Escalante: The good, the grand, and the bumpy

Updated: Mar 3, 2021


I will definitely be visiting Escalante again soon. The drive along Utah's Scenic Route 12 from Bryce to Escalante, to Capitol Reef, to Moab is beautiful and worth the trip itself. Escalante is a remote town (pop ~800) with one main drag that packs a mighty punch. The food is good, really good, if you consider where you are... you're in the sticks.


Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has some of the most fun hikes/treks and spookiest slot canyons that I've explored. The remote location and the access road (we'll get to that in a second) makes for sparsely trafficked routes. You're pleasantly surprised and somewhat relieved when you run into other people on the trail.


Okay, Hole-in-the-rock Road is an experience to say the least. It is exactly what in sounds like - a bumpy, rocky, dirt access road to get to the trailheads for most of the hikes. Keep in mind that the remoteness and rumbling journey that is Hole-in-the-rock Road are what keep the park from getting overcrowded. In my opinion, the destinations are definitely worth it. Plus, the journey is the destination, so they say.


Tips

  • High clearance awd/4wd vehicle is a must

  • Check the weather for rain, wouldn't want to be on that road after it gets washed out

  • Keep your speed < 30mph and gallons of water stored in the car > 1 per person

  • If you don't already know how change a tire, youtube before you head out

 

Hikes


As mentioned above, most of the best hikes are off of via Hole-in-the-rock Road. We spent four days hiking and felt like we only scratched the surface. There is one hike, Lower Calf Creek Falls, which accessible off the main road. It's slightly more crowded but still awesome (it also has a waterfall).


Lower Calf Creek Falls Trailhead


  • Rating: 🥾🥾🥾🥾🥾

  • Park: Technically BLM land northwest of Grand Staircase-Escalante

  • Hike Length: 6.7 miles round trip

  • Elevation Gain: 521 ft

  • Difficulty: Moderate

If you dare, brave a dip in the water! 🥶


Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulches


  • Rating: 🥾🥾🥾🥾

  • Park: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

  • Hike Length: 6.3 miles round trip

  • Elevation Gain: 738 ft

  • Difficulty: Moderate

  • All Trails

If you're claustrophobic this one is not for you. We went counterclockwise, look out for the rope to get up into Peek-a-boo canyon. It's definitely tight but fun and not too long.


Neon Canyon to Golden Cathedral


  • Rating: 🥾🥾🥾🥾

  • Park: Technically Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

  • Hike Length: 9.1 miles round trip

  • Elevation Gain: 1581 ft

  • Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult

  • All Trails

Solid day hike. Bring Tevas and be prepared to get a little wet as there are a few river crossings. The Cathedral payoff was stunning but I think I actually enjoyed the journey through the Neon Canyon even more. I didn't quite capture it in a way that would do it justice but there's a pic here (also a good resource for Escalante hiking) that comes close.

 

Treks


Jacob Hamblin Arch


  • Rating: 🥾🥾🥾🥾🥾

  • Park: Technically Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

  • Hike Length: ~6 miles round trip

  • Elevation Gain: 1,163 ft

  • Difficulty: Difficult (not for those with fears of heights)

We did this trek as an overnight, you could do it as day hike but it would be a very long day with a lot of time on Hole-in-rock road. The descent was exhilarating, the arch lived up to its hype and the short day-hike through the canyon west of the arch was great! I wish we spent more time down there.




Tips

  • You'll need to bring a poop bag to pack out solid waste. Also, there are no trashcans at the trailhead to dispose of this so it's coming back with you (on the roof or maybe tucked under a windshield wiper blade).

  • Go down via the Water Tank trailhead (there was ~200 ft of rope there when we went but apparently it's not always there. Call the BLM and ask before or bring one)

  • Camp at the foot of the arch for amazing view of the stars above it at night our walk all the way around it for stars through the arch

  • Don’t be afraid of the sand about 1.5 miles out from the Water Tanks trailhead, a Saturn made it through it

  • More details here

  • If you want to do an extended route (recommended) see here

 

Food


The food in Escalante was so far beyond expectations! See spots below:

  • Escalante Outfitters - MUST STOP. It's both an outfitters & pizza spot. From a couple of guys who've lived in NYC "Outfitters has some of the best pepperoni. Period." 🍕

  • Georgie’s Outdoor Mexican Cafe - Can't go wrong here, tell Georgie that Brady from Red Rock Hotel sent you!🌯

  • Mimi's Bakery & Deli - Solid takeout for a lunch hike. The brie sandwich was awesome and pastries were good too!

  • Escalante Mercantile - Good for light groceries, smoothies, pastries and coffee ☕️

  • Kiva Koffeehouse - MUST STOP. This is 20 minutes west of Escalante on route 12. Food and coffee were great, the views were even better (see below) 😍


 

Housing


Red Rock Ranch, would stay again. Great location for accessing all the trails. Disclaimer, more than average number of flies.



Trip 10/18/20-10/25/20

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