The Cottonwood Point Wilderness Area is another one of the lesser known and traveled spaces in the Short Creek Area. It borders the better-known Canaan Mountain Wilderness Area, which is where the Water Canyon and Squirrel Creek Hikes are. Due to the rugged terrain and limited trail or road access, few venture into the area, except for the occasional horseback rider or hiker. The easiest way to access Cottonwood Point is by an old stock trail. From a distance, it doesn’t appear that there is a way up, but with minimal route finding, you can make it up top where a tremendous view of the surrounding area awaits.
Reaching the trailhead is quite easy, although you may need a high clearance vehicle depending on the condition of the road. From Highway 389, take Canebeds Road heading east. There are a gate and trail off to the left about a quarter mile in. Take this road north until it reaches the foothills of Cottonwood Point. Head up the sandy hill. The trail diverges but leads to the same place. Once you reach the top, it is better defined. Again, the path splits only to connect again as you continue heading north. This portion of the hike is less than a quarter mile. Your destination is visible and will serve as a guide and you will begin to see cairns (stacks of rocks), which mark the way.
About half a mile into the hike, you begin the ascent to the peak. This portion of the trek gets very steep in some places, so be sure to bring good hiking boots. There are portions of the trail that are comprised of loose gravel. Along the way, keep a close eye out for the direction of the trail and cairns. There are a couple of spots where the trail seemingly disappears. When I am doing this hike, I tend to stop at the cairns and look for another to ensure that I have not missed the way.
Another feature of this trek is a lone petroglyph of a man. I have walked past this petroglyph multiple times. It is weathered, and the orientation of the rock doesn’t allow light to cast shadows bringing it into relief. Its positioning suggests to me that it may have marked the trail for Native American hunters. It is the easiest way to get up on top of the mountain and there are always mule deer up there. I have seen herds of 30 or more on multiple occasions. The BLM website information says that it is prime habitat for mountain lion and lynx as well.
Once on top, you will be able to see a staggering variety of features. To the south, you will see the volcanic formations near the Grand Canyon and the Kaibab Plateau. To the west are Lost Springs Mesa, Little Creek Mesa (where the Cinder Knoll is), and the Hurricane Cliffs. Pine Valley Mountain and Canaan Mountain can be seen to the north. You can even spot portions of Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Elephant Buttes, Pink Cliffs and more. The rock formations of Cottonwood Point Wilderness Area are varied and worthwhile viewing in themselves. Many of them resemble beehives or Indian temples.
It is rare to see any signs of travel, aside from animals. If you wander away from the cliffside, there is an overwhelming stillness, seldom broken except by wind or overhead air travel. From this point, one could adventure further or simply head back down. There is cell service for much of the hike, but it becomes patchy as you go along. Any adventure in this terrain should be had with the utmost precaution. Not long ago, a woman nearly lost her life after falling into a slot canyon. Search, and rescue would not have found her had she not had a whistle to alert them as to her whereabouts. As always be careful, follow safety protocol, and enjoy.