USA Yants Flat
- Please to see the GPS coordinates & weather for this photo spot
Just a few years ago this area was virtually unknown but has grown rapidly in popularity as more people see photos of the colorful sandstone swirls and hoodoos. There are several distinct areas worth exploring, all offering extraordinary vistas and colorful sandstone swirls. The best part about this hike (from my perspective) is that the landscape is amazing and we rarely see another soul. I’ve never seen one, nor do I personally know anyone who has seen one but be aware that there is a healthy population of mountain lions in these mountains.
As usual, early morning and late afternoon are the best time to visit. Avoid mid-day, especially in the summer when temperatures can frequently reach 100°F+ (38°C+). It’s a sandy 1 mile hike from the trailhead to the nearest canyon rim but this photo was taken by hiking about 15 minutes east before dropping below the rim to another sea of slickrock.
If coming from St. George, take the Leeds exit off of I-15 just a few miles up the freeway and turn left under the freeway onto Silver Reef Rd. Follow Silver Reef Road for 1 mile where it changes to Oak Grove Road. Continue on Oak Grove Road 0.4 miles where the pavement ends at a small bridge and you'll see a "Dixie National Conservation Area" sign. From here, the road turns to gravel and changes to FR 032. Follow the winding FR 032 up the hill where the road splits to the right to the Oak Grove Campground and to the left to St. George. This junction is 3.2 miles from I15. There's a large sign at the junction giving mileage to Oak Grove and to St. George. Continue straight ahead at this junction (toward St. George) where the road changes once again to Forest Road 031. This road is very well maintained until a couple miles before the trailhead where the road changes to bright red sand and/or clay and is sometimes deeply rutted depending on recent weather. Follow 031 for another 7.3 miles for a total of 10.5 miles from I15 to the Yants Flat trailhead. The forest road markers are on narrow stakes about 4 inches wide with just enough room for the road number, so you have to watch carefully to spot them. Park on either side of Forest Road 031 at the "T" junction with Forest Road 903. FR 903 heads to the right (up hill). The trailhead to Yants Flat is directly opposite 903. There are sometimes a few bumpy stretches of road when you get close to the trailhead but they're very brief (50 yards or so). Unless there has been recent heavy rain or snow that would make those last few short stretches muddy, the road is fine for a 2WD sedan. If there has been recent heavy rain, don't even think about it. It's a 1.1 mile hike to the first section of Yants Flat and the rim of Cottonwood Canyon. Near the end of the trail there are USUALLY two or three rock cairns on the left side of the trail leading toward a much narrower footpath on the left. When you spot the cairns, the main trail dissolves into slickrock a few yards beyond them and the canyon rim is less than a minute farther. You'll want to at least walk to the edge of the rim to see the sandstone fields below and you might want to walk (left) along the rim about 50 yards to find a relatively easy route down among the sandstone. There's all kinds of interesting and colorful sandstone features and water pockets to explore below the rim there. From the rim you can see St. George in the far distance. MY preferred area is farther toward the east. To get there, backtrack on the main trail to the aforementioned rock cairns (if they’re there) or simply locate the narrow foot path leading toward the east. Follow this trail for 10-15 minutes until you emerge once again at the edge of the canyon rim. Continuing along the rim heading east (left), look for rock cairns (sometimes there, sometimes not) that lead you down faint switchbacks for 40-50 feet and deposit you amongst the swirling sandstone and hoodoos. If you miss the rock cairns, the farther east you walk along the rim, the more shallow the descent until it becomes an easy stroll to reach the sandstone fields. Once you’ve descended below the rim, make your way eastward to reach this spot. One could spend 1.5 to 2 hours if just hiking to the overlooks or all day depending on how much exploring you want to do below the rim.