Coyote Buttes South Paw Hole or Cottonwood Cove (or both)

Diane Greer

Nov 28, 2013
My husband and I have been lucky enough to get permits to visit Coyote Buttes South in April. I have been doing a lot of reading on the area and looking at photos. We both love to hike and explore. We have a GPS so marking where we park the car will not be an issue. We have spent quite a bit of time in the Cedar Mesa and Canyonlands areas, so we are comfortable climbing around slickrock.

If you only had a day to explore the area where would you focus your time? Would you go to Cottonwood Cove or Paw Hole? I have read some warnings about the deep sand on the roads. How bad are the roads? Is the road to Cottonwood Cove better than the road to Paw Hole or are they basially the same? Which area offers more options for exploration and hiking?

Any advice or suggestions are greatly appreciated.
I do not have a high clearance vehicle so I have been to Paw Hole twice and Cottonwood Cove (in my son's high clearance SUV) only once. To get to both areas you use House Rock road. I find it a much smoother access coming from the south. Coming in from the north is probably more travelled due to The Wave and Buckskin Gulch but I find it more prone to ruts and slick clay. (Again....I have a Hyundai Sonata.) I say this, but I have come in to the Buckskin Gulch trailhead from the north probably ten times. Coming in from the south is an expressway in comparison. From House Rock road the journey goes to a different level. Getting to Paw Hole is a two mile road from House Rock. Yes it has quite a bit of sand but being only two miles it is fine if you have a proper vehicle. (I park at House Rock road and hike the two miles.)

The road to Cottonwood Cove is definitely high clearance 4WD road. The drive on BLM 1017 is good dirt road but when you turn off and go north it gets very sandy with a few hard rock areas that you need to roll over. We made the trip okay with my son's SUV. One memory I have is, that directly before you get to the Cottonwood Cove parking area there is a Steep downhill. I worried about getting back up that thing all day......ha. We gunned it and made it up sandhill just fine.

I don't know much about the road that directly connects Paw Hole to Cottonwood Cove #1079. They definitely do not encourage that route with "sand hill. Not Recommended" on the maps. I have walked the road beyond Paw Hole for a quarter mile or so and it is a gentle/persistent slope with solid sand. So I would say you need experience to go that route.

As far as which area to go too, it is like picking which of your two kids you like most. Paw Hole is linear. A ridgeline essentially. So you walk out then walk back. I have spent two days there and mostly two different experiences. A LOT OF SAND WALKING. You can stay below the ridgeline or spend time above it and looking down. There is access to get up to, or down from, the ridgeline. So you can turn it into a elongated circle.

Cottonwood Cove is bulkier. A square or circular. More slickrock , so much less sand. Due to this it is much more inviting to simply wander aimlessly. Due to the compact nature of the area and less sand this day is a bit easier on you I think. But there is a lot more area to explore than we got to towards the west and farther downhill.

Either Paw Hole or Cottonwood you can fill a day easily. I don't know about doing them both in one day. It would add a level of tension, logistically and physically that might be a negative. From the Paw Hole ridge you can look over to Cottonwood Cove and it looks reachable on foot. I have Thought about doing it but.....I can be stupid sometimes. I KNOW it would be all sand with probably a couple barbed wired fences to get over/under.

I have a trip report that might provide some guidance. I must not have posted a trip report for Cottonwood because I can't find it. Here is my son's trip report from our adventure.
Last edited: