Mexican Hat - Atlas Obscura

Mexican Hat

Mexican Hat, Utah

This balancing rock is one of Utah's most unusual geological formations. 

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Northeast of Monument Valley, in the southwest corner of Utah, is a 300-foot (90-meter) tall rock formation that may seem small compared to the mountains behind it but looks immediately distinctive. This rock formation is topped by a broad, flat, orange-red sandstone with a diameter of 60 feet (18 meters) that stands on a narrow pedestal of shale and siltstone. The balanced rock looks like an upside-down sombrero, leading to the rock formation being named the Mexican Hat.

The rock formation formed through different rates of erosion and weathering, with the softer layers of shale and siltstone being eroded faster from underneath the more resistant cap of sandstone. Such formations are generally temporary in geological terms, as continued erosion will eventually topple the Mexican Hat.

For now, though, the cap rock is sufficiently sturdy that experienced climbers can stand on its top, although reaching this location is challenging. Most other visitors, however, can still enjoy the view of the rock from the nearby roads or the trail that leads to the area right underneath the rock.

Know Before You Go

The Mexican Hat rock formation is located near US 163, just north of the small town of Mexican Hat (named after the rock) in Utah. The area is only easily accessible by car. The rock is visible to the east from the highway, but dirt roads lead to areas closer to the base of the rock formation.


A trail network leads up from these dirt roads to underneath the balanced rock, although the last part of the trail may involve needing to scramble up relatively steep slopes.


Two climbing routes (the Robbins-Turner Route and the Bandito Route) lead to the top of the rock, but this should only be attempted by experienced climbers. The nearby town of Mexican Hat has various amenities, including hotels, restaurants, and a gas station. Several campgrounds are located in the area, including one near the rock.

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