Hike to the Cosmic Ashtray

Rate this Adventure 8 miles 800 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Derek Mathewson

*With proper navigational skills, hike to this amazing natural geological wonder that sits tucked in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah.

...As a frequent traveler, what's always motivated my travels were locations that have either been on my bucket list, or are places that are photogenic and a little off the beaten path. During my recent 3 week road trip through Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, I had the opportunity to visit a spot that had been on my bucket list for quite sometime. It's so far off the beaten path that you need to drive about 8 miles on a bumpy dirt road and have to navigate 4 miles (one way) without a direct trail or service to get there. This awesome spot is called The Cosmic Ashtray...aka "The Volcano".

I knew getting to the Cosmic Ashtray wouldn't be easy, but good thing I did my prior research which prepared me for this hike. There are a few different routes on getting there, but the route I came from was from Old Sheffield Road, just East of "Hole in the Rock Road". I've looked on different maps and GPS's and some have this same road named as Spencer Flat Road. So whatever device you're using, as long as one of these two names of roads come up, you're good. Take the road for 8 miles until it comes to an end. There'll be an obvious parking lot, which will have a post that reads "No Vehicles". Although I have a 4WD  truck, a 2WD vehicle can make it the full 8 miles. Once you're parked, follow the sandy trail past the no vehicles sign. Hike about 0.8 miles through the sand, but then start to curve right towards the mesa. Don't be tempted to continue to follow the sandy trail, because it will lead you to another location that's (also) called ''The Volcano". That's not the volcano you want to go, so make you're way right and hike through uneven sand and sandstone. Once you've curved right towards the mesa, try to stay fairly low on the sandstone. Throughout this whole hike you're going to want to head Southeast. ALSO...depending on how you carve your way to the Cosmic Ashtray, the hike will be around 8-8.5 miles round trip. I downloaded an off-trail map that helped guide me to the Ashtray, which made it a lot easier!

Continue another 3.2ish miles on the sandstone until you find the Ashtray. This is where it got a bit tricky though! There are very little cairns to follow, so this is where having a good sense of directions and navigational skills comes in handy. Like I said, I'd highly recommend staying low to the mesa and/or downloading an off-trail map. For the last mile before reaching the Ashtray you will have to turn a full corner around the mesa before you can see it in the distance. Once you do that, then you're golden and on your way! When I found it, not only was it pretty hidden, but it was a lot bigger than I thought I would be. For some reason I was thinking it would be closer to the bottom of the mesa, but it actually sits towards the top. But when you get there, enjoy the beauty and mass of this natural wonder, and capture the moment. It's honestly unlike anything I've ever seen! The Ashtray is very photogenic and (not surprisingly) you'll most likely have it all to yourself like I did.

It is possible to get down to the fine orange sand, but you'd need rope to repel down. I had no intentions of doing so, particularly because I didn't want my footsteps in my shot...lol. I'm not totally sure how it got its name, but years of friction between wind and sand is how this formation was created. Once you're done, try and head back the same way you came. I took a slightly different route back once I had a better idea of where I was going. In all, it took me an hour and 26 minutes (each way) and a total of 8 miles round trip. To avoid the heat, I'd start as early as possible. I started the trail at 6am and didn't get hit with the excessive heat that you may experience if you did it in the middle of the day. There's ZERO shade or water on this hike, so hydration and skin protection/coverage is mandatory!

As always, pack out what you pack in, and happy trails!

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Easy Parking


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