The Best Guide to Finding the Cosmic Ashtray

Christie Turnbow
On 3 min read

Hike Distance: 8.5 MilesElevation Gain: 800 Feet
Terrain Rating: Moderate
Hike time: 4-5 hours


While I was debating whether to make this information online, the truth is that if you search for this info on Google, it is already available. The scary thing is that novice hikers are not warned of the dangers. Let me clarify – there is no trail for this hike, which makes it difficult to navigate. The summer heat is intense and there is very little shade. My phone did not work here. Before you attempt this hike, please use your best judgement and evaluate your own ability and risk.

There are many ways to reach the Ashtray. Red Breaks is a popular route that loops the Ashtray. We chose not to combine them and instead approached the Ashtray from the north via Old Sheffield Road.

To find the Ashtray, we first spent hours on Google Earth. Then we clicked through waypoints we felt would be a manageable hike, and then plugged them into our Garmin 64st. We made sure to look at landmarks and carried a compass in case the GPS fails. Every week there are rescue and search teams in Escalante. We didn’t want our story to be one of them!

If you are interested in the GPX file, please contact me by leaving a comment or via Instagram.

Important GPS coordinates:

  • Old Sheffield Parking: N37deg 42.617′ W111deg 21.450′
  • Looking through the mesa breakoffs N37deg 42.134 & W111deg 20.356 ‘
  • Cosmic Ashtray: N37deg 40.978′ W111deg 18.948′

The Hike

It was easy enough, but it was hot at 100 degrees by noon. It takes between 8 and 8.5 miles, depending on how you navigate through the terrain. We drove to Old Sheffield Road at dawn because of this. We drove to the end of the road in a 2WD. The brown sign that reads “No Vehicles” will mark the entrance to a parking lot.

Continue on foot along Old Sheffield Road until you reach the mesa to your left (southeast). You can see a section on the east side of the mesa that appears to have split thousands of years ago. This crack is the one you want to cross. This makes it much easier to walk between the cracks than up and down the mesa.

After you have made it to the end, you will continue on through relatively flat sandstone to sand curving slightly towards your right (making you way south-east). It’s only 1.5 miles from there that you will find the cosmic ashtray. It is here that many people miss it. It is extremely hidden. It’s almost impossible to find the ashtray if you turn around a full circle. You’ll need a GPS to guide you. This geologic wonder was a great place to spend time. It looks amazing from a plane.

Packing List

  • Osprey 36L Sirrus pack and rain cover
  • Salomon X ULTRA MID2 Boots
  • Drink lots of water. You could drink up to 4-5L in the summer. MSR Dromlite is my favorite.
  • Emergency gear
  • Garmin 64st
  • Protein bars. I love Level Foods. You can read my full review here.

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