Explore UT {Grand Staircase – Escalante}

One of my favorite hikes turned out to be a total mistake! While we camped near Bryce Canyon, we took a day to venture over to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. A few people suggested a hike to Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulch Slot canyons. We really didn’t know what to expect other than it was far from civilization and we could expect no crowds. If you know me – if there is a mention of ‘no crowds’ I am all in, I really don’t care what it is. No crowds. Open spaces. I’m already having a good day before I get there.

Our internet was pretty spotty and we didn’t get good information on the canyons or details of what to expect, so we went in a little blindly. I’m including lots of pictures in this post in case someone else journeys out there. We drove into the town of Escalante (super cute) and stopped at a gas station to ask a few details. All we really got was head down Hole-in-the-Rock Road and turn off on Dry Fork Road. With pretty much only that we headed south….down Hole-in-the-Rock road.

4.16Escalante-01Nothing but bike trails and a dirt road. I was getting giddy at the sight of nothingness in regards to modern civilization. It is about 26 miles to the Dry Fork Turnoff. I would recommend watching your mileage when you begin down the road. We didn’t and started to get worried we missed the turn-off.

4.16Escalante-03There is a parking area shortly after the turn-off. The sign stating that high clearance vehicles can keep going down the dirt path was knocked down. So, we walked 1.7 miles just to get to the trailhead. If you have a high clearance vehicle and the road is dry, I would keep driving it will save you a long walk!4.16Escalante-02Eventually we made it to the trailhead and the second parking area.4.16Escalante-04Overlooking where we were about to hike to…there are 3 slot canyons down there. It is really hard to see them if you don’t know what you are looking for.4.16Escalante-05The trail is marked by cairns. There are no signs telling you which way to go. My kids loved trying to be the first to spot the next cairn.4.16Escalante-06There is a bit of a hike down to the slot canyons. It was not difficult for us, but if you aren’t a fan of climbing down and back up, it could be a bit much.4.16Escalante-074.16Escalante-08Before we reached the canyons, we came upon the canyon log. The kids had fun leaving their names and messages documenting their adventure.4.16Escalante-09This is the entrance to the Dry Fork Narrows. We thought we were entering Peek-a-Boo canyon, but didn’t learn we were in the wrong canyon until later in the day! I’m glad we didn’t know because it turned out to be the perfect hike for our crew.4.16Escalante-11Climbing, jumping, exploring, being on an adventure is encouraged and we took that to heart.4.16Escalante-134.16Escalante-154.16Escalante-16There was some rain the day before, so the canyon had a few shallow pools of water. My favorite part of the hike was listening to the kids squeal and laugh as they went through the cold water. I used my mad wall scaling skills to avoid getting wet.4.16Escalante-184.16Escalante-20The Dry Fork Narrows is the longest of the canyons. Once we came out of the canyon we took some shade shelter (following foot trails) for a snack and to take in the beauty of our surroundings. It was spectacular! Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Gulch can be hiked in a loop. Since we thought we had just come out of Peek-A-Boo canyon, we began our hike looking for the entrance to Spooky Gulch.4.16Escalante-21On the trail headed back towards the trailhead we met up with two fellow hikers. They had a MAP! We then learned we had been hiking in the ‘wrong’ canyon. Chris snapped a photo of their map. It isn’t the best quality, but I am including it here for those of you that venture to the canyons.

DryForkTrailheadMapYou can see in the image below the Dry Fork trail is much longer than the other two. It was so perfect for us though. The kids could climb and our youngest ones could easily keep up too. We’d like to try the other two someday.DryForkTrailheadMap2The photo on the right is the entrance to Peek-A-Boo canyon. We walked over and climbed up the 12 foot entrance. We thought we would go ahead and do this hike too, but once we got inside the canyon was pretty full of water. The boys would have enjoyed it, but the water was too cold for the girls..and me!4.16Escalante-22Back at the trailhead. Chris made the 1.7 mile journey back to get the car we the rest of us waited…a little beat, but pretty grateful for an amazing day.4.16Escalante-24If you plan on heading out there, it took us a several hours. I’d plan a full day, so you can take your time and really enjoy it all. We went back to Escalante and ate at Nemos Drive-Thru (great peanut butter shake!). The burgers and fries were very welcomed by my hungry crew of hikers. If I had to choose between Antelope Canyon and these canyons, I would choose these…but I like more strenuous hikes and less people. If you are looking for an easier way to experience a picturesque canyon without strenuous hiking, I would recommend Antelope canyon.

