Yellow Rock Off Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Yellow Rock: A Unique Hike In Grand Staircase-Escalante

Yellow Rock is one of those off-beaten places that will take you by complete surprise. The best part- you’ll most likely have it to yourself since it is not well known and requires an adventure in itself just to reach the trailhead.

This little hike will be the perfect addition to your Southern Utah road trip if you’re looking to miss the crowds and include your furry sidekick. It is located in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument which holds some of the most diverse and stunning landscapes of Utah.

In this post I’ll guide you through everything you need to know about hiking to Yellow Rock. How to reach the trailhead, where to park, and all trail details for a safe adventure. Let’s go!

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Yellow Rock Hike Stats

  • Hiking Distance | 2.0 miles RT
  • Difficulty | Moderate
  • Elevation Gain | 465 feet
  • Total Time | 1-2 hours
  • Permits/Fees | None unless you are camping in the area. Pick up a free permit from the nearest visitor’s center!
  • Trailhead | Lower Hackberry Trailhead
  • Road Conditions | Well graded dirt road, 2WD okay. 4×4 required when wet, and likely impassible even then.
  • Dogs Allowed | Yes, boots recommended.

Below is a map of the route to Yellow Rock.

There is no official trailhead posted for Yellow Rock. When driving you won’t see any signs for it. Even when looking at online maps it can be quite confusing- I almost missed it my first time through this area.

Luckily I’m here to help guide you so you don’t miss it! To get to Yellow Rock you’ll park at Lower Hackberry Trailhead and find your way from there. The ‘Parking Yellow Rock’ area, shown on the map above, did not exist when I drove through, even though it said so on the map! It is best to just park at Lower Hackberry Trailhead.

The entire route to Yellow Rock is not well maintained or straight forward. As you can see in my trail map above I didn’t even follow the ‘official’ trail shown because it wasn’t obvious when hiking. You’ll most likely find your way by the use of cairns and natural route finding, but if you don’t feel comfortable with that, you can follow my track!

Preparation saves lives. Know where you are going ahead of time and always have a way to keep yourself on trail. One way to do this is with a GPS system or app like Gaia GPS.

You can download my Yellow Rock hike and gain access to my library of all tracked hikes. Once downloaded, you can load it into your own trusty device for ease of mind!

Getting To Yellow Rock

Are you ready for the fun part? Because Yellow Rock is accessed via a remote and thrilling dirt road called Cottonwood Canyon Road in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Cottonwood Canyon Road connects US-12 between Cannonville and Escalante to US-89 between Kanab and Big Water.

Typically a well conditioned 2WD car can make a trip down this road, but having an SUV at the very least would be helpful. You also don’t want to travel when covered with snow, ice, or when wet! The dirt here turns into a clay like mud and you will get stuck.

  • Trailhead distance from US-12: 31.5 miles
  • Trailhead distance from US-89: 14.5 miles

Read up on this epic back road here – EVERYTHING To Know About Driving Cottonwood Canyon Road – and check out the other hikes in the area too!

Best Time To Hike Yellow Rock

You can hike Yellow Rock any time Cottonwood Canyon road is accessible. The road is open year round, however when it receives a dumping of snow or heavy rain, it will be impassible even with 4×4.

Please do not try traveling down this road without checking the conditions and weather first! You can check current road conditions via this website. The dirt here turns to a clay like mud and you will get stuck when the road is wet.

Summer will be extremely miserable unless you hike outside of the hottest part of the day. The best seasons to hike here are spring and fall.

Please do not bring your dog here during summer! It is way too hot for them. Likewise, please consider putting boots on your dog. The rock throughout Grand Staircase-Escalante really wore down Monty’s paw pads, even with the use of Musher’s Secret.

The Hike: Yellow Rock

Your hike will begin from the Lower Hackberry area and there will be a trail that leads you down into a wash. This is technically called Cottonwood Creek but when I visited it was bone dry. I’m not sure if or when it flows, but I’m assuming most of the time it is dry.

Turn left into the wash and follow it for a little ways until you see the trail hang a right, leading you up into the rocky mountains.

Be sure to check out my favorite hike in this area- How To Hike Cottonwood Narrows Off Cottonwood Canyon Road!

Steep Climb On The Trail To Yellow Rock.
Looking down at the steep climb.

Immediately after you leave the wash the trail climbs elevation. This is the most difficult portion of the hike and why I rated it as moderate!

The incline is steep and felt like it went on for a while, but once you reach the saddle at the top you’ll be pleasantly surprised with a stunning view of the area. The views of Cottonwood Canyon road in either direction are amazing and this is the only point I know that allows you to get a vantage point like this!

Views Of Cottonwood Canyon Road.
Part of the views overlooking the surrounding area.

From the saddle you’ll hang a left, but this is where I seemed to have gotten off trail. Although while I was there it sure didn’t seem like it because I was on some sort of trail and following cairns.

Honestly, both ways lead you to Yellow Rock. And since the destination is just a large exposed rock area, it is hard to miss! As you hike closer to the yellow area you’ll be able to spot it in the distance.

Views Of Yellow Rock.
You can see Yellow Rock off in the distance!
Hiking Off Cottonwood Canyon Road.

After a little route finding and maybe some trial and error, you’ll find yourself on Yellow Rock!

Here you can walk around and explore as much as you’d like. The area is pretty large and steep. I recommend going all the way to the top because that is where you’ll see more of the reddish orange colors rather than just yellow.

Because Monty and I were on a time constraint we didn’t do this, and I wish we had! But to be fair, I hadn’t researched this hike prior to our visit and just happened upon it. We’re planning on returning soon to explore more and time it for sunset so the colors will really come alive.

Yellow Rock, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

If you visit midday plan on it being very sunny, exposed, and hot. Please be careful with the hot rock and your dog’s paws if you bring them along!

Once you’ve explored the area and are ready to head back just retrace your steps to the trailhead and parking.

More in the area:

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