Yellow Rock - The Wave Alternative at the Cottonwood Canyon Road in Utah

Yellow Rock - The Wave Alternative at the Cottonwood Canyon Road in Utah

United States
United States

When Is the Best Time

Hidden Gems in Grand Staircase Esca...

The Yellow Rock is another otherworldly place in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument or GSENM. IMO the Yellow Rock is a hundred times more impressive than the Wave, and you have this place for yourselves.

Yellow Rock with yellow, orange and white sandstone locking like icecream

The entire dome is multi-coloured with different Navajo sandstone formations in shades of white to orange, red, pink, and yellow. It deserves a far more exciting name due to the unique mixture of Wave-like shapes and colours.

Yellow Rock with red sandstone formations

When we started the track, we met one hiker coming from Yellow Rock. He was in awe, telling us he had seen the Wave, the Fire Wave, White Pocket, Monument Valley, and more, and none of these places was that beautiful, and we got excited. 

Yellow sandstone formation at Yellow Rock

We spent many hours here but couldn’t explore the entire rock; it is too vast. The hike is off the beaten path, quite a ride to get here in a 4 WD. We agree with this hiker - we were overwhelmed by the beauty of this magical place.

Where is Yellow Rock - How to Get to Yellow Rock?

The Cottonwood Canyon Road Sign with mileage
The parking is opposite this sing

The trailhead of Yellow Rock is situated at the 46 miles long Cottonwood Canyon Road in the Paria River Valley, a loose gravel road which is not accessible during and after heavy rainfall. The sand turns into clay, and cars get stuck. You can access this dirt road by 4 WD from the north of HW 12 or south of HW 89. Parking at Lower Hackberry Canyon Trailhead Google Maps Location

1. North from Kodachrome State Park - 25 mi 1.30 h or HW 12 Cannonville 31 mi

The gravel Cottonwood Canyon Road
The Cockscomb at the CCR - the dirt road at Cottonwood Narrows 

We camped in the Kodachrome State Park and accessed the road from the north. The entire road is uneven in parts, bumpy with deep potholes filled with sand. Coming from the north, you pass by Grosvenor Arch and the Cottonwood Narrows, both worth a stop.

2. South from Page - 42 mi 1.15 h

The huge parking for Hackberry Canyon Trail
The parking for Lower Hackberry and Yellow Rock

Coming from Page from HW 89, only 14 miles lead along the gravel Cottonwood Road; therefore, easier to drive. However, we loved the journey on the entire Cottonwood Canyon Road, one of the most fascinating dirt roads. 

Yellow Rock formations
Me taking pictures of Yellow Rock

There aren’t any signs for Yellow Rock, nor is the trail marked. You need good navigation skills and, most importantly, a mobile hiking app. 

Close photo of the red sandstone layers at Yellow Rock

The best time for Yellow Rock is the drier and cooler months, from late September to October and April to mid-June. Summer is hot, with temps above 86°F/30°C in the shade. It is also the monsoon season, with thunderstorms in the afternoon or evening. It can pour for hours, and your 4 WD, gets stuck on the dirt road. In winter Cottonwood Canyon Road is frequently closed.

Yellow, white, and red sandstone at Yellow Rock
The breathtaking afternoon light.

The best daytime for excellent shots is the morning and late afternoon, with perfect sunlight. 

Is there Snow at Yellow Rock in the Winter?

Cottonwood Canyon Road is frequently inaccessible and closed in the winter because of snow. Due to the high elevation, the first snow occurs already in November.

If you like to learn more about hikes in Grand Staircase Escalante, check out this guidebook.
The hikes featured in this book range from family-friendly day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips that will excite the most adventurous of spirits and will educate readers.

Cosmic Ashtray nearby Yellow Rock

Another hidden gem which also belongs to Escalante is the otherworldly Cosmic Ashtray.  And there are more such places off the beaten path, not overrun, with no soul in sight, just you and this magnificent piece of mother nature, the Wahweap Hoodoos, just half an hour from Page.

The white Ghost with a clear blue sky in the morning
The White Ghost - The most famous hoodoo.

Best Months to Visit

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Location and Tips

Cannonville, Grand Staircase Escalante
United States
United States

Do NOT go into the expansive Grand Staircase without this detailed map. For large amounts of time, you will not have cell phone service. It's a great alternative to a mapping app or for planning. The map delivers unmatched detail and valuable information to assist you in your exploration of this remote and colourful wilderness. It is printed on durable synthetic paper, making them waterproof, tear-resistant and tough.

Yellow Rock, the Wave Alternative, is a photographer's dream with hundreds of outstanding spots and a great alternative for the Wave. If you plan to explore Yellow Rock, it is best to stay close in Kodachrome State Park like we did, in Page or camp along Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Trail and Hiking Details of Yellow Rock

Yellow Rock with yellow wave-like sandstone formations

  • Track Length until Yellow Rock: roughly 1.2 mi/ 2 km
  • Hiking Duration: max. one hour because the track is not marked
  • Locus Map Hiking Map from the parking to Yellow Rock
The thick bush before getting to Yellow Rock Track
The thick bush before you reach Cottonwood Creek.

From the parking, head to the south along the road for about 165 ft/ 50 m, then turn right and find a way through the thick bush for roughly 655 ft/ 200 m until you reach the creek bed, which was dry in June; in the summer but the rest of the year a shallow creek is running here.

The bushy track after crossing the creek.
Cottonwood Creek is to the left after the crossing.

Cross the creekbed and turn left. Now you may see some footprints. Follow the riverbed for about 490 ft/ 150 m, then turn right into the small canyon. We saw a few cairns, but I wouldn’t count on it.

The steep ten minutes ascent
This is the only steep ascent to reach Yellow Rock.

There is a steep and exposed escarpment covered with red sand, ascending to the top for roughly 10 minutes. This section is slippery, and we were glad to carry our hiking poles. Please, use rubber tips on your hiking poles in slickrock areas. Formations like the Wave and Yellow Rock are being etched if using metal tips.

The exposed ridge close to yellow rock
The ridge close to Yellow Rock

When we reached the top, we followed the ridge to the left and soon after, we got the first glimpse of this unique dome and colour explosion. Continue left to reach the rock and now explore this spectacular piece of nature. I promise your time is running too fast here.

Our first glimpse to Yellow Rock
Shortly before we accessed Yellow Rock.

On windy days it is a little challenging to climb on this exposed dome, but overall it wasn't slippery on the rock itself.

Other colourful rocks in the distance
The entire Cottonwood area is breathtaking.

The 360° view from Yellow Rock is spectacular, and you see other colourful rock formations in the distance.

Can I Camp at Yellow Rock?

Our view out of the tent in Kodachrome
One of the best campsites ever in Kodachrome

Most of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and so the Cottonwood Canyon Road are situated on BLM land, and it is allowed to camp in this area. For overnight hikes, a permit is required, which you get easily at the information centres of GSENM.

Escalante Photo Collage with 5 highlights of this monument.

Do you wish to know more about the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument? Check out my new guide and the 17 Must-Visit Places and where they are located. Not all are difficult to get to, some are even family and dog friendly.

Do you want to obtain the usage right for my images? Contact me, but I will take action against picture theft.

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Created by
Micha Herber-Bleich
Micha Herber-Bleich
I am always open, curious about new…