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Yellow Rock, Red Top and Hidden Cache Loop Hike - Grand Staircase Escalante

Summary: An on and off trail hike that visits some great photo opportunities as well as a historic site with a mysterious history.
Directions: From Highway 89 between Page, AZ and Kanab, UT drive to between mileposts 17-18 and turn north on the well graded, dirt Cottonwood Road. Drive 14.4 miles to just past a cattle guard and right branching Brigham Plains Road to a short pull off on the left (west) which is the trailhead for Hackberry Canyon. The gps point for the car park is: UTM 419359mE, 4123741mN
Road Conditions: Passenger Car (when roads are dry)
Navigation: Difficult
Length: ~4-6 hours
Date Hiked: March, 2005
Weather Conditions: Cloudy, cold and windy with scattered rain and sleet
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the Hackberry Canyon car park. Follow the use path west across Cottonwood Wash. You should see the large drainage of Hackberry Canyon in front of you. Don't head up Hackberry, instead turn left (south) and parallel the cliff band for about 0.2 miles to the next small drainage to the west. Walk up this drainage and look for a trail which heads up to the right of the canyon (facing up the drainage). The path climbs steeply to a ridge then bends left, heading towards the massive form of Yellow Rock. The rock features some interesting swirls of red, tan and yellow stone, which is great for photography (though better suited to a sunny day, unlike when the author was here). The path is cairned at fairly regular intervals where it travels over slick rock. Look for it to lead around the southern base of Yellow Rock before bending right to traveling along a sandy track through a juniper dotted landscape. Once on sand, the path is fairly easy to follow and it eventually leads to a somewhat indistinct junction with the Box Trail which leads left down to the Paria River and right along the rim of Hackberry Canyon. Turn left at this point and begin the gradual descent towards the Paria. Just before dropping down into the Paria, an interesting detour (takes about 1.5 hours) can be made to what M. Kelsey (reference below) calls Red Top, a bright red outcrop of rocks amongst the yellow sandstone. Just before dropping down to the river, leave the path to the left (south) and climb up to the top of a ridge. From this vantage point look south and spot the obvious group of bright red rocks. Route find your way through the tangle of drainages and rocks (staying on the slick rock whenever possible) towards this feature. Be sure to look back occasionally to memorize your route for the return trip. A bit of scrambling and hiking is required to complete the side trip. When ready head back to the Box Trail and finish your descent into the Paria. Once at the stream, turn left (southeast) and follow the river through the Box of the Paria. On the other side of the box you will see two minor drainages entering the Paria from the left (north). The second of these drainages has a faint trail which leads up it along the left side of the wash (facing up the drainage). A short, steep detour up this path to the top of the ridge will bring you to Hidden Cache - a steel box and walled in cave. It is not known how these items got here or their purpose, but M. Kelsey has done a good job documenting the original discovery in his book below (you'll have to buy his book if you want the scoop, it wouldn't be fair for me to recount the story since he did all the research). Once your curiosity is satisfied, return to the Paria and follow it the remainder of the way to Cottonwood Road. Turn left and follow this road 2.7 miles back to your car.
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife got turned around a few times route finding this hike using the book below. In retrospect, most of our errors were due to user error and not taking the time to study the map carefully. We were ultimately successful and completed the hike described above, exploring Yellow Rock, Red Top and the Hidden Cache in about 5.5 hours.
Maps: Click here for a map. Note: The route drawn is an approximation of the actual route hiked, use your eyes and good sense to stay on the path and find your way.
Books:  Hiking and Exploring the Paria River - Michael Kelsey
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Yellow Rock. The route to Red Top.
Red Top. Paria Box.
Hidden Cache. Hidden Cache cave.