Explore deep into Utah's Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Overview: This loop hike offers a diverse desert canyon hiking experience. The hike can vary in duration, depending on the number and length of side trips taken, but requires a minimum of two long days. The recommended and more leisurely trip, with time for exploring, takes four to five days.

Start: Egypt Trailhead in the Grand Staircase– Escalante National Monument.

Distance: 20-mile loop.

Difficulty: Strenuous due to length and hiking through water and dense vegetation.

Trail surface: Slickrock, sand, wash bottoms.

Seasons: Spring and fall.

Land status: National recreation area, national monument (Bureau of Land Management).

Nearest town: Escalante.

Fees and permits: A free backcountry use permit is required for overnight trips, and is available at any monument visitor center and at the self-registration box at the Egypt Trailhead.

Maps: USGS Sunset Flat and Egypt quads; Southeastern Utah Multipurpose Map; National Geographic Trails Illustrated Canyons of the Escalante Map.

Trail contacts: Escalante Interagency Visitor Information Center, Box 225, Escalante, UT 84726; (435) 826–5499; or

Finding the trailhead: Drive east from Escalante on Highway 12 for 5 miles to Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Turn right and drive 15 miles to The Egypt turnoff. Turn left onto Egypt Road. Within 3.5 miles Egypt Road crosses the upper portion of Twentyfive Mile Wash. Continue another 5.5 miles and bear right. Egypt Trailhead is 1 mile farther. This road is usually passable for vehicles with moderate clearance, but check with the Escalante Interagency Visitor Information Center for current road conditions. DeLorme: Utah Atlas & Gazetteer: Page 20 B2. 

Trailhead GPS: 37.593213, -111.218473

The Hike

The 20-mile loop hike begins on Egypt Bench, high above the Escalante River, and descends about 1,000 feet via Fence Canyon into the Escalante River’s canyon, continuing downriver to the confluence of Twentyfive Mile Wash. The route then snakes up Twentyfive Mile Wash, exits from the wash to the north, and concludes with a cross-country trek over slickrock back to the Egypt Trailhead. Out-and-back options, rather than the full loop hike, are possible.

Several locations along this hike can be extremely hazardous during flash floods, so get an up-to-date forecast and watch the weather. You will be hiking in water along a good portion of this trek, so use footwear that stands up to wet conditions and provides sufficient ankle support. Army-surplus “jungle boots” are ideal.

Water availability varies considerably from season to season. Check conditions with the Escalante Interagency Visitor Information Center when you obtain your free backcountry permit. Boil all surface water, adding iodine or using an appropriate filtering technique. Fence Canyon, only a mile long, has a small stream flowing most of the year.

From the trailhead at about 5,650 feet, descend the bench over slickrock, using an old stock trail. Head northeast toward Fence Canyon and its two upper arms. Skirt the north rim of Fence Canyon’s southern arm here. You will be hiking crosscountry on slickrock and sand. Just before you reach the junction of the two arms, the stock trail descends into Fence Canyon. The distance from the trailhead to the junction is about 2 miles.

Hike in the wash bottoms whenever possible. In doing so, human traces will be erased during high water. Camping in wash bottoms, however, can be dangerous. Fires are not permitted, so use your backpacker stove. Fires cause considerable damage; their ash and charcoal remains, not to mention rock rings, last for decades.

It is only half a mile to the mouth of Fence Canyon and the Escalante River. The mouth of the river is at about 4,600 feet — 1,000 feet below the trailhead. You descend less than 200 feet over the next 5.5 miles before leaving the Escalante at Twentyfive Mile Wash.

Prior to your hike down the Escalante, you might enjoy the side trip upstream about a mile to Choprock Canyon, which enters from the east. The route offers interesting hiking in narrow, deeply incised canyons. Do not, however, hike here when bad weather threatens.

Since the hike down the Escalante follows the canyon bottom, you will be walking in and out of knee-deep water. River levels vary. Wash bottoms and the river canyon are heavily vegetated. The dense vegetation also can make passage difficult. Cottonwood, willow, Russian olive, and tamarisk predominate here.

One mile downstream, an old stock trail leads up and out the left (east) side of the canyon to Baker Bench. This canyon makes an interesting side trip. In only a short distance, you’ll climb to an excellent view of the Escalante River below.

Twentyfive Mile Wash is another 4.5 miles downstream. Before you reach it, however, there will be fine hiking along the Escalante. There are numerous benches and excellent campsites.

About half a mile before Twentyfive Mile Wash, a canyon enters from the left (north) side of the Escalante. The river then bends around to the right. Twentyfive Mile Wash enters from the right (west) just beyond the bend.

The lower 2 miles of Twentyfive Mile Wash are narrow and winding. The wash drains a large area and is subject to flash flooding. The lower portion of this canyon provides little opportunity to climb to higher ground, so use caution.

You might explore some of the small side canyons off the lower portion ofTwentyfive Mile Wash. Some of these canyons are deep, shady, and lush and offer interesting photographic opportunities. Watch for poison ivy.

About 6 miles up Twentyfive Mile Wash, a side canyon leads into the wash from the right (north). It is the first large canyon upstream (half a mile) from the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area boundary sign. This route is extremely brushy, with deep beaver ponds to wade. A better route is to continue west beyond this side canyon about 0.75 mile to where you can exit Twentyfive Mile Wash on the right (north). Once you have exited Twentyfive Mile, hike cross-country over sand and slickrock, using Egypt Bench as your landmark, until you reach the steep slickrock route that leads up to the trailhead. 

Miles and Directions 

0.0       Start at the Egypt Trailhead on Egypt Road.

2.0       Descend to the junction of Fence Canyon.

2.5       Arrive at the mouth of Fence Canyon and the Escalante River. Turn right (downstream).

3.5       Pass an old stock trail leading east to Baker Bench.

8.0       Twentyfive Mile Wash enters from the right (west) after a right-hand bend in the Escalante River.

14.0     Exit Twentyfive Mile Wash on the right (north).

20.0     Arrive back at the Egypt Trailhead.  

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