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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Yellow Rock and Hackberry Canyon, Utah

In southern Utah there is a very large area that has been designated as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This national monument spans nearly 1.9 million acres, and has very few roads. In the western part of the national monument is a dirt road that runs north to south called Cottonwood Wash Road. It is a rugged dirt road that is impassable in wet conditions and it sees light traffic. This road runs along the "Cockscomb" also known as the East Kaibab Monocline. This is a fold in the rock layers tilting them up at 45 degree angles in spots and forming a long ridge of strange rock formations due to the differential erosion of these layers of rock. West of this road is a large road less area that has few visitors that I like to visit. It has canyons with small streams, rock formations, slot canyons, and solitude that is hard to match. Along the East Kaibab Monocline is a large dome of sandstone called Yellow Rock. Yellow Rock sits on a ridge that divides Hackberry Canyon from the Paria River Canyon. Yellow Rock is a large bald dome of swirling colorful stone, and when I say large, I mean really large (like the size of a really large dome stadium). When I first came here this was my reason and destination but I found I loved the area because of the solitude and the many other attractions including slot canyons and rock formations. My favorite trip I have taken started where Hackberry Canyon cuts through the Monocline and meets Cottonwood Wash. I then traveled south down Cottonwood Wash for about 0.2 miles to the next small drainage coming down from the west. I walked up this drainage and took a trail which heads up to the right or north side of this small canyon. This trail climbs very steeply to a ridge then bends left or west, and once on the top it takes you to the massive form of Yellow Rock. Once at Yellow Rock I explored and climbed all over this crazy example of colored, patterned, and textured stone. There is no trail but you can't really get lost and it is pretty easy to walk around on. I have done this several times and it never gets old because you see something different each time. So this time I walked up to the top to see the great unblocked views in all directions of the surrounding areas. When at the top you will find that the northeast side of Yellow Rock drops off sharply into a deep narrow slot cut through the uplifted Navajo Sandstone. Looking northeast past the slot is a wonderland of slickrock domes including the prominent landmark of Castle Rock. Then after I got my fill I descended down off the large rock to the south where there is a sandy trail that I took that leads west into and area I call the rock garden, that has some free standing rocks of different shapes and sizes.
After about a mile or more I came to a trail junction where the Paria Box trail intersects the Yellow Rock trail. You can make a day hike loop of this if you take this left turn left here. It will take you to the Paria Box and back to Cottonwood Wash south of the Hackberry Canyon trailhead. Instead I stayed on the Yellow Rock trail that becomes just cow trails as you head north out of the rock garden area. After a little exploration of the Rock Garden I found a nice camp site among the rocks on the edge of Hackberry Canyon with fine views in several directions. I have camped here on a few occasions now, and I love the views, the solitude.
The next day I took the old cattle trail north for several miles along the ridge between Hackberry and The Paria. As I traveled north along this ridge top there were fine views to the northeast down into Hackberry Canyon.
And out to the west you can see wide areas including a prominent land mark mountain called Molly's Nipple, and the white cliffs of No Man's Mesa. To the north are the pink cliffs that make up Bryce Canyon National Park. Along the route there are many large areas of exposed rock with colors of white gray and even some more yellow areas. All with some strange shapes of spires, beehives and teepees, as well as flat textured areas. I camped the second night at one of these exposed rock areas at the top of Hogeye Canyon (a side canyon of the Upper Paria River Gorge). Out in this region there are no human footprints, no noise, just solitude. The next day I dropped into a side canyon of Hackberry Canyon called Sam Pollock Canyon where I passed some more interesting rock spires and shapes at the top of the canyon. I heard in this canyon there was a good sized arch called Sam Pollock Arch. It turned out to be a pretty nice arch carved out of the canyon wall that you can't miss as you travel down this canyon. I continued down Sam Pollock Canyon to where it meets Hackberry Canyon and turning south I splashed down the middle of the sandy stream bottom. In Hackberry Canyon there was a good amount of running water. I'm not sure if it runs all year or not. Lower Hackberry Canyon near Sam Pollock Canyon has red cliffs that are made up of the Kayenta and Moenave formations. As I approached Cottonwood Wash the cliff walls became much larger and closed in forming a narrow section as I passed through the East Kaibab Monocline that forms the Cockscomb. Here the walls of the canyon are towering Navajo Sandstone.
As you go through this narrow slot you are passing directly under Yellow Rock on the south side of the canyon. The walking is easy and just in a shallow sandy stream bed. I guess many people come just to day hike the Hackberry Canyon Narrows. The Narrows are short but impressive and I soon popped out at Cottonwood Wash where my car was parked. I have also hiked up to Yellow Rock from The Paria Box trail which takes you through some nice areas of the rock garden that are fun to explore. This route is alot longer to get to Yellow Rock but is not as steep and difficult. There is also a side trail from the Paria Box Trail to a rock formation called Red Top. It is a red colored rock formation that stands out among an area of mostly tan, white, or yellow rocks. This whole area is remote and good map skills and route finding ability are essential if you are going off trail at all. Up on the ridges there is no water so you have to pack it in, and any water in the canyons you must filter because of cattle ranching up stream.
To find the trailhead from Highway 89 between Page, AZ and Kanab, UT drive to between mileposts 17-18 and turn north on Cottonwood Wash Road. Drive 14.4 miles to a short pull off on the left (west) which is the trailhead for Hackberry Canyon. To find the trail to Yellow Rock, follow the trail from the parking area to the west, down into Cottonwood Wash and cross to the west side. A well traveled obvious trail continues west, to the mouth of Hackberry Canyon Narrows, but instead walk downstream (south) in Cottonwood Wash for approximately 300-400 yards. Look for another wash entering from the steep terrain to the west. Then hike west up this short side canyon and look for a path or trail. After about 100 yards, the trail leading west up this side canyon will turn right and lead north up a very steep, rocky and loose talus slope. You take many short switchbacks for .25 mile, an soon get to a ridge top. Continue up the ridge for another 100 yards to a saddle that separates Hackberry Wash to the north and the small side canyon you came out of. From the saddle, now head up the ridge to the west, past a few rock formations and through some slickrock fields and sand-dunes. Soon unmistakable Yellow Rock will come into view. There are no trails on yellow rock and you just find your way up to the top.
Where you will find unblocked views in all directions. South of yellow rock there is a sandy trail that heads west and eventually meets up with the Paria Box trail coming from the south. If you are going to explore the Yellow Rock and Hackberry Canyon area I recommend you read "Hiking and Exploring The Paria River" by Michael R. Kelsey. His maps are helpful and it helps with distances and route finding. His time estimations for me are low, as it always takes me a third to a quarter more time than it does him to cover the same distance (he must walk very fast). This book will give you a lot to explore, including many slot canyons (Buckskin Gulch, Willis Creek, Bullrush Gorge, Cottonwood Canyon Narrows, and Round Vally Draw), as well as the Paria River Canyon south of the highway down to Lees Ferry, and the Upper Paria River Gorge.  Here is a link to info about Cottonwood Wash Narrows http://arizjones.blogspot.com/2011/09/cottonwood-wash-narrows-grand-staircase.html   And here is some info on the Paria River south of the highway http://arizjones.blogspot.com/2010/11/paria-river-canyon.html 

1 comment:

  1. Hi AZ. Wonderful images, fine exposures, great Arizona country. Thanks so much for these and for the marvelous Seldom Scene music, complete with the late, great John Duffy. All best wishes to you and yours. Iggyoregon