Escalante River, West
The Escalante River can be accessed from many points, but one day we chose to stick close to town so we used the trail head near Escalante High School. On the link above this would be the West access point. There is no formal trail along the river, but we followed a good social trail several miles down stream. At this time of year the water level was about ankle deep or so which made the river crossings very easy. It's a beautiful riparian zone surrounded by tall canyon walls, and very sandy walking. We saw some Fremont Indian pictographs and I discovered afterwards we missed two petroglyph panels (details here).
|This large alcove held Fremont Indian pictographs.|
Zebra and Tunnel Slots, via Halfway Hollow
After our amazing day at Spooky and Peek-a-boo slots, we wanted more slots! Zebra and Tunnel slots are located in a fantastical land of petrified sand dunes bisected by washes. From the trail head, you hike down Halfway Hollow, a wash that turns from cow pasture to amazing over the course of two miles. Enter Harris Wash and head left for a quarter mile to Zebra slot, then back to the Harris Wash entrance and go right for half a mile to reach Tunnel slot. Unfortunately for us both slots were full of water AND the light was poor...making it impossible to see the beauty these slots are known for. At this time of year the slots are probably lit between 12 and 1pm...we were too early. On our return from Tunnel slot we chose to go OVER the petrified dunes (instead of retracing our steps in the wash) for an interesting change in perspective. Even though the slots were a bust on this day, the landscape in this area is well worth the effort.
|Colorful petrified sand dunes made for fascinating scenery along Halfway Hollow.|
|Without the sun shining overhead, Zebra slot was not worth getting our feet wet!|
|Traversing the petrified dunes above Harris Wash on our way back to Halfway Hollow.|
Lower Calf Creek Falls
Located 16 miles East of Escalante at the Calf Creek Campground (good for tents and rigs 25" or less), Calf Creek Falls is popular and absolutely gorgeous! The trail follows lovely, clear Calf Creek upstream through a beautiful canyon filled with Fremont Indian history to the amazing Calf Creek Falls.
|Fremont Indian granary high on a cliff face|
|Lower Calf Creek Falls.|
Phipps Arch, via Hwy 12 at the Escalante River
This hike included three river crossings, some careful route finding and a crazy rock scramble to an amazing arch. Here's a helpful hint about the river crossings. The first one you walk straight across the river. The second and third crossings you simply head downstream a short distance and stay on the same side of the river you started on. We didn't know that about the third crossing and after actually crossing the river had a heck of a time finding another spot to cross to the side of river we needed to be on! Also, at this time of year the river was just about calf deep. We tried using plastic garbage bags over our shoes but they got small holes after the second crossing, even though we were walking on sand. (Pam, this was an awesome idea, but I guess our bags were just not heavy duty enough!)
|Here I am crossing the river with trash bags over my shoes!|
I so wish this had worked as it was an easy way to keep the shoes dry!
|Maverick Natural Bridge.|
|Phipps Arch is massive!|
|Near the trail head and overlooking the Escalante River, there were two Indian granaries high in the cliffside.|
The Box, aka Pine Creek Trail
So here we are at the end of a week of daily hiking, we're getting a bit tired. But the area is so beautiful we just have to do one more hike. This time we head up Hell's Backbone Rd, a few miles North of town. We park at the Lower Box trail head and hike up an incredibly beautiful canyon between high walls of multicolored sandstone, among Ponderosa pines, alongside rushing, tumbling Pine Creek. Turns out there are a LOT of creek crossings. The creek is high due to snow melt from the last storm 10 days ago...many of the boulders normally used to cross are under water. After working to build up a couple of the creek crossings with more rocks...we finally give up and ford the creek in our shoes because there are so many crossings! That water was cold! We ended up hiking for three hours out and back, but the best way to do this trail would be as a shuttle, one way, from the Upper Box trail head down to the bottom, for a total of eight miles.
|Multicolored sandstone walls on the East.|
|Towering white sandstone walls on the West.|
You can see the normal crossing stones are under water...
we just gave up and got our feet wet. It was really cold!
A few observations about the trails around here.
- There are a LOT of sandy trails! You're surrounded by sandstone and every wash, creek bed and river bed will be sandy walking.
- Our GPS app, Runkeeper, had a very hard time with the canyon walls. On every hike, the total mileage on Runkeeper was much more than the hike was supposed to be. It was pretty useless.
- Grippy hiking shoes are a must for walking atop sandstone.
- If you do Spooky and Peek-a-boo slots, wear old clothes, preferably long pants and long sleeves. Squeezing through sandstone is hard on your skin!
- Many of the river or creek trails have water crossings and you are probably going to get wet!
About Escalante, UT
The town of Escalante has been a great home base for our explorations of this area. It's a small community focused on cattle ranching and outdoor recreation tourism. There are several lodging options and some good restaurants and at this time of year the weekends are busy with visitors. I'll have a post about our RV park, Canyons of Escalante, up soon.
We enjoyed good meals at Circle D and especially Escalante Outfitters, where we had another meetup with the Nealys. We liked that this town does not have a lot of little shops selling tourist junk...it's more focused on the essentials. There's a good, small grocery store (Griffin Grocery) with reasonable prices and there is a new, small home improvement store.
It hasn't been a perfect week though...when our RV park got busy over the weekend the close quarters became an issue when someone backed their truck into our truck...not again! Our poor truck got hit in an RV park in Bend, OR last September, and now this. Luckily, it is driveable so we'll get it fixed when we get to Carson City in a couple of weeks. Thank goodness the other person had insurance!
|They managed to damage both halves of the truck!|
Despite the truck damage, this has been a memorable stay. We will definitely return, there is so much more to see and do here. Tomorrow we're off to Capitol Reef. Not only are we moving to higher elevation, a cold front is on its way. Time to bundle up!