Local Hikes

Exploring Dutton Pass

After traversing a good portion of the immediate area, I have become accustomed to the way features of the landscape appear from particular perspectives. After going on the same hikes, over and over again, it is easy to formulate a static picture of how the land and its features are oriented. I love finding hikes and viewpoints that shake that up. Having hiked in and around Zion National Park extensively, I can say there is no view of it that is not spectacular. Some views, however, are better than others. I have found that the best perspectives of the park are directly inside and from afar.

Dutton pass provides a perspective from afar that beautifully frames and displays the juxtaposition of the cliffs of the park with the surrounding landscape, each stunning in its own right. Along with the view comes the added benefit of being less travelled and more organic. On the way in, there are interesting remnants of cattle ranching and some Native American sites. A spectacular petroglyph and pictograph panel is nearby, but I will leave it a mystery to discourage disrespectful visitation. As I was hiking there last, some fellow hikers (which are rare on this hike) showed me where to find it and suggested there is a kiva in the area as well.

Getting to this destination can be challenging. It requires a high clearance vehicle and a bit of route finding once you get to where you are going. To get there, take the Smithsonian Butte Scenic byway off Highway 59. It is also known as the Rockville Road to some locals and is labeled Mainstreet on Google maps. Travel this road north for 1.5 miles at which point there will be a road heading east. There is a fence with parallel lanes on both sides.

I prefer the southern route, but they meet up at a certain point. You will pass a windmill and the road forks; take the middle way. Keep going until you come to a wash. At this point navigation can become tricky, just continue heading eastward toward the saddle area, which is where you will be hiking up. I usually park at the wash and keep walking. The road is well defined, and you can see your destination. There is a small stone building off to the right. Just beyond this area, the path veers south, but it eventually winds back toward the saddle feature. There is a clearing and the remains of old cattle-ranching infrastructure, and the road terminates at the saddle formation.  

The trail up the saddle is not well defined, but there are cairns that mark the route. The path switchbacks clearly in most places, but there are a few spots where it is easy to lose the trail. I have done it several times and always found my way down; just be careful not to lose footing on loose rocks. Once on top, there is no trail, but you can usually see tracks heading eastward. There is not much terrain to travel until you reach the cliffside and overlook. Just keep walking until the trees clear. Once you reach the overlook, an expansive view of Canaan Mountain, Zion National Park, and Smithsonian Butte, come together in a brilliant panorama.

I find this viewpoint breathtaking. It leaves you with a sense that it remains as it was before human settlement. Even with Springdale in plain view, it is so far off that you can hardly tell there is a town there. The cottonwood trees provide cover. It is entirely quiet, save for the birds that tend to nest beneath the cliffs. I unsettled them by throwing a rock over the side one time, sending a flock shooting up the cliffside, utterly unaware of my presence. They flew within two feet of me, winding up and back down, flocking to a safer place to rest.

There should be no trouble finding your way back. Keep an eye out for the cairns and if you choose to look for any archeological sites, do no harm.

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