Hiking Grand Staircase-Escalante and the Glen Canyon Region  by Ron Adkison

Hiking Grand Staircase-Escalante & the Glen Canyon Region Guide Book

by Ron Adkison (Falcon Guides)
Hiking Grand Staircase-Escalante and the Glen Canyon Region  by Ron Adkison
This guidebook focuses on the Glen Canyon region, an area that includes all the major canyon tributaries to the Colorado River (Lake Powell) in southern Utah and many lesser canyons.The Glen Canyon region is vast, with over 3 million acres of canyons, mesas, and plateaus. There are unlimited hiking opportunities in hundreds of remote canyons, and this guide focuses on many of the region’s highlights. Difficult canyon routes that can be negotiated only by skilled veterans with advanced rock-climbing skills were not included. The hikes covered in this guide should satisfy veterans and novices alike, and there are easy hikes that will appeal to parents with children and to hikers budgeting their time and energy. Since the Glen Canyon region is a raw and often unforgiving desert canyon country landscape, hiking here requires some pre-trip planning. It also includes several hikes from Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument.

© 2018 Ron Adkison/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Hiking Grand Staircase-Escalante & the Glen Canyon Region" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 59.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 59.

This very scenic hike traces Dark Canyon from its Elk Ridge headwaters to historic Scorup Cabin, a well-preserved summer cowboy camp that dates back to 1930. The trip blends montane forests and rich grasslands and wildflowers with a canyon country landscape of bold Cedar Mesa Sandstone walls. This trip is a fine choice for a day hike from late spring through autumn, and the intermittent stream and numerous potential camping areas make the trip inviting to overnighters as well. Observant hikers may spot Anasazi runs, though they are not abundant, or some of The Diverse wildlife that dwell here. Mule deer, mountain lions, elk, coyotes, and black bears make their home on Elk Ridge and in upper Dark Canyon. Short-horned lizards, attaining the size of an adult's hand, are quite common. Watch where you step, as these slow-moving reptiles frequently sun themselves on the sandy trail.
Blanding, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 9.6
A popular backcountry route that offers one of the finest slickrock rambles on the Colorado Plateau. Traces of old phone line and segments of the original mail route are still visible and hint at the trail’s history. This fine out-and-back day hike follows part of the Boulder Mail Trail into Death Hollows, the most dramatic of all the upper Escalante Canyons. Although the trail can be followed from Escalante through to the trailhead near Boulder, taking the trip as it is described here eliminates the problems of a car shuttle.
Boulder, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 10.8
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Bullet Canyon is a popular access route into the heart of upper Grand Gulch, second only to the Kane Gulch route. This mostly trailless route follows Bullet Canyon, a major Grand Gulch tributary, for more than 7 miles as it evolves from a broad, shallow draw into a spectacular canyon, 500 to 600 feet deep. In the canyon’s lower reaches are several well-preserved Anasazi ruins, a large pictograph panel, a reliable spring, and many excellent campsites. Although the canyon is most frequently used as an exit route from Grand Gulch by hikers beginning at Kane Gulch Ranger Station, this trip also affords access to the middle reaches of the gulch and is suitable as a rewarding all-day hike.
Mexican Hat, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 14.4
This ambitious trip surveys the central portion of Grand Gulch, perhaps the most difficult part of the gulch to traverse. It is an arduous journey: The trail is often vague and overgrown, and much of the way follows the floor of the wash. The 3.9 miles between Bullet and Step Canyons is a difficult segment, involving nearly continuous bushwhacking through a riparian jungle of willow and tamarisk. Water sources are widely separated, and there are long stretches in the gulch that offer no campsites.
Mexican Hat, UT - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 29.5
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Grand Gulch, a rich riparian oasis and outdoor museum of the ancient Anasazi culture, is one of Utah’s classic canyons. Yet its remote setting is largely reserved for the backpacker willing to spend several days exploring its hidden depths. A notable exception is the easy walk down Collins Canyon to The Narrows, perhaps the best short hike in Grand Gulch. This fine trip traces the slickrock gorge of Collins Canyon, the only Grand Gulch access from the west, via a well-worn and in places constructed trail into the lower reaches of Grand Gulch. Unlike other Colorado Plateau slot canyons, The Narrows of Grand Gulch are very short, stretching only about 20 to 30 feet, but the canyon walls there are separated by only 8 to 10 feet.
Blanding, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.0
Cottonwood Creek, an often-dry stream course, has, over the ages, carved a long, deep, and winding canyon through the steeply tilted rock beds of The Cockscomb, ranging from the shadowed confines of narrow slots to a broad open wash. This fine short hike leads through the final narrow gorge of Cottonwood Creek before the canyon opens up and begins its long, straight journey to the confluence with the Paria River. The hike leads through the most easily accessible section of narrows along Cottonwood Creek, offering a rewarding scenic diversion for anyone taking a drive down remote Cottonwood Canyon Road.