Now I just need to get back…and camp out in a tent in Grand-Staircase Escalante and hike Peek-A-Boo!

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  • Megan - I am so enjoying seeing all of these neat places through your photos! I have always wanted to travel to UT. Thank you for sharing. May I ask what lens you are using for these?

  • Annette - If you like middle of nowhere and no crowds, then you definitely need to come back and check out Great Basin National Park, too. πŸ™‚

  • Joan j - I love following along with you as you explore these amazing places! My husband and I went to many of these places 12 years ago when I was pregnant with our firstborn. Now, our family has grown to six and we dream of going back there to camp and hike. Would you mind sharing camping meal ideas and tips? We usually camp local/semi local but have never attempted anything more than a week. Any tips would be greatly appreciated! Enjoy the rest of your vacation with your family!

  • Abbi Hearne - I AM SO GLAD I FOUND YOU!! I love following blogs, and I love going on adventures (Utah is our favorite!) but I’ve never found someone with a blog style that I like that goes on adventures like this! And you bring kids! And a dog! I swear you are my blog soul-mate. My husband and I don’t have kids yet, but we are professional photographers and we spend a huge percentage of our year traveling around the western US with our dog Charlie, taking photos, hiking, climbing, and making friends. It’s a wonderful life and I often dream of how we’ll continue to adventure when we do have kids. Your blog is totally changing my perception of that! Taking them on strenuous hikes in random public lands…this is my dream!! Thank you for sharing everything in such a great detail. I feel like I am learning SO much from you!

    Also, this hike looks amazing! We’re going to have to add this to our list!

  • AshleyAnn - Megan – I used my 28mm, 50mm and 85mm. I hike with a little camera backpack, so I can change out lenses. I am going to write a post later this week with a few more details on that πŸ™‚

  • AshleyAnn - Joan – I am going to do a road trip post later this week with answers to questions as on Instagram (like what do we do for meals!).

  • courtney - i’m LOVING following your trip!! making notes for a trip we’ll hopefully take one day with our 6 kids…

    I came here to comment and ask about how you carry your camera with you, etc…but see that it’s been asked and you plan on blogging about it πŸ™‚ awesome! can’t wait to see and hear more! keep having FUN!

  • Natasha - I think your kids would enjoy Geocaching. Electronic treasure hunting with a gps ((with maps) to places you didn’t know you want to go to.

  • Carrie - Ashley, thank you again for sharing your adventures with your readers. πŸ™‚ It’s such a gift to your family that you take these trips and that everyone can join in together in the hiking, rock climbing, water dipping. You are making memories. Such a blessing!!

  • Kelly J. R. - Also in the same area (as you head south out of Escalante and into Grand-Staircase) are 2 other slots I would recommend where we were the only ones there:

    Willis Creek – A non-technical slot with no climbing required. You also don’t need to get your feet wet but there is a shallow creek running through the whole canyon. You can easily jump over it. There’s a nice narrows in this canyon that you can get to with very little effort. A good hike for kids. You don’t need 4-wheel drive to get to the trailhead. A bit farther down the road is Bull Valley Gorge slot canyon. This one seemed really cool but we were there as daylight was fading and got turned around by some deep pools. The trailhead is at the top of a very deep and narrow section of the canyon. It’s crazy to look down into the dark abyss. You have to hike up-canyon along the rim to get to a point where the crack starts and you can drop in.

    Round Valley Draw (a bit more technical) – Oh my gosh, this slot is AMAZING! We had to park our car about 1.5 miles from the slot because of a deep, dry creek bed that we didn’t have enough clearance to get across. So worth the extra hike! You hike down a dry wash and come to an incredible crack in the earth that you have to chimney down about 10′. This canyon is nice to go into with another person so you can assist each other on the obstacles. Once you get into the crack you are immediately in a very narrow section and it stays that way for quite a long time before opening up.

  • Friday Favorites | Cupcakes and Commentary - […] Wonderful hikes and sites at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. […]

  • Laura Kyle - Last spring we did EXACTLY the same adventure!! The 26 mile road was very bumpy with washboard and we were able to drive all the way into the trail head with our high clearance vehicle, but it was exciting!!! We made the same mistake, exploring Dry Fork instead of Peekaboo, but were thankful we did! I felt like saying #ditto quite a few times while reading this post!! LOVED it there, favorite adventure of all time.

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