It was a fitting end to our last day in southern Utah: a little adventure, some drama, and a whole lot of natural beauty at Yant Flat, in Dixie National Forest near the town of Leeds. During our trip, I had become obsessed with the Dr.Zeuss-like playgrounds of swirling, colourful Navajo sandstone found in these parts. Meghan from Another Walk in the Park recommended Yant Flat (she has three great posts about the place). Yant Flat may not have quite the grandeur of South Coyote Buttes or White Pocket, but it does not require a permit, it’s easier to access, and is totally awesome.
From Sprindgdale, at the edge of Zion National Park, it takes about 40 minutes to drive to Leeds (Exit 23 off I-15 heading south). From there, it took us almost the same amount of time to travel less than 10 miles along FR 031, a narrow dirt road with sharp hairpins and several rutted sections. It wasn’t too bad until the last mile or so. I can still hear Mike cursing every time the underbelly of our rented Dodge Dart scraped against a rock—his blood pressure rising as thoughts of costly repairs and missing an evening show in Vegas percolated in his mind. It had been my idea to fit in this hike. As we cringed at the sound of another episode of metal meets rock, I suggested we pull over and walk the remaining distance to the trailhead. Luckily we were only about 0.5 miles away.
The trailhead is not marked but if you follow the instructions at the end of the post, you should have no problem finding the path that leads 1.5 miles to Yant Flat. It’s an easy trail on an old 4X4 track that passes through pretty, high desert vegetation—perfect to bring down blood pressure. But, after about 30 minutes I was beginning to wonder when the Navajo sandstone would appear.
No gradual transition here. Suddenly, the desert forest gave way to a rocky wilderness. An expansive landscape of white and orange swirls, knolls, and patchwork lay before us. I was super excited about scrambling on the Navajo sandstone. There’s no trail once you get onto the rock, so take note of a few landmarks before you begin exploring.
With our time constraints, we only had about an hour to play on the slickrock. This is a totally fun thing to do and the scenery is out of this world. Despite the name, the slickrock is quite grippy. This is a good thing because there are lots of hills, dips, and ledges. Mike was having a great time, car stress almost forgotten until I led us onto a slope that was just a tad steep for someone who is afraid of heights. He froze like a cat on top of a power pole. After some deep breathing he made it to more level ground. Oops, my mistake; there were definitely easier ways down.
Don’t let the drive or the terrain scare you from going to Yant Flat. It is a really cool place and you’ll likely have it to yourself. The Dodge Dart was not ideal, but we made it. For those who don’t like steep pitches, there’s lots of easy scrambling. For those wanting more adventure, there appear to be many hours of exploration options. I was loath to leave!
There wasn’t much talking in the car until we got to the paved section. I was nervous about the drop-offs, this time on the passenger side, and Mike was intensely focused on staying away from the ruts. We made it to Vegas in plenty of time and miraculously the Dodge looked unscathed (thank God they didn’t check underneath). I’d do this hike again in a heartbeat, but maybe with a different vehicle.
Getting to Yant Flat
These directions were adapted from Synnatschke Photo Blog. They worked perfectly for us.
Directions to the trailhead: Yant Flat and Candy Cliffs are located northeast of St. George within Dixie National Forest and accessed from an improved gravel road. Coming from St. George you’ll leave I-15 at Exit 22, drive the Main street through the town of Leeds for about 1.5 mi until making a left on Silver Reef Road near Exit 23. You may use Exit 23 if you are heading south on I-15 only. Reset your odometer here at the junction Silver Reef Road / Exit 23 and drive northwest for 1.1 mi where Silver Reef Road bends to the left and you’ll keep going straight on Oak Grove Road (FR 032). The pavements ends after 1.5 mi. You will see a lot of dispersed camping areas along the roadside. Further uphill there are some windy, narrow switchbacks, so trailers or RVs are not recommended from there on. After 3.1 mi keep left at the intersection of the forest road 032 and 031, following 031 and the sign that says “St. George 24 mi”. When your odometer shows you are about 10.4 mi away from Exit 23, you will see a dirt road leading to Pine Mountains on your right hand side (FR 903). You arrived at the trailhead (37°14’05”N, 113°28’37”W). Leave your car on a place where it does not block traffic and start your hike on the left side of forest road 031.
Required time: more or less 30 min from Exit 23 or 45 min from St. George. (More for us!)