Cannonville, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.0
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Wedged between Dark Canyon Plateau and Wild Cow Point north of Dark Canyon is a very remote high-desert valley of exceptional beauty. Fable Valley, as its name suggests, is a special place, yet few hikers brave the 40 miles of dirt roads and rugged trails to get there. The valley stretches 6 miles northwest to the rim of Gypsum Canyon, a precipitous gorge scaled by John Wesley Powell in 1869 from its mouth in Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River. The Fable Valley area, in addition to nearby Beef Basin, Butler Wash, and Ruin Canyon and northward into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, was a center of Anasazi culture more than 700 years ago, attested to by the great number of ruins in the area. While 4WD roads access Beef Basin, Butler Wash, and Ruin Canyon, only cow trails afford access into the wild interior of Fable Valley, where hikers have the opportunity to discover many ancient ruins and enjoy an unspoiled landscape in utter solitude.
Blanding, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 9.6
This memorable trip is recommended only for experienced slickrock wanderers, for once you leave the road, you enter a landscape of Navajo Sandstone domes where a good feel for the lay of the land is necessary to stay on course. Davis Gulch begins as an inconspicuous draw, and you begin on its left (west) side after leaving Hole-in-the-Rock Road, following a northeast course above its steadily deepening, narrow gorge. The roller-coaster route leads you up and over low domes, past deep water pockets, and into small sandy basins where you find a concentration of blackbrush, silvery sophora, sand sagebrush, yucca, Mormon tea, snakeweed, and wavy-leaf oak.
Escalante, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 13.4
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The Devils Garden Outstanding Natural Area is an excellent place off Hole-in-the-Rock Road for an afternoon picnic followed by an hour or so of rewarding exploration. The garden is small, covering only about 200 acres, but it is a miniature wonderland of Navajo Sandstone hoodoos, domes, narrow passages, and small arches, hidden from the view of drivers along Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Devils Garden provides a brief introduction to the kind of slickrock walking and routefinding over a trail-less landscape typical of most backcountry routes in the Escalante region. Since the landscape features, such as pour-offs and cliffs, are in miniature here, obstacles are minor.
Escalante, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.7
The upper Escalante River canyon, between the town of Escalante and the UT 12 bridge, is not only one of the most beautiful parts of the 85-mile-long canyon, it is also the easiest to reach, with friendly terrain unencumbered by dense brush thickets and boulder fields. One need not be a dedicated backpacker to enjoy hiking along the Escalante River, and this fine short hike to Escalante Natural Bridge is a trip accessible to any hiker willing to ford the shallow river.
Escalante, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.2
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This rewarding day hike combines a walk along the Escalante River, including at least one ford, with an ascent of dry Phipps Wash and a visit to two distinctive natural spans, Phipps Arch and Maverick Bridge. To reach Phipps Arch requires good route-finding skills and ascending steep slickrock. Maverick Bridge can be reached by any hiker willing to ford the murky shin-deep waters of the Escalante River.
Escalante, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.6
Fiftymile Creek is a remote slickrock canyon of exceptional beauty. Seldom visited, the canyon offers solitude and classic scenery. Narrow passages, 500-foot canyon walls, excellent campsites, a perennial stream, and an active population of beaver are among the attractions of this trip. This route is interesting enough to satisfy experienced canyon country hikers, yet easy enough for budding canyoneers to enjoy. Like all the lower Escalante Canyons, your travels will terminate at Lake Powell. Fluctuating lake levels can further shorten the hike when waters rise to 3,711 feet. For a time after the lake is drawn down to 3,700 feet, its normal pool elevation, treacherous quicksand fills the lower end of the canyon for 0.7 mile.
Escalante, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 10.4
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This scenic, sometimes exciting route is second only to Hurricane Wash as the most popular access into incomparable Coyote Gulch. The trail not only provides short and quick access into lower Coyote Gulch but also affords dramatic vistas across the vast domed slickrock landscape surrounding the lower Escalante Canyons and of the Escalante River drowned under the waters of Lake Powell. The trail is shadeless throughout its length and passes over a tread of deep soft sand. On the rim of Coyote Gulch is the Crack in the Wall, a tight and exciting passage. Although most hikers use the trail on a round-trip backpacking hike into Coyote Gulch, ascending the steep and sandy trail, except during the cooler months or in the early morning hours, is not recommended. Not only is the exit on this trail a sandy, shadeless, uphill slog, but also the low elevations experience very hot temperatures from May through mid-September.
