Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument   |  Andrew Burr

The Box

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.

Start: Upper Box Trailhead

Distance: 8 miles, shuttle trip

Approximate hiking time: 4 to 5 hours one-way

Difficulty: Moderate

Trail surface: Constructed trail, generally easy to follow

Trailhead access: 2WD

Best Season: Mid-May through Oct

Canine compatibility: Leashed dogs permitted

Water availability: Plentiful along entire trail; if day hiking, bring your own

Hazards: Flash-flood and high-water danger; 50 stream crossings en route

Permits: Not required

Topo maps: Wide Hollow Reservoir and Posy Lake USGS quads; Trails Illustrated Canyons of the Escalante

Finding the trailheads: From UT 12 in the eastern part of Escalante, turn north onto 300 E Street, where a sign points to Scenic Backway, Posy Lake, and Hells Backbone. Drive north past the elementary school through the north end of town. After bridging the Escalante River, reach a Y junction after 0.6 mile and bear right, driving past ranches and hayfields into Pine Creek canyon.

The pavement ends after 3.5 miles, after which you follow the good wide gravel of FR 153. A sign at 7.2 miles declares entry into Dixie National Forest, and 0.3 mile beyond a gravel spur road branches right (east). That good road leads another 0.3 mile to the trailhead at the road’s end, 7.8 miles from Escalante.

To reach the upper trailhead, continue straight ahead on FR 153 for another 6.2 miles (13.7 miles from Escalante) to the signed junction with left-branching FR 154 leading to Posy Lake and Loa, Utah. Bear right, staying on FR 153. The road ahead crosses Deep Creek at 15.1 miles, crests an 8,200-foot ridge at 16.6 miles, and crosses Blue Spring Creek at 18.1 miles. Soon thereafter, you reach the trailhead, signed Upper Box Access, 18.4 miles from Escalante. Park in the turnout on the east side of the road.

Hikers searching for a campsite can stay in the Posy Lake Campground for a small fee, 2 miles from the FR 154/153 junction via FR 154, or choose from several undeveloped sites en route to the trailhead.

Hike Information

The Box of Pine Creek, located in the Box–Death Hollow Wilderness of the Dixie National Forest, is one of the upper Escalante River’s main tributaries. The creek emerges from springs high on the gentle, densely forested slopes of Boulder Mountain above 9,000 feet. As the waters gather they course through shallow draws in the cool shade of subalpine forests. Having gained sufficient volume, Pine Creek slices through the northern reaches of the Escalante Monocline and into the resistant Navajo Sandstone, where the waters have carved a tremendous straight-walled canyon ranging from 800 to 1,200 feet deep.

Excellent camping areas are continuous throughout The Box, most located on streamside benches beneath tall ponderosa pines. This is a good weekend trip suitable for families with children and even novice hikers. The canyon invites a leisurely pace, so go as far as you wish, take a soak in the creek, fish for the abundant 10-inch brown and rainbow trout, or simply bask on the slickrock and drink in the dramatic canyon landscape.

The only obstacles on the trip are the frequent stream crossings, fifty in all, throughout The Box. Yet these crossings are not difficult during normal stream flows—and they are never dangerous. Most crossings of the modest creek are accomplished via a rock-hop from one sandstone or volcanic boulder to the next. You’ll only get your feet wet if you slip into the water.

Most hikers will follow The Box from either the Lower Box Trailhead or the Upper Box Trailhead to roughly the midway point at Deep Creek. At that point you can retrace your steps to the car, or if you’ve done a car shuttle, continue on to the other trailhead.

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