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Yellow Rock Trail – Incredible Hike to a Hidden Gem in Southern Utah

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Deep within the rugged terrain of southern Utah lies a hidden hiking gem – the Yellow Rock trail. But how do you hike this remote and seldom-visited location?

When Tim and I hiked Yellow Rock, we had just lost the lottery for Wave permits (again!). With an extra day in Kanab, we opened AllTrails and started searching for unique hikes. By the name alone, Yellow Rock caught our eyes!

This stunning geological formation offers hikers a unique and memorable adventure unlike any other in the region.

With its vibrant yellow Navajo sandstone cliffs, intricate layers of rock formations, and panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, Yellow Rock is an amazing destination for outdoor enthusiasts seeking an unforgettable hiking experience.

Our guide to the Yellow Rock Trail tells you exactly how to get to the trailhead, what to expect on the hike, and how to prepare. Let’s go!

Follow the seven Leave No Trace principles: plan your hike in advance, stick to designated trails, carry out all your belongings, dispose of waste properly, leave natural areas untouched, minimize the impact of campfires, show consideration for fellow hikers, and avoid approaching or feeding wildlife.

Yellow Rock Hike At-A-Glance

  • Location: Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument (Kanab, Utah)
  • Distance: 2.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 846 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Access: Unpaved road navigable by all vehicles in dry conditions
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Toilets: None
  • All Trails Link

Getting to the Yellow Rock Trailhead

The drive to Yellow Rock trailhead is half the adventure!

Yellow Rock Trail is 61 miles from Kanab (1 hour, 18 minutes) and 42 miles from Page (1 hour, 3 minutes). While you can also access Yellow Rock from the north, these two southerly towns are much closer and so are the ones we recommend.

Whether you are coming from Kanab or Page, you’ll take Highway 89 to Cottonwood Canyon Road to reach the Yellow Rock Trailhead.

The 14-mile journey on the unpaved Cottonwood Canyon Road begins with a scenic route across grassy hills before descending into the picturesque Paria River valley. Along the way, you’ll trace the base of low cliffs, traversing through the adjacent valley of Cottonwood Creek, flanked by the striking Cockscomb ridge characterized by jagged strata.

While Cottonwood Canyon Road can be rough in certain seasons and impassable after rainfall, it’s typically navigable for all vehicles in dry conditions.

Parking Information

There is a small dirt parking area at the Lower Hackberry Canyon Trailhead.

Trail Description

Start your Yellow Rock by following Cottonwood Wash downstream, southwest from where you parked.

After hiking 0.3 miles from the parking area, you will cross Cottonwood Creek and head north into a gully. From here, the trail ascends steeply up a rocky slope. This part of the trail was sketchy at times, with the mix of sand and rock sliding beneath our feet with each step.

While the Yellow Rock hike is not particularly long at 2.4 miles, this scramble portion kicks it up a notch, which is why we consider this moderate-difficulty hike. The Yellow Rock Trail gains 846 feet of elevation overall, and over 350 feet of it happens during this steep 0.2-mile hike segment!

Once at the top of the climb, you’ll get your first view of Yellow Rock to the northwest. Now, it’s a relatively flat sandy trail through light vegetation straight to Yellow Rock.

Once you get to Yellow Rock, made of Navajo sandstone, feel free to roam around and explore. The colors vary throughout the rock’s surface, with shades of yellow, orange, red, and even bright pink. Limonite, a type of iron ore in the sandstone, gives Yellow Rock its distinct color.

We stayed on Yellow Rock for a long time, taking photos and enjoying the winter sun. It felt like we were all alone on a completely different planet.

When you’re ready, you’ll hike back down the way you came. And, as a reminder, that steep section feels even more precarious when you’re hiking down. Take it slow and make sure you have solid footholds with each step to avoid falling (which Tim and I each did).

Safety Tips

  • Hiking Poles can be helpful for the steep ascent and descent on the Yellow Rock Trail
  • Wear sturdy hiking boots that can support the scramble.
  • Pack a lightweight first-aid kit.
  • Wear a hat and sunscreen, since this trail is completely exposed once you cross Cottonwood Creek.
  • Pack 3 liters of water per person, which can be carried in a backpack water reservoir or Nalgene bottles.
  • Bring salty snacks and consider an electrolyte powder in your water to prevent dehydration.
  • Don’t try to hike Yellow Rock if it’s raining or has recently rained since Cottonwood Canyon Road can be impassable when wet.
  • Make sure you bring the 10 Essentials!

Where to Stay

Kanab and Page are the closest towns, so I recommend looking in those cities for hotel accommodations. We’ll list a few of our favorites where we’ve stayed or recommend on reputation below.

Best Hotels in Page

Best Hotels in Kanab

Use the map below to find your perfect stay!

Camping Near Yellow Rock Trail

If you are car or van/RV camping, there is plenty of BLM land around the Yellow Rock Trail. This trail is part of the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. As a result, there are ample dispersed camping options nearby.

When to Hike Yellow Rock Trail

We would generally recommend hiking to Yellow Rock in spring and fall for the best weather and conditions. Winter can be snowy, and summer is dangerously hot on a trail with no shade.

If you must visit in summer, plan your hike for early in the morning to beat the heat!

Regardless of the season, don’t underestimate the dry desert environment and always carry ample water with you!

More to See Nearby

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