Hiking the Escalante Canyons is a sublime pleasure. Miles of unspoiled wilderness, canyons with trickling streams of exceptional beauty, and other-worldly quiet make the Canyons of the Escalante a hiker's dream destination.
Whether you decide upon a multi-day backpacking adventure or a day hike that challenges your limits, there is a canyon out here for you.
Once you have decided on a hike, getting to the trail head could be part of the adventure. Backcountry road conditions range from accessible by a car to needing high clearance or four wheel drive. Get all the road information and current conditions in the roads section.
Listed below are the most popular hikes in the Escalante Canyons. This list is by no means all inclusive. The hiking possibilities out in the canyons are endless, but for the first time visitor or casual hiker these are great primers.
Lower Calf Creek Falls - A Classic half day hike on a nice maintained trail with easy access. Fee area, $5.00 day use fee.
Upper Calf Creek Falls - A Great hike from Hwy 12 to the less visited waterfall.
Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulches - The famous slot canyons; non-technical and slots of fun!
Escalante River - Up to a full day exploring the river gorge from the Hwy 12 bridge or an easy overnight from the town TH to the bridge TH.
Phipps Arch - More challenging route finding to an incredibly beautiful arch and bridge.
The Box - Explore a wonderful riparian canyon in the high country, great when it's hot out.
Zebra and Tunnel Slots - Challenging route to two short but photogenic slot canyons.
Coyote Gulch - The quintessential Escalante canyon. Easy hiking, water availability, and spectacular scenery make this a "must do" hike. Three days are best to see all this canyon has to offer.
Neon Canyon - Spend a couple of days along the Escalante River exploring side canyons. Neon Canyon and its Golden Cathedral are the main attraction.
Boulder Mail Trail - A cross-country route in the Navajo sandstone traversing three canyons along the historic route between Escalante and Boulder.
Escalante River - Can be done in a day, but it takes more time to explore the side canyons. Excellent beginning backpack.
The Escalante Canyons can be a very dangerous place for the unprepared. Because of the remoteness, help is not readily available, if at all. Even seemingly simple day hikes have resulted in complex search and rescue operations. Don't become a victim; know before you go! Check out our safety tips.
The 9 Essentials for Safe Canyon Hiking
Water - You can never have too much water. In this dry country, you need to carry 1 liter for every two hours of hiking time. For a full day, at least one gallon per person. Keep hydrated; drink often, even if you don't think you need it. If you get thirsty, you've fallen behind the hydration curve.
Snacks - In addition to water, you need fuel. Sports bars, gorp, candy bars, or anything that will keep you stoked for that three mile push back to the car.
Sun Protection - The sun can be brutal out in the desert - protect yourself. Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing, a hat to keep your brain from frying, and sunglasses to protect your eyes against the sun and/or blowing sand. And last, but not least, sunblock. Watch your ears, nose, back of your neck, arms, and the tops of your knees.
Map & Compass - Finding your way to or from a trail head in open country requires a map, compass, and the skills to use them. Many of the landmarks look the same and distinctive landmarks can look completely different depending on the time of day or the direction from which you approach. A GPS can be helpful if you know how to apply the data to a map and the surrounding topography.
First Aid Kit/ Emergency Kit - Just the basics... some adhesive bandages, topical antibiotic, moleskin for blisters, and ibuprofen or aspirin for First Aid. Always carry a headlamp or small flashlight and an emergency blanket. You may never have to use any of it, but when you need it, it could be the difference in getting out at sunset or spending the night in the backcountry.
Matches / Lighter - Never go into the backcountry without the ability to make fire. Every person should have matches in their pack. Many simple afternoon hikes have turned into overnight ordeals because of bad judgment or injury. Nights are cold, even in the summer, and a fire can keep you warm and help you get found.
Pocket Knife - You might not necessarily need a corkscrew; a simple blade will do. A pocket knife can be useful in first aid applications, making tools or shelter, or cutting off your arm. Yikes!
Whistle - It is common for hikers to get separated by several hundred yards. But in this rugged country, it can seem like five miles! An emergency whistle lets others know where you are - a simple and effective short range communications tool.
Common Sense - The best way to stay safe in the backcountry is to use your head. Recognize problems before they get out of hand. The biggest mistake made by hikers around here is underestimating the length and ruggedness of their route and overestimating their ability to perform in these harsh conditions. Remember, hiking cross country is much different than hiking on a maintained trail and will take longer in general to cover the same distance. If things get dicey or the hour grows late, turn around and get out. It's better to get out safely and live to try again. Don't hike at night, stay put and continue in the morning.
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