Shakespeare Arch & Sentinel Trail, Kodachrome Basin S.P.


Don’t overlook this excellent hiking trail in Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah.  It’s a short distance away from the core of the park, and you’ll have to drive out to it on a dirt road.  But the reward is an up-close look at an impressive chimney, an arch, and a chance to climb up to the top of a rounded sandstone formation.

My Visit

Shakespeare/Sentinel was my final hike, before leaving Kodachrome Basin State Park, and I almost didn’t hike it, since I was mentally geared-up for other destinations nearby, like the slot canyons at Willis Creek.  But on a whim, I decided to give the trail a try, and I’m glad I did.

A dirt road takes you out to this remote corner of the park.  Aside from a few bumps, it’s easy to access.  The entire trail centers around the hill you see above.  If you go counter-clockwise, as the signs recommend, you’ll circle around to the back-side of the hill, then have the option to continue the loop, or shortcut across the top.

In the early morning, the first part of the trail will be somewhat shadowy.  You’d probably get a better look at the trail’s two namesake features, Shakespeare Arch and the Sentinel spire, during the afternoon.

Click for a larger version.

But, the view of Kodachrome Basin wouldn’t be lit as well, later in the day, so it’s a trade-off.  There are a few places along the trail to take a spur, out to viewpoints that provide sweeping views like this one.  The core of Kodachrome Basin is out there, a couple of miles away, in the middle of the photo.

You can also look towards the northeast corner of the park.  Chimney Rock stands all by itself in this empty area (you can see it at the bottom of this page).

Click for a larger version.

You’ll also have a good view looking west, towards Bryce Canyon National Park.  Notice the thin line of red-rock near the top of the mountain?  Those are the park’s distinctive hoodoos.

It’s a good thing they put up a sign for Shakespeare Arch.  It would be easy to miss it, as you walked by.

From below, it’s easier to spot Shakespeare Arch.  Again, lighting isn’t great for photography in the morning.

You can walk up into this washed-out area, directly below the arch.

Back on the trail…

… it’s not long until you reach the Sentinel, one of Kodachrome Basin’s 67 known spires.  Like the others, it was once a geyser, which hardened, and then the surrounding rock eroded away.

The trail continues to the southern end of the hill, then turns left…

… squeezing through that gap in the rock.

Over on the far side, you reach an option: go straight, and continue the relatively uneventful loop around the base of the hill, or make another left, and take the cutoff trail.

Option “B” is much more challenging, but it’s also a whole lot of fun.  And, it gives you the chance to get another look at Sentinel and Shakespeare.

The challenging part is the first step.  You have to climb directly up this steep section of slickrock.  Hands and knees are required, and there are some grooves cut into the rock to provide some footholds.

Once on top, you’re in the middle of an other-worldly landscape of rounded, petrified sand dunes…

… which are oddly littered with dead trees…

… and rocky debris.  Find your way up to the top of this area, and the trail will become obvious again, as it travels lengthwise across the top of the hill.

From up here, you’ll get a better look at the Sentinel, as well as the rest of Kodachrome Basin in the distance.  I think there’s also a spot to view Shakespeare Arch from the top, but somehow I missed it.

Back at the north end of the hill, you can see the parking area and dirt road below.  The trail makes a quick, sandy, switchbacking descent down the side, and rejoins the loop for the final few yards to the trailhead.

Before heading back to the core of the park…

… take the dirt side-road that dead-ends at Chimney Rock.  The interpretive sign has a photo of it, taken during the 1949 National Geographic expedition.  No shocker, it looks exactly the same as it did, more than half-a-century ago.

The Bottom Line

This doesn’t necessarily need to be your number one hike at Kodachrome Basin, but it’s a worthy runner-up.  Don’t overlook it, just because it’s a short distance away from everything else.  And if you do hike it, make sure you take the alternate route on the backside, up and over the top, instead of the less-thrilling lower path.


Kodachrome Basin State Park is located south of Cannonville, Utah, on Cottonwood Canyon Road.  The road into the park is paved, but you’ll need to detour onto a dirt road after you’ve passed the park’s visitor center (where you pay your admission).  This road takes you out to Chimney Rock — but before you get there, make another right turn onto another dirt road.  At the end, there’s a parking area at the trailhead.

Drivelapse Video

Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive up Cottonwood Canyon Road, then into Kodachrome Basin State Park:

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