Northern Utah is great, but southern Utah is really special. There’s something about those red/orange/white/swirly deserts that keeps us coming back. This was our third visit to Escalante; read about the first visit here, and second visit here, and for all our Utah content, click here. At some point I should organize the Utah stuff better now that there are so many posts!
On the way to Escalante from Park City, we experienced another Airstreaming first for us: we ran out of gas. We were in a particularly desolate area when our gas gauge started ticking down twice as fast as it had been (surely it’s the truck’s fault and not the humans’). Luckily we had cell service and could get a rescue from the gas station 10 miles away. Yes, this roadside drama was right after we blew our second Airstream tire. I think the roadtrip gods were testing us. Tip: don’t let your gas gauge get low if you’re in the middle of nowhere. Duh.
A note on Escalante pronunciation: The first time we visited, we asked a local (well, she was a forest ranger, so may not have lived there very long) about pronunciation: is it ess-cah-lahn-tay? Or ess-cah-lahnt? She gave us a confusing answer about one pronunciation being for the national monument, and the other for the town. We’ve just defaulted to ess-cah-lahn-tay for all cases, but if you are interested in the history and variations of the name, this article is fun. I spent a day using one of the local pronunciations (rhymes with “vigilante”) and found it very disagreeable. When you visit, try some different options and pick your favorite!
For the second time, we stayed at Escalante Cabins and RV Park, just on the edge of town. We wanted to try Canyons of Escalante, which is walking distance to restaurants and shops in town, but they were full. Next time!
Hiking in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is dog-friendly in general, but keep a few things in mind:
- It’s desert. Bring extra water for your pooch!
- The sand and slickrock can abrade delicate paws
- If you’re planning to climb around in slot canyons, consider leaving your dog at home unless you’re confident your route doesn’t involve rope climbs or other tricky obstacles. And dog or no dog, make sure rain isn’t forecasted if you’re going into narrow canyons
Here’s where we hiked this trip; I’ll update the main GSENM page soon so it’ll be comprehensive.
Bugsy loved this hike the first time we visited GSENM so we took her back. You’re basically hiking along a riverbed for as long as you’d like. In 20 miles you’ll hit the Escalante River; plan on going at least a couple miles in to see some canyon drama. When we were there in October, we didn’t hit any real water until two miles in.
Zebra and Tunnel Slots
These slots are also favorites from our first visit, and definitely worth the return trip. This time, however, we did a 6.5-mile loop that required us to go through the canyons rather than a Y-shaped hike that visits each canyon as an out-and-back. The water in Zebra was almost hip-deep and COLD! And kind of gross. But it was a fun adventure and we laughed a lot! Bugsy did not hike with us, and parts of Zebra would have been challenging for her; if you’re taking your dog, I recommend the aforementioned Y-shaped hike.
Upper Calf Creek
This is a popular two-mile out-and-back with gorgeous views on the way down, and a lovely stream with a sweet swimming hole (just upstream of the section in the above photo) at the bottom–which is actually the top of Calf Creek Falls, another wonderful (and also popular) hike. Don’t be fooled by the length; the steepness of this hike makes it tough!
To do: We’ve driven by the trailhead to Escalante Natural Bridge a million times but haven’t hiked it, so let’s do it next time.
Eating and Drinking
If you’re anywhere near Boulder, Utah (which you are when you’re in Escalante), you 100% absolutely have to go to Hell’s Backbone Grill. No excuses. The food and drink are SO delicious, made with ingredients grown on their farm and from other local organic, ethical producers. The owners are very active environmentally in protecting GSENM from political dangers.
Kiva Koffeehouse is also a must-visit! It’s between Escalante and Boulder, close to many trailheads, with beautiful views from the patio. We stopped for breakfast as we left town and had no trouble parking the Airstream in their lot. (Use your judgement before you commit to pulling into any parking area!)
Hope you’re not sick of reading about Escalante, because this is definitely a place we’ll keep returning to.