The geology of the area can be summed up in one word: slickrock. Particularly in the upper Escalante Canyons, just below Boulder Mountain, the slickrock gorges emerge so suddenly and with such profound dimensions, that it is a scene of visual inspiration rivaled in few places on the Colorado Plateau. Active waterfalls, arches, narrow canyons, riparian oases, and sculpted slickrock are among the attractions of the Escalante’s backcountry.
Typical of the canyon country of southern Utah, there are few established trails in the Escalante Canyons. Most hikes follow the corridors of washes or cross open expanses of slickrock.
There hikes included here are longer and more challenging than easy day hikes, and also offer some backpacking opportunities.
The best times to hike in the Escalante Canyons are in the spring, from mid-March through May, and again during autumn, from September through October. Cooler weather brought on by monsoon activity in summer, and warm, dry weather during winter can also be enjoyed.
As always when hiking in the desert, it’s important to bring enough water—assume there won’t be any place to fill up along the way. If you are backpacking, make sure there will be water sources and carry proper water treatment equipment. And as always, it’s a good idea to stop in at a visitor center and discuss your hiking plans with the folks working there. You are sure to get some good tips and assistance finding a hike that suits your goals and abilities.
Top Five Adventure Hikes in the Escalante Canyons
1. Boulder Mail Trail to Death Hollow: 10.8 miles. A popular backcountry route that offers one of the finest slickrock rambles on the Colorado Plateau. This fine out-and-back day hike follows part of the Boulder Mail Trail into Death Hollow, the most dramatic of all the upper Escalante Canyons.
2. Upper Calf Creek Falls: 2 miles. Few hikes in the Escalante region offer the rewards of this fine short trip with such a minimal investment of time and effort. Vast expanses of Navajo Sandstone slickrock, far-ranging vistas, plus an 87-foot-high waterfall, pools of cool water, and shady riparian oases await hikers following this well-worn trail.
3. Escalante River Trailhead to Maverick Bridge and Phipps Arch: 6.6 miles. This rewarding day hike combines a walk along the Escalante River, including at least one ford, with an ascent of dry Phipps Wash and a visit to two distinctive natural spans, Phipps Arch and Maverick Bridge.
4. Fiftymile Creek: 10.4 miles. Fiftymile Creek is a remote slickrock canyon of exceptional beauty. Seldom visited, the canyon offers solitude and classic scenery. Narrow passages, 500-foot canyon walls, excellent campsites, a perennial stream, and an active population of beaver are among the attractions of this trip.
5. The Box: 8 miles. This canyon provides a backcountry landscape like no other in the Escalante region. Here you find a blend of slickrock canyon and cliffs, mountain forest, and a clear, cold creek. Also suitable as a backpacking destination.
Explore top adventure hikes in the nearby Grand Staircase region.