Hellhole Canyon l Kayenta, UT

Heavenly Hellhole

Mileage:  4.2 miles round-trip
Difficulty:  Moderate
Elevation gain:  300-400 ft.
Dog friendly:  Yes

Are you guys sick of me waxing poetic about spring in the desert yet?  I'll be brief:  it's great.  Warm temps, blooming flowers, chirping birds.  Being inside is a waste of time.  Time to go hiking!

If you only have an afternoon to hike around St. George, put Hellhole Canyon on your short-list.  It's a quick, easy hike with some killer views.  The trail follows a sandy wash up near the base of Red Mountain, where the technicolored sandstone cliffs will knock your socks off.  Toss in an endless stream of blooming desert plants, and you're in business.  If this is a hellhole, sign me up!

Get there:

Hellhole Canyon is super-close to town, and it's a cinch to find.  From St. George, drive north on Bluff Street.  Turn left on Sunset Boulevard and continue as it turns into Santa Clara Drive and then Old Highway 91.  7.6 miles from the intersection of Bluff and Sunset, you'll see a sign for the Kayenta subdivision.  Turn right here onto Kayenta Parkway.  Turn right on Evening Star Drive, then turn left on Wintook Drive, and finally turn right on Taviawk Drive.  At the bottom of a minor hill, you'll see a small pull-out on the right, near a Kayenta sign.  Park here.

On a related note, Hellhole Canyon is having a bit of an identity crisis.  Apparently, some folks wanted a more G-rated name and are trying to rebrand it 'Kayenta Canyon.'  (To each their own, although I'm partial to the original name!)  Anyway, the parking area identifies the trail as Kayenta Canyon, so don't let that throw you off.

Do it:

From the parking area by the Kayenta sign, cross the road.  You'll see a path heading down into a sandy canyon.  Look for a small post that says 'Hellhole Canyon.'  Start trekking north here.  The route isn't really marked, but it's easy enough to stay in the wash and follow the social trails.  Hiking in the wash is a bit of a sand-slog, but don't worry, it's worth it.  Just look up -- it's pretty hard to beat the 1000ft cliffs of Red Mountain soaring overhead in all their super-saturated glory!

After about 1.8 miles, the canyon forks.  The right fork takes you into Hellhole Canyon, the left fork takes you to the Hellhole Spur Trail.  Both routes are worth checking out -- Frankie and I went into Hellhole Canyon.  Past the fork, the route gets a little more scenic and scrambly.  After about 0.3 miles, the trail gets steep and bouldery enough that we decided to turn around and return the way we came.  Success!

identity crisis

map credit:  www.redcliffsdesertreserve.com