Yant Flat is anything but flat. It is actually tilted one way or another, just about everywhere, which means you have to pay attention while walking on it. The one-mile-or-so hike into it is pretty much flat, hence the name. But it is all worth it. Yant Flat is one of those dramatic and beautiful red rock landscapes on the Colorado Plateau, in the same vein as Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches and other National Parks — but in this case it is smaller and much less well known. Whenever I have been there, I have been virtually alone.
The main feature here is a series of sculptured sandstone cliffs that cascade down from a wooded rim towards deep canyons below. There are two aspects of most interest for the photographer: Southwest-facing cliffs that are nicely lit by the late afternoon sun, and southeast-facing cliffs that catch the early morning dawn light. The southeastern aspect is larger and more interesting, but they both have their rewards.
Much of the orange, red and white sandstones of Yant Flat are eroded into small, symmetrical checkerboard and honeycomb patterns, as wind and water worked at layer boundaries and cracks over the aeons. Combined with the large, rounded landforms, these create many unusual and intriguing light patterns when the sun is at low angles in the morning and evening.
Yant Flat #8
Any time spent at Yant Flat is rewarding. However, most visitors decide that several visits, encompassing different times of day and different seasons, are required to fully appreciate what light can do to transform this amazing piece of geography.
There is very little in the way of vegetation on the cliffs — perhaps a little cactus here and there, which might be an good photo possibility when it is blooming in the Spring. However, tree limbs and logs sometimes fall down from the canyon rim and can inspire interesting photos, even if they seem totally out of place in this land of bare rock.
Presented with practically an infinite number of perspectives and viewpoints, visitors find themselves walking uphill and downhill, on sidehills and diagonals, relying on the friction of their boot soles to stay upright. So bring good boots. And lace them up tight.
Yant Flat is surrounded by civilization, but doesn’t get that many visitors. The trailhead is served by Forest Road 031, a gravel road that comes in from either north or south. In good weather, most any passenger car with decent clearance can handle it, 4wd not required. But like all such roads, it can quickly become impassable in moderate rain.
From the north, exit I-15 at Leeds, follow Silver Reef road through a subdivision, and it becomes Forest Road 032. Road 031 branches to the left in a mile. Follow it 6 or 7 miles to GPS coordinates 37.234776, -113.477087, where there is a tiny parking area and a tiny “Restricted Access” sign. Forest Road 903 comes in from the north here. Don’t look for a Yant Flat sign — it doesn’t exist.
From the south, start in St. George at the intersection of E. Red Hills Parkway and Cottonwood Springs Road, and take the latter north as it becomes Old Dump Road, heading for the Red Cliffs National Conservation area. Past the Red Cliffs, it becomes Forest road 031, and continue to follow it north as above. Of the two approaches, from Leeds or St. George, the Leeds route is more gentle.
If you want to camp near the trailhead, there are plenty of side roads in the vicinity where you can pull off and set up a tent or RV. This is BLM-type unimproved camping in Juniper-Pinyon forest — no facilities, no water. Nights will be cooler than you think as mountain breezes pour down from the Pine Valley Mountains.
The trail from here is an abandoned Jeep track that cruises along mostly flat ground about 1.25 miles to the edge of the cliffs. The last quarter mile is sandy. You will arrive at the southwest cliffs; walk left along the precipice to a draw that will give you access further down. Further east from this point a quarter mile are the southeast cliffs. A couple of cairn trails will show you a safe route down. Bring headlamps or flashlights. You’ll find yourself staying later than you thought you would.