama Trail Long Loop is pretty straightforward. But eventually, you’ll reach a fork, with one path taking you to ‘Secret Passage’ and another to ‘Panorama Trail.’

Confusingly, the ‘Panorama Trail’ option is a shortcut that takes you to the Panorama Point. But if you’re doing the entire Long Loop, you’ll want to head to ‘Secret Passage’ instead. 

Don’t worry about missing anything, as you’ll be able to enjoy the Panorama Point near the end.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail

The Secret Passage area does indeed feel like traversing through some kind of secret passage. And despite using AllTrails, it was here that I got a bit lost due to the trail gradually fading away.

I found myself walking through badlands with towering rock formations looming over me. While beautiful, I eventually realized I was not where I was supposed to be. And I had to walk up and down some rocky hills for a while to make it back on track.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail

Back on the correct trail, I continued west, with my next destination being Cool Cave. Looking at the trail map (see above), you’ll notice an additional smaller loop to the northwest of the main larger one. And Cool Cave lies at the end of this smaller loop.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail

Fortunately, the detour turned out to be worth it. And I’d even argue that Cool Cave is the highlight of the entire Panorama Trail Long Loop, along with the Panorama Point itself.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail

Cool Cave is a large opening in the natural red rock, and it does indeed make for a nice respite from the heat. Given the large crack in its top, it’s well illuminated, and a great place to relax and refuel with snacks and water.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail

Just be sure to pay attention once you leave the cave. The AllTrails app makes it appear as if there are no trails to the west of the Panorama Trail Long Loop. As such, I wasn’t paying close attention, assuming that the trail I was walking along was the same one that appeared on AllTrails.

But there is indeed an entire trail network in the area called Shepherd’s Loop. And it wasn’t until about ten minutes in that I checked the app and realized I was walking in the wrong direction!

Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail

Finally back on the correct trail (yet again), I passed by what I assume to be Mammoth Spire. And from here, my next destination would be the Panorama Point itself.

If you’re doing this hike counterclockwise, you’ll want to head east for a little while past Mammoth Spire before the trail curves and starts taking you south.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail

After an uphill but relatively easy climb, you’ll reach what’s easily the trail’s top viewpoint. With the sun shining on the colorful rocks in the distance, it did really feel like I’d stepped inside a vibrant Kodachrome photograph.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail

After enjoying the overlook, it’s time to head back north and then east. Eventually, you’ll pass by the Fred Flinstone Spire again, and ultimately back at the parking lot.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail
Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail

As mentioned, it should take most people around 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete this hike. But after getting off trail, mistakenly taking a detour, and being especially slow this day due to some nagging leg pain, it took me a whole extra hour.

Nevertheless, I was still determined to try Kodachrome Basin State Park’s other main hike: Angel’s Palace.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Panorama Trail

Angel's Palace

Angel’s Palace is a relatively short hike which most people should be able to complete in an hour or less. Situated in the northeast section of the park, the trailhead is just a short drive north from the Panorama Trail.

Angel’s Palace is just 1.5 miles (2.4) km long, though the trail is not quite linear. The views it offers are distinct from those of the Panorama Trail, yet equally impressive, so it shouldn’t be missed.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace
Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace
Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace

Despite being a lot shorter, the Angel’s Palace trail starts taking you uphill pretty early on. And as you make your way up, the trail curves around 180 degrees, and you’ll soon be greeted with amazing views of the Kodachrome Basin below.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace

But it’s not just the views that this hike is known for. Along the top of the mesa, you’ll find all sorts of interesting rock formations, including even more sedimentary spires.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace
Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace

Once at the top, you might be better off exploring freely than closely following an app like AllTrails, which has you walking around in circles anyway.

Some parts of this section have multiple levels, and to see everything, you’ll have to do a bit of backtracking.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace

In the western part of Angel’s Palace, be sure to walk down the narrow ridge, from which you can enjoy tremendous views in all directions. This view alone is well worth the trip out to Kodachrome Basin State Park!

Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace
Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace
Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace

Also be sure to check out the southern and eastern edges of the mesa, from which you can appreciate the basin from yet more angles.

Clearly, there’s an entire trail network on the basin floor below, though it seems to be a completely separate hike.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace
Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace
Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace
Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace

Once you’ve had your fill of this otherworldly scenery, it’s time to make your way back the way you came. Just be careful on your way down, as there are a few different divergent paths. 

And if you take the wrong one, you might have to do some scrambling to get yourself back on track.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace

Back at the parking lot, I was still feeling up for one more trail – even with my nagging leg pain. But if you were to visit Kodachrome Basin State Park and only do the two hikes mentioned above, you surely wouldn’t regret it.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace
Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace
Kodachrome Basin State Park Angel's Palace

Shakespeare Arch

As the only natural arch in the park, Shakespeare Arch was one of Kodachrome Basin State Park’s most well-known landmarks before it collapsed in 2019.

Even knowing that the arch was no more, I still decided to head to the area, as the former arch is part of the longer Sentinel Trail, a 1.7 mile (2.7 km) loop that’s supposed to take around an hour.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Shakespeare Arch
Kodachrome Basin State Park Shakespeare Arch

The trail, however, was a lot more difficult to reach than I’d expected. It’s way off the main road, and you’ll have to drive down a series of dirt roads to get there.

It was already early evening by the time I arrived at the trailhead. And I soon realized that the lighting was far from ideal at this time of day – at least in this particular part of the park.