Escalante, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.2
Few hikers visit Sunset Arch, a delicate, graceful span on the south slopes of Fortymile Ridge, which is surprising considering the arch is accessible via a short and easy route. Most hikers who come to Fortymile Ridge are en route to one of two access routes into famous Coyote Gulch, north of the ridge. Vistas along the way to the arch are far-ranging, and the walking is easy, with no obstacles. There is no trail, but one isn’t really necessary along this straightforward route across the open terrain.
Escalante, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.0
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Constructed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the 1970s, the Government Trail is the second shortest and easiest access into Grand Gulch. The way follows a long-closed road over the shrubdotted expanse of Polly’s Pasture, near the southwestern edge of the Cedar Mesa/Polly Mesa tableland, then descends 300 feet via a wellconstructed trail into the middle reaches of Grand Gulch. The hike is a rewarding day trip, but backpackers use it most frequently as part of an extended trip in Grand Gulch. Although seasonal water sources are likely to be found in the gulch, day hikers and backpackers alike are advised to pack in an ample water supply. At the end of the road, adjacent to the stock pond, you find an information signboard displaying maps, backcountry regulations, and abundant tips on Leave No Trace.
Blanding, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.4
The Escalante Canyons are famous for their serpentine slickrock gorges, which feature deep alcoves, undercut cliffs, desert-varnished walls, and riparian oases, and Harris Wash is no exception. This beautiful canyon, part of the route of the Halls Crossing wagon road between 1881 and 1884, affords an excellent destination for a backpack trip of 3 to 4 days. Of all the canyon routes off of the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, Harris Wash is the most easily accessible, yet receives only moderate use. Hikers here can expect a good degree of solitude.
Escalante, UT - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 21.4
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Hog Canyon is the principal drainage on the west side of North Wash along UT 95. The small spring-fed stream, draining the eastern flanks of Trachyte Point, courses through a very scenic canyon embraced by the bold sandstone walls of the Glen Canyon group of rocks: the Wingate, Kayenta, and Navajo Formations. Located at the canyon’s mouth alongside UT 95 is the Hog Springs Rest Area, a pleasant stopover featuring two picnic sites with awnings and tables and a restroom nearby. The short stroll up Hog Canyon from the rest area offers a more intimate association with a dramatic desert canyon than scenic UT 95 can provide. One mile up the canyon, far beyond the noise of highway traffic, a deep pool and small waterfall in the shade of a deep alcove offer an attractive destination for a short hike on a warm spring or autumn day.
Hite, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.0
If you have only one day for a hike in the upper Dark Canyon area, the Horse Pasture Trail should be at the top of your list. This trail is the most scenic and popular of all the upper Dark Canyon trails. Although the trip is typically taken as a day hike, it can be used as one leg of an extended shuttle trip to one of four other upper Dark Canyon trailheads. Backpackers should note that no water is available until they reach Dark Canyon, and sources are quite scarce beyond. Cedar Mesa slickrock embraces the rich meadows of Horse Pasture Canyon. The well-defined trail begins behind the trailhead register and signboard and leads among snowberry shrubs in the shade of the ponderosa pine forest for 200 yards to a trail sign.
Blanding, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 8.0
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Coyote Gulch is the most well-known, and well-used, canyon in the Escalante region—and for good reasons. Between the lower Escalante River and the Straight Cliffs, Coyote Gulch has carved a deep, serpentine gorge through the Navajo Sandstone, forming what is arguably one of the most spectacular slickrock canyons in the Glen Canyon region. Tremendous alcoves and vaulting cliffs soar 200 to 400 feet overhead around nearly every bend of the tortuously twisting gorge. Two memorable arches and a water-worn natural bridge add to the attraction. Campsites are numerous and scenic in Coyote Gulch, the stream flows year-round, and several good springs issue from the canyon walls among rich hanging gardens.
Escalante, UT - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 26.6
This premium 3-to 4-day trip surveys what is arguably the most attractive segment of 52-mile-long Grand Gulch, one of the top backcountry destinations in the Glen Canyon region. Grand Gulch carves a serpentine course embraced by tremendous, bulging, and overhanging Cedar Mesa Sandstone walls, with alternating red and white beds of erosion-resistant slickrock. Great vaulted amphitheaters open up at every bend of the canyon, most separated by narrow finlike ridges of sandstone. Bold towers and hoodoos cap the canyon rims. The riparian zone in the gulch will often envelop you with its verdant foliage. The riparian vegetation is so well developed, you may need to refer to a map to remind yourself that indeed this is a high-desert canyon in southeast Utah.
Mexican Hat, UT - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 22.8
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