Crude, perhaps, but also descriptive is the name Mollies Nipple. This is a prominent landmark in the area, and interestingly, not the only feature in southern Utah to bear the name. I am talking about the feature overlooking Hurricane, Utah, a short drive from Hildale, Utah. This hike offers spectacular 360-degree views overlooking Warner Valley, Sand Hollow Reservoir, Pine Valley Mountain, Zion National Park, and other spectacular features. It lies along the confluence of the Colorado Plateau to the North and East, the Great Basin to the west, and the Mojave Desert to the south and south west. This hike is steep, strenuous, and rather long but very rewarding. The best times to do this hike are during the spring, fall and winter. Heat and monsoon-storm lightning risk make it less desirable during the summer.
Finding the trailhead may seem a bit tricky, but the landmark is unmistakable. More detailed directions can be found with a Google search. To approach from the bottom of the fault line, simply take a left turn at the bottom of Hurricane Hill and work your way toward the feature. The trailhead lies just behind a small subdivision near the airport. The beginning of the hike is quite steep, and the trail is extremely rocky. Be sure to bring good hiking shoes to prevent any slips. A fall would almost certainly result in cuts and lacerations from the sharp and jagged rocks. The first portion of the hike is up the fault line. The trail is clearly visible and well defined, although it tends to branch off in certain places, only to reconnect. There are incredible rock formations, with different crystalline characteristics, textures, colors, and fossils. The intense heat and pressure generated along the fault line has created ample features, each an opportunity to rest as you make your way toward the top.
There will be a small clearing upon finishing the first part of the ascent, then it begins to climb upward again. There is sparse vegetation along the trail, but that does not detract from the views. As elevation is gained, so are new perspectives of the terrain surrounding the area. At the top of the fault line, Zion and the other red plateaus come into view. There are basalt rocks and boulders interspersed with desert plants such as sage, yucca, and creosote. I went on a cloudy spring day after a rainstorm, and the colors of the vegetation were sumptuous against the pitch black of the basalt rocks and dark red of the dirt that peeked through. The trail winds clearly up to the unmistakable feature. This is perhaps my favorite part of the hike, in contrast to the cliffs portion, it is restful, and gently meanders up to the ancient volcanic formation. Compared to the beginning, the hike up the knoll is brief and shallow.
Once atop the feature a varied scenic view unfolds: a vast expanse of desert, volcanic cinder cones and flows, Vermillion Sand Dunes and formations, a body of water, a granite mountain range, the white and red temple formations of Zion, the pinion and juniper topped plateaus of Gooseberry and Little Creek Mesas, and more. There are seldom other hikers, in my experience, which makes it a great place to seek solitude. It gives one an immediate sense of the vastness and immortality of the earth. This diverse and jagged landscape has been subject to more change than we can fully appreciate. It has been the bottom of several inland seas, run the gamut of climactic environments, been subject to numerous volcanic episodes, housed more species of flora and fauna than we can fully comprehend, and hosted several waves of human cultures, each with their own distinct marks on the landscape. If you’re up for a challenge and a subsequent reward, take a hike up Mollies Nipple.