With a long ride to Torrey, Utah ahead of me that evening, I decided to cut things short and merely stop at the arch – or at least what’s left of it – before turning around.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Shakespeare Arch
Kodachrome Basin State Park Shakespeare Arch

Reaching the spot of the arch, a sign explains how the collapse itself was never witnessed. But not long after, a hiker noticed a pile of rubble beneath where the arch was supposed to be. No vandalism was ever suspected, and the collapse was merely the result of gradual erosion. 

It just goes to show how many of these formations which we take for granted as being permanent actually have limited lifespans. So we need to appreciate them while we have the chance.

Leaving the park, I stopped for dinner at a restaurant just outside of Bryce, which was seemingly the closest place to eat near Kodachrome Basin. And then it was time to proceed onward to Torrey, Utah to start exploring Capitol Reef National Park.

Kodachrome Basin State Park Shakespeare Arch
Kodachrome Basin State Park Shakespeare Arch

For those driving between Capitol Reef and Kodachrome Basin State Park, Google Maps may give you a couple of different options. But be sure to choose the one that takes you through the town of Escalante. This route will take you along a scenic byway through part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

There’s even a stunning overlook which you can stop at and view everything from above. This route will also take you through the Dixie National Forest, though that part isn’t ideal if you’re driving after dark.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Overlooking the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument from Highway 12

Additional Info

Just nearby Kodachrome Basic State Park is the massive Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. But considering how big the National Monument is, it’s best to consider each of its landmarks as their own distinct attractions.

In regards to which ones are closest to Kodachrome Basin, there are no less than three slot canyons in the area: the Zebra Slot Canyon, Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon, and Spooky Gulch. Some of them can even be combined in a single hike.

While I was interested in visiting, I learned that the canyons are often filled with water. And you won’t really know how deep the water is until you get there. While I can handle getting wet if I’m adequately prepared, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of not knowing, especially as I like to bring my camera.

Other nearby attractions that are part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument include Devils Garden, which is known for its interesting rock formations, the Escalante Natural Bridge, and the Golden Cathedral.

Originally, I had plans to at least see Devils Garden following Kodachrome Basin. But for various reasons, my hikes took a lot longer than expected. And in any case, I prefer spending more time at a single site and exploring it thoroughly over hopping around to many sites and just seeing a few things.

Looking back, I should’ve added another day to my itinerary for Utah. I could’ve spent a night in one of the nearby towns (more below) and spent a full day exploring Grand Staircase-Escalante. But as my larger itinerary was planned out well in advance, I had to keep on moving.

I imagine that seeing everything there is to see in southern Utah would take a lifetime!

Where you spend the night before or after your visit is largely dependent on your overall Utah itinerary.

But first of all, let’s cover options within or right near the park. It is indeed possible to stay within the park, with plenty of campsites to choose from. You can learn more here.

Just about twenty minutes away from Kodachrome Basin is the town of Tropic, where you’ll find several hotels. Highly-rated options include Bryce Pioneer Village, Bryce Country Cabins and Bryce Canyon Country Inn. As their names suggest, Tropic also makes for an ideal base for visiting Bryce Canyon.

Not far away, meanwhile, is Bryce Canyon City, home to popular hotels such as Bryce View Lodge and the Best Western.

In the other direction, the town of Escalante would also make a good base for nearby attractions. The town is home to hotels like Slot Canyon Inn and Cowboy Country Inn.

If you’re looking for a single base from which you can visit Bryce Canyon, Zion and Kodachrome Basin (not to mention plenty of other destinations), consider staying in Kanab.

Kanab is an hour and twenty minutes from Bryce Canyon, an hour and forty-five minutes from Kodachrome Basin, and 70 minutes from Zion National Park. It also offers easy access to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and numerous places in Arizona.

In the past, I’ve stayed before at Travelodge by Wyndham Kanab, a basic hotel that was perfect for resting after long days out in nature. They also provide free breakfast. Other popular options close to the center include Comfort Suites and the Hampton Inn.

At the time of writing, there don’t seem to be any tours to Kodachrome Basin State Park, so renting a car is the only option.

Kodachrome Basin State Park is just a half an hour from Bryce Canyon National Park. It’s an hour and forty-five minutes from Kanab, Utah, and about 2.5 hours from Hurricane.

Kodachrome Basin is also about 2.5 hours from Torrey, Utah, the closest town to Capitol Reef National Park.

And as mentioned above, it’s also located near numerous landmarks that are part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

As you can tell, there are plenty of variables when it comes to reaching Kodachrome Basin, and everyone’s individual itinerary is going to be a bit different.

In my case, I had already visited Kanab and Bryce Canyon National Park the previous year, so my time in southwest Utah was focused on Zion.

Leaving my Airbnb in Hurricane, Utah, I decided to enter Zion one last time to drive along the Mt. Carmel Junction, which conveniently takes people in the direction of Kodachrome Basin. But this also meant first entering Zion via the main entrance, and the horrendous line of cars delayed our plans.

On the way, we’d pass the outskirts of Bryce and we’d eventually arrive at Kodachrome Basin State Park a few hours after departure. Finished with the park, we then drove another 2.5 hours to the town of Torrey to begin exploring Capitol Reef the following day.

Had I stayed closer to Bryce Canyon, I would’ve had time to add additional stops to this particular day of the itinerary. But as mentioned above, I probably should’ve added a whole extra night to this area as well.

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