Peek-a-Boo & Spooky Gulch

Spooky Gulch   |  Larry Price
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 79F

On most Southern Utah bucket lists, you’ll find the local favorite one-two punch of Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons. These magnificent hikes, located in the Dry Fork area of the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument area, can be done individually, but they make for a killer loop you can tackle in one afternoon of adventure. Once you’re in, all you have to do is walk through a scenic paradise of red and purple rock.

From the trailhead, get into Dry Fork Wash via moderate scrambling down some short cliffs and following cairns as needed. Once you’re off the cliff and into the sand dunes, you’ll hike along the creek wash until you see the mouth of Peek-a-Boo. There are hand and foot cut-outs in the rock to help you get up and into the canyon.

Once you leave Peek-a-Boo, keep hiking (longer than you think you should, most likely) until you come to a juniper tree, then follow the trail and cairns leading to the right and the entrance of Spooky Gulch. Scramble down a mellow rock face to get into the canyon. It soon tightens up, and you’ll be having a good time navigating the confines of this fun canyon. The loop generally takes about 3-4 hours depending on pace and skill level.

What Makes it Great

This three-miler will give you stellar views and a new perspective of slot canyons in Southern Utah. Unlike many of the Escalante-area slot canyons, Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulch require zero technical gear or know-how—although it requires some navigational and rock-scrambling skill. Peek-A-Boo is a slot and corkscrew, and Spooky Gulch is a narrow slot canyon. It is worth noting, due to the restrictive nature of the some of the spaces in Spooky, this canyon is better suited for smaller body types.

Adding to the cool factor of this destination is that it’s a loop — which is rare for these parts. You could just poke into one of the canyons for an hour to see what it’s all about, but why not do both while you’re there?

Who is Going to Love It

Everyone — except claustrophobes. This loop has scrambling and shuffling to make it like an adult-sized play-place. The natural waves and contours of the sandstone are awe-inspiring and perfect for pictures, while the light stemming and maneuvering are totally fun. The canyon only gets really tight in Spooky Gulch, where large adults who are backpacking will have to remove their backpacks to get through.

Because of some very tame climbing to get into both Peek-a-Boo and Spooky (if entered as a loop after Peek-a-Boo), it’s probably best to leave the dog at home. But if your mutt is a climber, and you are adamant about bringing it along, dogs are allowed here.

Directions, Parking and Regulations

GPS Coordinates for the trailhead:
(37.476782, -111.220040)

From the pull-off at Highway 12, head down Hole-in-the-Rock Road for 26.3 miles to Dry Fork road and the trailhead — set and watch your odometer to be sure. Make sure you have a full tank of gas and lots of water as there are no amenities down this rough dirt road.

This section of Hole-in-the-Rock Road provides easy access for passenger vehicles when dry; when wet, due to the clay consistency of the dirt, it might be impassable for even 4x4 vehicles. To be safe, don’t drive on wet roads in the desert.

The trip is great in the spring or fall, any time of day; the cool canyon makes for a respite from the summer’s heat in the area. Just make sure you always check the weather report, because this is flash-flood country, and June, July, and August carry the greatest risk. Also note that there have been sightings of Great Basin rattlesnakes in the canyons and in the desert in general — be careful.

For current conditions on any of the slot canyons off Hole-in-the-Rock Road, Burr Trail, or other hiking opportunities in, or along the Escalante River and its side canyons, please contact the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center at 435-826-5499.

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