Swoopy, Sherbet-Colored Geology
Mileage: 2-3 miles round-trip
Elevation gain: Depends on how much off-trail exploration you do.
Dog friendly: Yes
Spring in southern Utah is out in full-force. It's glorious. Cacti are blooming, temperatures are hovering in the low 80s, the sun is warm but not desiccating. You'd have to be made of lead not to want to get outside. So, of course, all our usual haunts are turbo-crowded. The National Parks are slammed and trailheads are filling up. Misanthropic desert rats like myself have a serious conundrum: we want to get outside, but we want to avoid the swarm of humanity.
Cue Yant Flat. It's the perfect tucked-away desert hike for St. George locals. Yant Flat is less than an hour drive from downtown, but it feel like a world away. Here, swoopy sherbet-colored rocks undulate at the base of the Pine Valley Mountains. Kaleidoscopic patterns of pink, orange, and cream lure you in for some solid off-trail exploration. Best of all, we had it all to ourselves!
To get to Yant Flat from St. George, drive north on I-15 until you hit Exit 22 towards Leeds. Take a left on Main Street and drive north 1.5 miles through the town of Leeds until you hit Silver Reef Road. Turn left here and follow Silver Reef Road until it turns into Oak Grove Road. When you cross into Dixie National Forest, the road turns to dirt. It's well-graded and mostly passable for 2WD passenger cars, although it gets a bit rough in spots (and you'll want to avoid this road if it's wet -- the muddy shale surface turns to snot, and there are some steep drop-offs!)
You'll drive past a campground, and soon see an intersection for Forest Road 031. Stay to the left. From here, it's 6.8 miles to the 'trailhead.' But the trailhead isn't marked at all -- so keep your eyes peeled! Look for a few informal parking spots on the side of the road, directly across from FR 903. (GPS coordinates 37.23475, -113.4771.)
Finding the 'trailhead' is the hardest part -- I promise! From here, navigation is fairly simple. There are no signs, but you'll be walking along an old dirt road / social trail. From your car, look for a few boulders and a 'Restriction Area' post on the east (left) side of the road. Start hiking down this path. At first, you'll be trekking through a fairly boring pinyon/juniper forest, but hang in there. After a quick 1.3 miles, the view opens up, and you'll look down onto a Dr. Suess landscape of swirly orange cliffs. The formal trail ends, but give yourself plenty of time to wander around off-trail. When you've had your fill, return the way you came.