Mollies Nipple

The Grand Staircase province of the Colorado Plateau displays a classic cliff and terrace landscape that is remarkably uniform, rising from the Arizona Strip to southern Utah’s Pink Cliffs in a series of risers (cliffs) and steps (terraces).

Punctuating this uniform landscape, the landmark cone of Mollies Nipple is an anomaly, a mountain-like peak standing alone in a land of mesas, cliffs, and canyons. Composed of very resistant beds of Navajo Sandstone, Mollies Nipple has been eroded into a great cone that is one of the Colorado Plateau’s most distinctive landmarks. This cone stands out in views from overlooks in Bryce Canyon National Park, and from US 89 between Kanab, Utah, and Page, Arizona.

From a distance Mollies Nipple may appear impossible to climb, but in fact there are routes to its summit that entail little more than hand-and-foot scrambling. There are several ways to approach this peak, and this hike follows the shortest, most straightforward route via a sandy doubletrack that is passable only to motorcycles, 4WD OHVs, and hikers. Motorized recreationists seldom use the road, and you’ll likely be undisturbed during your outing. The sandy track leads to the base of Mollies Nipple via Pilot Ridge, where experienced hikers will find an exhilarating 700-foot scramble to the top. The far-ranging vistas that unfold from the summit are unmatched from any viewpoint in the region.

Overview: Punctuating the uniform landscape of Grand Staircase, the landmark cone of Mollies Nipple is an anomaly, a mountain-like peak standing alone in a land of mesas, cliffs, and canyons.

Start: Mollies Nipple Trailhead

Distance: 10 miles round-trip

Approximate hiking time: 6 to 7 hours

Difficulty: Strenuous, Class 2 and 3 scrambling on ascent of Mollies Nipple, including one 50-foot Class 4 pitch

Trail surface: Sandy 4WD road and cross-country scramble

Trailhead access: 4WD advised due to soft sand

Best seasons: April through May; September through October

Canine compatibility: Dogs permitted (not recommended due to steep drop-offs and Class 2, 3, and 4 scrambling pitches)

Water availability: None available; bring your own

Hazards: Exposure to steep drop-offs

Topo maps: Deer Range Point USGS quad; BLM Kanab

Finding the trailhead: Follow US 89 to milepost 37 and the junction with an unsigned northbound graded road, 46 miles northwest of Page, Arizona, and 26.5 miles east of Kanab, Utah, and follow the road north.

This usually good graded road leads north up the valley of Kitchen Corral Wash toward the Vermilion Cliffs. Ignore less-used spur roads en route and stay on the obvious main road. After 5.6 miles, you pass a cow camp and corrals, beyond which the road becomes occasionally sandy. The road crosses a wash after 8.4 miles (which is subject to washouts), and at 9.1 miles you pass through a gate (leave it open or closed, as you find it).

You reach a signed junction 10 miles from US 89 and bear right onto Nipple Ranch Road. Immediately beyond the junction you reach another gate (leave it open or closed, as you find it). Beyond the gate the road becomes quite sandy as it ascends a shallow draw. Drivers of low-clearance 2WD vehicles must maintain momentum through the areas of sand to avoid becoming stuck.

After driving 1.3 miles from the junction (11.3 miles from US 89), a sandy spur branches right (east). Turn right onto this doubletrack and park after 100 yards, between a pair of obvious Kayenta Sandstone knobs. (Another road branches right off the main road a short distance ahead, but offers no parking places along its sandy course.)

Hikers arriving late in the day can camp in the undeveloped sites at the trailhead.