Yellow Rock is a place like no other and I assure that you will share this feeling with me once you get there. The first time I was there and layed my eyes on that seemingly never ending hill I had the impression of being back in my childhood and wondering how my mother was able to bake a marble cake. What did she do to have the yellow and brown batter come up with these wonderful mixed patterns? That is the exact question that I had at Yellow Rock, how on earth did nature do this melange?
However, Yellow Rock is more than just a gigantic marble cake. It has many more colors with yellow, ochre, red, pink, white and all with cracks and brain patterned surfaces. The place is mind boggling!
Getting to Yellow Rock:
You should familiarize yourself with the Cottonwood Canyon Road (BLM 400) as this is the road that will give you access to the western part of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The road is about 5 miles east of the BLM’s Paria Contact Station, which is located on postmile 21 of US 89 (30 miles northwest from Page or 43 miles southeast from Kanab). It is about 14 miles from US 89 to the area where you will park your car to start with the hike to Yellow Rock. The park place is at the junction of Cottonwood Canyon Road and Brigham Plains road (BLM 430).
To find the Yellow Rock trailhead you should aim southwest toward an opening in the Cockswomb which stretches north south. Cross the Cottonwood Wash, where you may have to wade a bit if the creek isn’t dry, after which you enter a drainage and climb a steep hill with an incline of up to 45 degrees. Once you get to the plateau head west and you will already see Yellow Rock shining towards you.
The best light is in the late afternoon until sunset. The low sun provides the necessary shadows and contrast of the slickrock and brain-like pattern of the rock. There is no right and wrong in the lens choice. Wide-angle accentuates the unreal look of this site and telephoto compresses the cross-bedding perspective.
For a first time visitor I strongly recommend getting to Yellow Rock early to explore the place well, as the area is quite large. This will allow you, at the end of the day, when the light starts to be really advantageous, to know where you want to place your tripod and start shooting.
Last update: April 20, 2011