Lower Calf Creek Falls Hiking Guide
Overview: A spectacular cliff-bound canyon, a perennial stream featuring beaver ponds and abundant trout, and a memorable veil of whitewater—one of very few active waterfalls in the southern Utah desert, plunging into a cold, deep pool — combine to make this trip a must for any hiker visiting the region.
Start: Calf Creek Campground
Distance: 6.2 miles, round-trip
Approximate hiking time: 3.5 to 4 hours, round-trip
Trail surface: Good constructed trail, moderately sandy in places
Trailhead access: 2WD (paved access)
Best seasons: Mar through June; Sept through Oct
Canine compatibility: Leashed dogs permitted
Water availability: Available at the picnic site at the trailhead; Calf Creek supplies year-round water, but since it must be treated before drinking, bring your own.
Topo maps: Calf Creek USGS quad (trail not shown on quad); Trails Illustrated Canyons of the Escalante
Finding the trailhead: The prominently signed Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Calf Creek Recreation Area is located off of UT 12, 11.4 miles south of the UT 12/Burr Trail Road junction in Boulder, 14.4 miles northeast of Escalante, and 1.1 miles north of the Escalante River bridge on UT 12. Follow the paved spur road for about 250 yards below the highway to the day-use parking lot. A small day-use fee is collected by campground hosts at the entrance to the parking lot.
From the day-use parking area adjacent to the picnic site, follow the paved road north through the campground for 0.2 mile, following signs pointing to the trail. Just before the road dips down to ford Calf Creek, the prominently signed trail heads left up the west slopes of the canyon.
As you proceed, refer to the brochure provided by the campground hosts as you entered the recreation area. It is keyed to fifteen numbered posts along the trail, pointing out the vegetation and geologic features at each and describing the area’s history and prehistory. The brochure will greatly enhance your appreciation and enjoyment of the area.
The wide, sometimes rocky, and often sandy trail winds upcanyon along the west slopes above Calf Creek, passing through fields of rabbitbrush, groves of Gambel oak, and woodlands of pinyon and juniper, which provide occasional shade. An active population of beaver has felled most of the cottonwoods along the grass-bordered creek, but they have ignored the abundant water birch fringing the streamside.
Hike information adapted from Hiking Grand Staircase-Escalante and the Glen Canyon Region (FalconGuides), which includes mile-by-mile hike descriptions and maps.