While much of Southern Utah gets piping hot in the summer, Escalante’s higher elevation keeps temperatures moderate — most of the time. In the summer, temperatures can get above 100 degrees, and in the winter it usually drops below freezing at night. Sudden and heavy rainstorms can pop up quickly, so have a plan for that possibility wherever you go.
Spring, summer, and fall are all perfect times to descend into mysterious slot canyons, dipping your toes in cool riverbeds, hiking miles of soft-sand trails, and gazing at the inscriptions of humans who stood in the same spot thousands of years ago. Exploring the sun-drenched Utah backcountry around Escalante is an unforgettable experience.
Escalante is located along Utah's All-American Road: Scenic Byway 12 in the south-central part of the state. It’s about a three-hour drive from the town of St. George (173 miles), or 90 minutes south of Capitol Reef National Park (67 miles).
This part of Southern Utah is famous for its slot canyons — twisting, turning narrows carved into the rock by water and wind over the millennia. A few can be scrambled without technical gear, but if you have the gear and knowledge (and/or a professional guide), you can navigate the colorful depths of the desert. Hiring a guide is well worth the once-in-a-lifetime experience of rappelling, shimmying, and scrambling your way through these dramatic slots.
For hikers, the trails near Escalante wind through sandstone slot canyons, pristine riverbeds, rock art meccas, and sparse sagebrush-studded desert plateaus. Every step is a sensory experience. Plan on countless stops to take photos, soak in the views, and admire nature’s most kaleidoscopic rocks. (Note: Very few trailheads are accessible via paved roads. A four-wheel drive vehicle is a good idea — and watch weather reports to ensure roads are passable.)
Legend has it that the first Mormon pioneer settlers trekking southward hit a major obstacle: a 1,000-foot cliff towering over the Colorado River, which they needed to cross. After months of blasting, chiseling, and digging, they created a “Hole in the Rock,” a notch wide enough to lower their wagons. The 62-mile road to this spot from the town of Escalante is named after their monumental determination.
The entire drive is stunning, but it’s truly remote and should be undertaken with caution. Four-wheel- drive is a must for the last few miles, and the road becomes impassable with rain, so plan ahead and check the weather before exploring this untamed terrain.
Devil's Garden and Metate Arch
A colorful formation in contrast to the gray cliffs that follow the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, Devil’s Garden is a unique, easily-accessible natural play park. After driving 12 miles down the graded road, there is a signed pullout for this spot designated as an “Outstanding Natural Area.”
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