I have contemplated about sharing this place with others for a long time, due specifically to how fragile The Nautilus is. However, I know that as a hiking family, and community, that those that read this share same desires that I do: To visit amazing natural wonders around the world, while preserving them for those who come after to enjoy as well. While a few hikers have already been there, it is not a complete secret, but now you have directions on how to get there safely, without getting lost in the desert. Even so, I write this with a bit of apprehension, and plead that those who visit The Nautilus treat this place with great care. It is a fragile white sandstone formation that could easily be permanently damaged by careless hikers who try to climb up through The Nautilus. Do me a favor and refrain from damaging this beautiful formation. As my Mom always said, “Look with your eyes, not with your hands,” or in this case, feet. Now, let me get off of my soapbox, so I can tell you how to find this awesome little place! *In 2014 there was partial collapse of The Nautilus. When visiting The Nautilus use extreme care as the rock is very fragile.
The Nautilus Hike Details
Distance – 1.0 mile roundtrip
Approximate hiking time – One hour
Elevation at trailhead – 4304 feet
Elevation at The Nautilus – 4350 feet
Difficulty – Easy
Trail – sand, some sandstone
Amount of water recommended – 1 liter
Bathrooms – None at the immediate trailhead, but some at the White House Trailhead 0.6 miles down the road
Season to hike – All year, but avoid if rain/flash floods in the forecast.
Permits – None needed
How to get there:
From Kanab, UT head east on Hwy 89 for 44 miles until you spot the sign for the Paria Ranger Station. Turn right into the ranger station. The road to White House Trailhead is on the left of the road to the ranger station. There is a sign to lead you. Follow the dirt/gravel road for approximately 1.5 miles. White House Road is subject to washouts and may be rough. You will cross two washes on White House Road. Park right after the second wash in a small spot that can fit two cars.
Hitting the Trail
Once you cross the second wash on White House Road, there is a small spot to park your car. As you look to the east, you will see where the wash comes out of the white sandstone and red sandstone rocks. I recommend following the wash east instead of blazing a trail, as to keep the area as pristine as possible.
As you proceed up the wash, you’ll really start to soak in all of the different colors of the walls. Some are yellow, while others are red and bright white. As you enter between these colorful wide, colorful walls, the wash will head in an east/northeast direction. The picture below was taken from the top of one of the sandstone mounds and it shows which rock hides The Nautilus.
The Nautilus is not a slot canyon, yet it does have the characteristics of one. It’s more of an amazing rock formation, formed from thousands of years of water rushing through the soft sandstone. You’ll want to look at The Nautilus from both the top and the bottom. You’ll be tempted to either slide down or climb up the soft sandstone formation, but as stated in the opening, please don’t. Take the extra two minutes and just walk around the round white rock to the other side.
This place is so cool! One can almost visualize water rushing down through here as it takes bits of sand particles with it. I’m not exactly sure where “The Nautilus” got its name, but “The Corkscrew” or the “Vanilla Swirl” would also be accurate descriptions of this rock formation. It’s actually very small, but in my opinion, The Nautilus is a great reward for such little effort! I’ve gone farther down the wash to see if there were any other hidden gems, and although the scenery was terrific, I didn’t find anything similar to the Nautilus.
Remember that this place is in the middle of the desert, and it can get hotter than blazes out there. On our most recent trip to The Nautilus, the temperature was only 70 degrees F, but it felt a lot hotter. There is no shade along the way to The Nautilus.
The best time to photograph The Nautilus is early in the morning, or when it is cloudy, as the formation will be mostly in shadow and void of direct sunlight. I recommend shoes with good grip such as these: