An Escalante Epic: Hike To Coyote Gulch
A best hikes in Grand Staircase-Escalante list wouldnt be complete without Coyote Gulch. You have most likely seen the infamous image on the internet of Stevens Arch, the incredibly immense sandstone structure that stretches above the Escalante Riverbed . While well-known, this hike is not for the faint of heart, and those wanting to hike to Coyote Gulch in a day should be prepared for a long day of scrambling, hiking in sand, and through the Escalante River. In fact, we do not recommend doing this hike in just one day. The canyon is best explored when you are able to take your time and spend at least two nights of backpacking along the Escalante River, discovering the many slot canyons, arches, and bridges along the way!
You will need a Coyote Gulch permit if you plan to do a backpacking trip. The access point to begin this hike is located near water tanks on Fortymile Ridge, southwest of the confluence of Coyote Gulch and Escalante Canyon.
- Distance: 11.5-17 miles roundtrip
- How long it takes: 10-12+ hours
Boondocking Spot Near Capitol Reef
Just outside the Capitol Reef National Park and only five minutes from the town of Torrey was our boondocking spot for Capitol Reef National Park.
It was off the side of the road and right near the beginning of Highway 12.
Again, the kids were happy with the nearby cliffs to scramble over and go on exploratory hikes.
There was no Verizon phone or internet service here, but there was Sprint.
Things To Do In Escalante
Escalante is a town in Southern Utah east of Bryce Canyon. Lots of people travel to Bryce Canyon National Park, but miss out on the amazing things to do over in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, which surrounds the town of Escalante.
Today we are sharing fun, family-friendly adventures we have found in Garfield County between Escalante and Boulder, Utah. There are so many to choose from. If you are looking for a more specific plan, check out our 3-Day Escalante Itinerary.
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Drive Scenic Highway 12
It is known as both a Scenic Byway and an All-American Road, and the 123-mile Highway 12 easily lives up to both titles.
The scenes flashing by as you drive the route are ever-changing from far-off white mesas to deep red canyons to oceans of orange-and-pink Slickrock.
The route connects Highway 89 near Panguitch in the west with State Route 24 near Torrey in the northeast. Along the way, it passes near the entrances to Bryce Canyon National Park and Capitol Reef National Park, as well as the Calf Creek Recreational Area, several state parks, a 9,000-foot summit, and a half-dozen picturesque little towns.
The highway has numerous overlooks with parking, so stopping to take in the views is convenient. One not-to-be-missed spot is the 9,000-foot-elevation summit overlook, where the Grand Staircase and the red rock of Capitol Reef is spread before you in the distance. Youre looking at some of the wildest lands in the United States, says an interpretive sign at the overlook.
Other worthy stops include the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, the Hogback Ridge overlooks, the Anasazi State Park Museum, the Calf Creek Recreational Area, and the Burr Trail Scenic Backway. Any of the small towns, including Cannonville, Escalante, Boulder, and Torrey, also make great stops for exploring and refreshments.
Are Dogs Allowed In Grand Staircase Escalante
Dogs are allowed on most hiking trails in Grand Staircase-Escalante region. Dogs are not allowed in dry slot canyons along the Hole in the Rock Road because of the confined spaces. Some hikes allow dogs leashed and some allow dogs to roam unleashed, please be sure to not only view the guidelines for each hike, but also pick up after your dog so you leave the area as beautiful as you found it. Dogs are permitted on the following trails.
- Devils Garden
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Upper Calf Creek Falls
No trip to Escalante is complete without a visit to the Upper Falls of Calf Creek. The upper falls is the perfect escape from the crowded area below, especially during peak tourist season. The hike itself is extremely steep and requires both hands and skill to navigate along the trail. The Upper Falls hike should only be attempted by groups without young children who can climb up the steep path without assistance. For young families, the lower falls is the perfect destination as the hike is mostly flat.
The Upper Falls is a peaceful oasis unlike any other. Complete with a small waterfall pouring into the swimming hole below. Jump in the clear blue water to cool off or head up to the rocky ledge above to jump down into the water. There are plenty of spots to lay out for a tan or find a tree nearby to eat your lunch or take a much-needed nap. The Upper Falls trailhead is located on the south end of Hogsback on Highway 12. It really is straight magic up there. Have fun!
Where To Stay In Page
The Hyatt Place Page/Lake Powell was the perfect place for us to call home for two nights. From the clean and comfortable rooms to the helpful staff, this hotel was well prepared to host guests who spend their days exploring the outdoors. The complimentary hot breakfast was a nice way to fuel up for our long day. And at the end of the day, we enjoyed a glass of wine at the bar and dinner next to the fireplace in the Cactus Wren Café. The staff members were friendly and able to answer endless questions about the sights in the area. The on-site pool is also a good option for families. I highly recommend reserving a room with a view!
