Yellow Knolls and High Point Trails, Red Cliffs Desert Reserve
I came to hike the Yellow Knolls Trail somewhat by accident. I had intended to hike a different trail in the southern end of the Red Cliffs but access was temporarily blocked by construction and so after consulting my map I found myself driving up the road to the Yellow Knolls Trailhead, which promised a 4 mile roundtrip trek past interesting geological features and a connection to the High Point Trail that would allow me to extend my hike as I pleased. The trail made good on both those bargains, beginning by crossing a grassy plain towards volcanic vents on one side and octagonal checkerboard sandstone on the other. From there the path followed a wash along a half mile stretch of checkerboard petrified dunes though Abby and I ducked off to go walk around on the sandstone as opposed to follow the trail through this stretch. From there it was a slight but steady climb out of the sandstone formations and to the junction of the High Point Trail. This trail led into a circular depression characteristic of volcanic craters; one we reached the slope at about a mile past the junction I decided to venture off the trail rather than continue the climb since the immediate surroundings looked more interesting, but the view from the top would undoubtedly have been pretty.
On the return Abby and I ventured off trail again into a canyon off the Yellow Knolls Trail and it was here we saw some of the most amazing expanses of petrified dunes yet. They were deceptively steep but possible to climb down with good shoes; however, I was hiking solo and off-trail so after my first misstep that resulted in a decent slide I decided to not risk falling the hundred feet down. Since I tend to be more sure-footed climbing up things rather than down I intend to return sometime and hike around the outcroppings in order to come up the other way. Finally, we meandered back to the trail, exploring a few things I hadn’t taken notice of on the way out, and eventually made our way back to the trailhead.