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February camping and hiking at Cottonwood Canyon (2015)


Sometimes, you have to practice what you preach so we decided to try winter camping. Our family selected a date long before a weather forecast, but lucked out with a sunny Presidents’ Day weekend at Cottonwood Canyon State Park.

Cottonwood-Canyon-green

After setting up our campsite in the first-come, first-served campground, the first thing we noticed was the tinge of green on the hills and bluffs.

Cottonwood-Canyon-fogWe weren’t the only ones ready for a winter camping escape. Campers in tents, in their pickups and campers and even campers sleeping in their cars awoke Sunday to a thin fog layer hovering over the John Day River. The sun quickly dissolved the mist and melted the frost.

Cottonwood-Canyon-trail

The park has miles of trails along the river. Our longest hike took us upstream on the Hard Stone Trail. The trail is an old road and lives up to its name. We were glad for our sturdy boots.

Cottonwwod-Canyon-near-end

The park brochure shows the trail ending at 1.5 miles, but the trail continues for another three-quarters of a mile or so. We walked on to see the rock ledge meeting the river in the distance.

Cottonwood-Canyon-cliffs-2

And, we weren’t disappointed. We stopped for a break and realized we should have brought more drinking water. Something to remember for Cottonwood Canyon in all seasons.

Cottonwood-Canyon-moth

What are they? I don’t know their names but they brightened up the landscape on our way back to the campground.

Cottonwood Canyon State Park (park info and driving directions)

Park brochure, campground and trail map