Pro Tip: Unless you opt for an organized tour, the only way to explore the area is by car. If youre driving your own car, be sure to have it serviced prior to your trip. Many of the sights described above have limited or no services, so getting assistance for car problems could take considerable time. Any time you see a gas station, take the opportunity to fuel up you never know when youll see another station.
More on Page and the surrounding area:
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Visitor Centers And Entrances
There are no official entrances into the monument, but a number of visitor centers surround the area. The main visitor center to the Escalante Canyons section is the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center . The visitor center offers Escalante Canyon maps and great interpretive displays as well as helpful staff members who can answer your questions.
On the west , the visitor center in Kanab can be called at 435-644-1300 and is at 745 East Highway 89, Kanab UT 84741
A smaller visitor center on the north side of the monument along Scenic Byway 12 is in Cannonville. Call 435-826-5640. This location is closed in the winter.
The Big Water Visitor Center and dinosaur museum is a great stop on U.S. Highway 89 on your way to visit Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, and Glen Canyon Dam, or to hike one of the numerous trails located within the Grand Staircase region. The Big Water phone number is 435-675-3200.
The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument And Canyonlands National Park Are Must
The red and orange hues. The incredible rock formations. Haunting pictographs and petroglyphs. Visiting Southern Utah feels like visiting another planet.
And on this strange planet in the midst of our country is The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Here are all the best things to see and do in the area with an RV. And if you want to see all our posts on Utah here’s where to go.
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Do A Jig In The Dance Hall
Breakdancing or the Waltz more your thing? It doesnt matter what style of dance youre drawn to when visiting this incredible amphitheater. Its surprisingly not a heavily trafficked trail, so youll likely dance as if no ones watching because there literally wont be anyone. Its only a quick .2-mile hike to the rock and the 270-degree views inside the curved rock are breathtaking.
Top Things To Do Grand Staircase
Utahs red rock desert and canyon country attractions have so much to offer visitors. One place that should be included in your plans to visit Southern Utah is Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The area is loaded with incredible scenery and provides an endless amount of outdoor fun.
The region features vast tracts of striking landscape and so much opportunity to enjoy it. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument connects various recreation areas with Bryce Canyon National Park, so visiting both on your tour of Southern Utah is a great idea. The higher elevation of Bryce offers a nice opportunity to cool down in the summer. Plus, the variety of colors between the two areas is particularly striking. Visitors can plan practically any type of outdoor activity to enjoy.
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Hike To Lower Creek Calf Falls
- Lower Calf Creek Falls
What a wonderful surprise Lower Creek Calf Falls was!!
Can you believe this beautiful waterfall gushing down over the cliff in a tranquil, tropical feeling place?
It was a big hike for us to do with the kids to get here. It was six miles return with an elevation gain of 500 ft. which wasnt too bad.
The views along the valley and rainbow colored escarpment walls the entire way were beautiful. Most of it was a sandy track which made it a little more challenging.
Along the hike youll see some ancient pictographs on the wall , walk along sandy beach tracks, through bamboo forests and beside crystal clear creeks.
At the end youll reach a gorgeous oasis with the Lower Calf Creek Falls plumetting 126ft over the rock face in a Y-formation.
Swim right up under it if its not too chilly! Its the perfect spot for a picnic and a rest before gathering your strength to walk back. Its one of the best things to do in Utah.
The Lower Calf Creek Falls trailhead is located at the Calf Creek Campground on Highway 12, 11 miles south of the town of Boulder, and 15 miles east of the town of Escalante.
There is a 13-site campground here and a day use picnic area. The campsite looks gorgeous an Id love to stay here under the shade of the trees nestled along side Calf Creek. Its a first come first served basis so good luck!
Best Experiences In Grand Staircase
Staircases dont come much more flamboyant than the one that cuts a large swath across southern Utah. Think gigantic stairs of pink, gray, white, vermillion, and chocolate.
At nearly 1 million acres, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument makes quite a statement. The Bureau of Land Management describes the national monument as a diverse geologic treasure speckled with monoliths, slot canyons, natural bridges, and arches.
The steps of the Grand Staircase can be seen in the form of cliffs, mesas, bluffs, and ridges in varying colors all standing out dramatically against the deep blue skies of southern Utah.
Take some time to explore this vast land. You will encounter crystalline creek water cascading over a sheer rock wall, toadstool-like rock formations that would do The Flintstones proud, and the longest and deepest slot canyon in the southwestern United States.
Due to its size, the national monument can be accessed on a number of highways, including U.S. Highway 89 between Page, Arizona, and Kanab, Utah, in the south, and State Route 12, between Panguitch in the west and Torrey, Utah, in the northeast.
