Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (recently drastically downsized and partitioned into three separate areas by the anti-environment Trump administration) is a wonderland of weaving slot canyons, swirling rock formations, and sweeping colorful vistas. We hiked a variety of trails in the Monument from a base in Escalante on Big Trip #1, and from Kanab and Escalante again on Big Trip #2.
Zebra and Tunnel Slot Canyons
Visit two awesome slot canyons on a 7ish-mile hike a short drive down Hole-in-the-Rock Road from Escalante. We were warned that this hike is very popular after being published in an outdoor magazine recently, but we saw only a couple other groups, and had both canyons totally to ourselves to play in. Bugsy wasn’t as impressed by the canyons as we were; due to her subpar climbing skills, we had to take turns exploring so one of us could keep her company outside.
Peekaboo, Spooky, and Dry Narrows Slot Canyons
What’s better than a hike to two slot canyons? A hike to three slot canyons! This hike actually seemed more crowded than Zebra and Tunnel, but “crowded” by GSENM standards is still very quiet. This hike wasn’t very dog-friendly–dogs are allowed, but unless they’re climbers, probably won’t enjoy the adventure as there’s some dramatic scaling of slickrock to get in and out of the canyons.
Lower Calf Creek Falls
Lower Calf Creek Falls is a six-mile hike to a stunning waterfall splashing down a cliff face. It’s very popular so go early to avoid crowds! We were lucky to be there early enough in the Spring that nobody was swimming in the pool under the falls and crashing our photos. Well, nobody except for Bugsy was swimming.
A hike down Harris Wash can be as long as you want–up to 20 miles if you go all the way to the Escalante River and back. We had a deadline in the form of a reservation at local, sustainable Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, so we went in about 2.5 miles before heading back. Most of the hike was a fun tromp through the creek, which Bugsy absolutely loved.
It’s rare that I don’t like a hike, and I just didn’t like this one. It’s a lot of work for a pretty neat payoff–but “pretty neat” isn’t good enough to make me forget several quite scary crossings of freezing, high, fast water (too high for Bugsy to manage alone), bushwacking around nasty brambles trying to find the trail in too many places, and the insane climb down (and eventually back up!) a slick rock face from the trailhead to the canyon. Ok, that rock scramble was actually really fun. If you do this hike, definitely do it in warm weather when you’ll welcome thrashing around in the river.
I loved this hike! There’s no real trail, and few rock cairns, so make sure you have a GPS app (we use Gaia and AllTrails) that shows a path you can follow, or at least shows the location of the Cosmic Ashtray, and then it’s up and over giant humps of pink and white rock with views galore, until you reach the surprising geological feature at the end. I thought Cosmic Ashtray was full of muddy water until I actually stood at the edge. It’s wild and you should go see it. Don’t try going down into the ashtray, though, unless you have ropes and you’re sure you can climb back out!