A Raw and Beautiful Wilderness ~ Paw Hole at Coyote Buttes South, Utah/Arizona

April 12 – 15

Anytime I’m close to Kanab, Utah, I plan to drop into the BLM Office the next morning with hopes of winning a ticket to The Wave which can only be visited if you have a permit, and the permit can only be attained by being part of the lottery. I didn’t draw the lucky number this year but I did last year. If you’d like to read that post here is the link: The Wave – March 2016.

I have some images of The Wave available for purchase in my online store, if you’d like to check them out please click here: Red Rock Country Photography Gallery (excluding Canyonlands NP), there is no pressure to purchase, just enjoy my images and share if you like.


The Lottery

It’s always fun to join the lottery for The Wave even if you don’t win. There were about 110 people there this time so I knew my chances were slim, but I love to watch the crowd all gathered with bated breath, and then when someone’s number is drawn their joy is contagious and all of us are happy for the lucky winners. Only 10 permits to The Wave are drawn each day, and then 10-online. The reasons for limiting visitation to this protected area are obvious, the Coyotes Buttes area is so beautiful it was getting overrun with people, and as we all know, too many people destroy an area of beauty very quickly especially as so many humans have no respect for nature.

The Consolation Prize

I wasn’t in the least bit disappointed that I didn’t win because the consolation prize is basically; the rest of Utah (and northern AZ). I simply waited for the lottery for Coyote Buttes South which happened at 9:45 AM. This area is also limited to 20 people a day but there were only 8 of us waiting for this lottery, so we all won.

I got my permit then stocked up on food and water because driving down House Rock Valley Road to Coyote Buttes South is not to be taken lightly. House Rock Valley Road North is located between Kanab, Utah, and Page, Arizona, along Hwy 89. It runs north to south starting in Utah and joins Hwy 89A at its southern end in Arizona, west of Marble Canyon and Lees Ferry, where I was just a few days before still in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness. The conditions on this road can vary as it is dirt and clay, and if wet it can be a total nightmare and is best avoided. Although it was dry when I drove it, it was still slow going because it had some bad washboard and was deeply rutted from vehicles driving on it when it was wet.

There are two different areas to park if you have a permit for Coyote Buttes South, Cottonwood Cove (11.5 miles drive in from HRV Road) and Paw Hole, a 2.5-mile drive in. Both roads are deep sand. The turn off to the Paw Hole trail head in The Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness is 17 miles down HRV Road, and once you turn onto the side road it requires 4×4 to get the rest of the way in. Studley Van is lifted and has rugged tires, but he’s AWD, not 4×4. I wasn’t sure I would make it but I’d been assured by many people that it was just as good in sand and mud as a 4×4, so I decided to take the risk. The drive into Paw Hole (and Cottonwood Cove) is deep sand, not rock scrambling (though conditions in the desert can change dramatically from season to season), if it had been a rough rocky road I wouldn’t have considered it at all. The road is also very remote and getting stuck isn’t an option.

A few days before I’d activated my inReach Explorer device, which I’d agreed to test for a month for Bob Wells of CheapRVLiving.com. Prior to coming out here I went online and set some waypoints on the device, and I also got the contact number for the local ranger whom I could text from this device should anything go wrong but wasn’t an SOS situation. I’d always used paper maps and a compass and the milometer on my vehicle in the past, so this was totally new technology to me. I will be doing a separate post at some point about this device and the Spot 3 I’m also testing.

Once I turned onto the side road to the Paw Hole TH, I had no choice but to go forward. It was 2.5 miles to the TH with a gradual uphill climb in deep sand and if I had stopped I may have got stuck. The road is the width of one vehicle with only one or two areas wide enough for cars to pass, so I just gunned it and kept going though the deep sand and made it safely to the trail head. It was the first time I’d driven in these types of conditions on my own, and I was a tad nervous and I was shaking from the adrenaline rush when I arrived at the trail head. Yea to Studley Van!

Aside from getting stuck, my biggest fear is meeting someone coming the other way on these types of roads. The general idea is that most hikers will drive in during the morning hours, and drive out during the afternoon hours, and therefore (hopefully) avoiding any unwanted bonnet to bonnet meetings, but it’s not a mandatory rule so it does happen.

A caution here; Do not drive past the Paw Hole TH on this road. The sand gets very deep and it’s uphill, coming down it from Cottonwood Cove is okay, but going up it is a no no. To get to Cottonwood Cove vehicle should take the long, 11.5-mile route.

From the Paw Hole parking area I found the small trail that leads into the wilderness and after that, there are no official trails. One just wonders and explores. I met some people near the trailhead who didn’t have permits so they couldn’t explore and I met some people at the end who didn’t have permits but decided that they had come all this way and nothing would stop them now.

After exploring the first group of teepees (above) I came to an open area and in the distance were these interesting looking rocks (below), so I made a bee-line to them while looking for snakes and trying not to tread on plants and cryptobiotic soil. The secret to causing minimal damage in the desert is to walk in water run-offs or washes as much as possible, and also to stick to rocks when you can, but even on rock hikers should try to avoid walking on the very fragile edges. Yes, they will erode away naturally anyway, but it’s just a considerate thing to do for others who come to experience the beauty after you.

I think I’ll just let you enjoy a few images…

I spent several hours exploring the Paw Hole area of Coyote Buttes Special Management area, and barely touched a tiny portion of the 112,500 acres (north and south combined). This area is vast and remote, and even though the area around Wire Pass and The Wave are becoming more popular and is seeing more visitation, there are still plenty of places out here one can find solitude if one is willing to work at getting there.

After exploring I drove back out to HRV Road and found a camp site for the night just off the road. I explored a little more inside the special management area near my camp site, while I still had the permit.

My beautiful camp site (below). It was such a lovely area I decided to spend a day here just resting and enjoying the silence. However, there was once moment that I was disturbed by a beautiful young lady in a rented white jeep. But I’ll tell you that story in my next post.

In the meantime I also created a video of my drive down House Rock Valley Road and my explorations into Coyote Buttes South, if you’d like to view it just click here: Coyote Buttes You Tube Video.

I hope you have enjoyed this installment of my travels during the winter of 2016/2017, and hope you’ll continue the journey with me. Please visit the HOME page to find more articles, and feel free to share, sign up and leave a comment. Also please visit my YouTube Channel. Until next time…remember to step outside of your comfort zone as often as possible and watch it grow.

Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature


1. You can help to keep me fueled up by buying me a cup of coffee. It’s easy, just click the link and see how easy it is.

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2 responses to “A Raw and Beautiful Wilderness ~ Paw Hole at Coyote Buttes South, Utah/Arizona

  1. Pingback: Wire Pass & Buckskin Gulch | Nomad for Nature ~ A Van Living & Travel Blog·

  2. What a blast! I’m glad to have shared it with you, kind of. : ) Striking pics too! Snakes? In my soon to end work-a-day world today I happened upon a beautiful black and white ringed 3′ King Snake moving too quickly into a thicket to snap a picture. woo woo woo!

    Liked by 1 person

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