Here are seven of the best experiences in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
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Is There A Grocery Store In Escalante
While in Escalante, we also visited the local grocery store, Griffins Grocery & General Merchandise. During our visit, their hours were noon until 6 pm on Monday- Saturday. However, I am not sure if the hours were normal or limited due to COVID.
Griffins is a small shop compared to our usual supermarket experience, but they had very fair prices and a decent selection. We were able to restock our pantry and refill our supplies of fresh produce without breaking the bank. They offered gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer at the front door to keep customers safe.
Sadly, a few highly rated restaurants in Escalante were completely closed due to COVID, so we ate at home while visiting this area. Our next stop near Capitol Reef National Park was less than 70 miles away via Scenic Highway 12.
Check out our Capitol Reef post to plan your trip. After a few days in Escalante, we hit the road for a short travel day heading north to our next national park.
Theres Nothing Scary About This Petrified Forest
Legend states that petrified wood is haunted and causes bad luck if taken from their resting grounds. But perhaps thats only the forest rangers making sure you dont take any home with you remember, leave no trace. Escalante Petrified Forest State Park is chock full of these incredible geological wonders. The many areas to hike, camp, and picnic are surrounded by the stumps from eons ago.
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Burr Trail Scenic Byway
The 64 mile Burr Trail Scenic Byway winds through a deep red slickrock canyon and rolling desert forest of orange and green. It starts near Boulder in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and goes into the southern section of Capitol Reef National Park.
We knew immediately we had arrived back into Capitol Reef NP as the colors turned into the rainbow and the water pocket fold appeared.
This follows the Waterpocket fold and the colors as you look back on the rocks are extraordinary: pink, grey, chocolate, orange, yellow, and white.
It was one of my favorite drives and views in the American Southwest.
The Burr Trail Scenic Backway was originally developed as a cattle trail blazed by stockman John Atlantic Burr. Its paved and graded in sections and gravel and dirt in others.
At the bottom of the switchbacks it meets with the Notom Road, which is a gravel road that runs from Highway 24 along the east side of Capitol Reef Utah.
You can follow it for as far as you like.
There are different hiking trails along the road. The Surprise Canyon was recommended to us but after our two massive hikes the previous days we decided to just have a resting scenic drive.
You can get into it coming from Highway 12 on the west and then go north on Notom Bullfrog road or come down from highway 24 in the north.
Where Is Grand Staircase
The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah and bordered by Bryce Canyon to the northwest, Glen Canyon National Recreation area to the east, and Capitol Reef National Park to the northeast.
Its an easy area to include on your Utah road trip.
Many visitors to Utah drive through it quickly thinking it only encompasses a scenic drive, eager to get the Big 5 Utah national parks on either side of it.
Dont make the same hurried mistake as youll find just as much to be in awe of in this region as the national parks. In fact, Its double the combined land of Utahs five national parks.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is 1.9 million acres of canyons, cliffs and rugged landscapes offering an abundance of adventures like hiking, off-roading, camping, and scenic drives.
Intrepid travelers will love to know that much of the sweeping Grand Staircase region is quite remote. Very few trailheads can be reached on paved roads.
Be sure to plan for those off-the-beaten path experiences well. Carry plenty of water
Summer temperatures can range over 100° F and winters can drop well below freezing at night. Sudden heavy rains can make this road impassable even for high-clearance, 4WD vehicles.
We visited in April/ May and the weather was very pleasant and perfect for the many wonderful hikes in the Grand Staircase-Escalante region.
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Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Backway
As previously mentioned, there is a way to cross the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument from north to south without going through Glendale, Hatch and Bryce . It is known as the Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Backway. Those who want to explore Cottonwood Canyon and see the spectacular rock formations can drive this 47-mile road in a 4×4 . The route connects Cannonville to Hwy 89. If you want to get a better idea of the route, click on this . If you dont have a suitable vehicle, dont venture out, especially if the terrain is wet!
The road is paved from Cannonville to the junction with the Kodachrome Basin State Park and then becomes a dirt road. Along the way, there are also access points to some canyons to explore on foot. Cottonwood Narrows and Lower Hackberry Canyon are the most popular. Find the starting point of the Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Backway on the map I provided above.
Hole In The Rock Escalante Boondocking Spot
This was one of our favorite boondocking spots on our RV trip, especially all that greenery after months camping on red dirt.
This boondocking spot is right off the beginning of Hole in the Rock scenic drive with easy access to the nearby town of Escalante and its amenities.
Its a huge area with plenty of grass, open spaces and decent sized trees for shade. The best spots are those along the cliff edge with beautiful views. They were all taken, but our spot was more than adequate.
We also had great internet service here, which was much appreciated after going 4 days offline.
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