Trip Number: 13030A
Staff: Phil Snyder
- Enjoy springtime wildflowers and geological wonders with a professional
- Hike to renowned slot canyons, arches, and waterfalls
- Travel in the historic footsteps of Native Americans and pioneers
- Camaraderie and adventure
- Veteran guides
- Highly rated meals
- Permits, fees, maps, and more
Photo: Phil Snyder
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument protects some of the most scenic
and least traveled areas of the Colorado River Plateau. Here, the Escalante
River and its tributaries cut through colorful sandstone formations, hiding
natural arches and bridges, waterfalls, and hanging gardens. There are petroglyphs
and other signs of the native people who lived here years ago, and there is
the history of the pioneering Mormons who settled the area. We plan to take
time to learn the names and ways of life of the local plants and animals and
to understand the geologic forces that produced this colorful, sculpted terrain.
There will be a variety of terrain for our day hikes: sandy wash, slickrock,
and willow thickets. We'll squeeze through some slot canyons too narrow to carry
a pack through, and could be sloshing through shallow streams. We will explore
some of the more celebrated slot canyons in Coyote Gulch, like Peek-a-Boo, Spooky,
and Brimstone, as well as some of the more remote, hidden regions. There are
no carefully maintained trails here, so while you don't need to be an athlete
to enjoy this trip, you do need to be physically fit. Hikes will vary in distance
from short strolls to 10 miles.
Our adventure is planned early enough in the season to allow us to enjoy the
most spectacular (and therefore most popular) features of the Monument before
the hot season arrives. Do keep in mind that while this is the desert, it's
high country and can be cold, especially at night.
Hole in the Rock Road -- washboarded, rocky, and rough -- takes us to our secluded
campsite for the week and to trailheads. The road is fine for larger passenger
cars. High-clearance vehicles are recommended for reaching a few of our trailheads,
and we will form carpools to each day to share the challenge of driving in the
Photo: Phil Snyder
Day 1: We'll meet at the Escalante Petrified Forest State
Park Campground near Escalante by 4 p.m. (MDT) for a reception, orientation
Day 2: After breakfast and a short drive on a dramatic Scenic
Byway, we’ll hike about three miles to Calf Creek Falls, a 126-foot perennial
waterfall, for lunch. While hiking, distant pictographs and granaries can be
seen. After the return, we’ll bounce down Hole in the Rock Road to reach
our remote camping area, where our basecamp will be established for the remainder
of the week.
Day 3: The hike down Willow Gulch will draw our group to Broken
Bow Arch, one of the largest in the Monument. We’ll have lunch sitting
beneath the 94-foot wide, 100-foot tall sandstone monolith.
Day 4: A short descent into Dry Fork Canyon leads to three
fun and fascinating slot canyons that require some twisting and turning without
packs: Dry Fork, Peekaboo and Spooky. After lunch, a longer leg leads to the
dimly lit, ghostly Brimstone Gulch, which, for much of its mile-long length,
is only a few feet wide.
Day 5: The trailhead at 40-Mile Ridge begins in sand but quickly
emerges onto slickrock, ending at the Crack in the Rock and beautiful views
of the Escalante River as it flows through Coyote Gulch in front of Steven’s
Arch. On the return, we’ll head cross-country to allow a close encounter
with graceful Sunset Arch.
Day 6: Although it’s a long, hard, 40-mile drive to
historic Hole in the Rock, the camera-clicking views of Lake Powell from the
bluffs of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area are outstanding. There are two
options for hikes: Descend the 1,000-foot cut in the slickrock to Lake Powell,
as hundreds of Mormons did in 1879, or climb even higher to the cliffs overlooking
Day 7: A beautiful panorama of the Escalante, including the
distant Henry Mountains, begins the descent from the Egypt Trailhead to the
Escalante River through Fence Canyon.
Day 8: After breaking camp, we’ll spend time exploring
Devils Garden, a concentration of sandstone hoodoos, domes and small arches,
then climb the cliffs of the Escalante River to view outstanding pictographs.
The trip will conclude by approximately 1 p.m.
Photo: Kathryn Brownell
There is no public transportation to this remote region, so you will need
to drive from home or rent a vehicle. The nearest large airports are in Salt
Lake City and Las Vegas, each more than six hours away from our meeting place.
Ride-sharing is highly recommended, and a trip roster will be provided to facilitate
this. Detailed directions and other information will be shared with registered
If you have extra time, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Capitol Reef national parks
are all nearby.
Accommodations and Food
All meals are included, from dinner on Day 1 through lunch on Day 8. We provide
all cooking equipment, including stoves and fuel. Meals are mostly vegetarian,
but we do offer fish and chicken dishes; however, if you avoid dairy products,
this trip is not for you.
The first night of our trip will be spent in Escalante Petrified Forest State
Park Campground. It has running water and modern bathrooms. Our camp for the
rest of the week is primitive with no amenities at all, so everyone will need
to bring plenty of water for drinking, cooking, and washing.
Most of our hiking will be moderate, over distances of less than 10 miles,
though few of our routes are on trail. We will negotiate sandy, rocky, sometimes
brushy terrain, with some (shallow) stream crossings. There are occasional easy
rock scrambles and squeezes through slot canyons too narrow for a backpack (or
a very large person.) We won't have to deal with extreme changes in elevation.
Only one of our hikes involves a descent and climb of 1,100 feet. Keep in mind
that cross-country travel is more strenuous than strolling along maintained
trails, and that physical fitness and good boots are necessary.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Phil Snyder
A detailed equipment list will be sent to all registered hikers. You will
need to furnish your own sleeping bag, tent, and personal gear. Your sleeping
bag should be rated to 20 degrees. Good rain gear is essential, just in case...
You'll need good hiking boots with lug soles that are well broken in to negotiate
slickrock and rough terrain. Make sure you try out all new equipment in advance
to make sure it's adequate and fits properly, and that you know how to use it.
- Kelsey, Michael, Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau.
- Lambrechtse, Rudi, Hiking the Escalante.
- Fagan, Damian, Canyon Country Wildflowers.
- Adkison, Rod, Hiking Grand Staircase-Escalante and the Glen Canyon
- The National Geographic/Trails Illustrated "Canyons of the
Escalante" covers the entire area. The AAA "Indian Country"
map is useful for driving.
Photo: Phil Snyder
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was established in 1996 by
President Clinton to protect 1.7 million acres of this beautiful and complex
region from further development. The desert has too often been seen as wasteland
to be exploited and abused. Over-grazing, off-road vehicles, development and
exploitation of energy have been seen as permissible in desert "wasteland."
Our visit will help us experience firsthand how nothing here is wasted; how
the health and survival of every living thing in this fragile desert ecosystem
depends upon the well-being of every other. We plan to travel lightly over the
land ourselves, always practicing Leave No Trace principles.
Lake Powell, the most notable water resource of the region, is controversial
and susceptible to the changing climate. The level of the reservoir is dropping,
revealing long-submerged geologic treasures. We’ll discuss why the Sierra
Club and others call for draining Lake Powell to rediscover America’s
Lost National Park.
Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate
under permits from the Escalante Interagency Office and Glen Canyon National
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Phil Snyder is an avid hiker who has explored trails throughout the country for more than 40 years. He is enthusiastic about helping others discover often-overlooked hiking opportunities, primarily in the Southwest and Midwest. When he's not on the trail or a bicycle, Phil is a community volunteer, freelance writer, communications consultant and a certified instructor of motorcycle safety in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Suzanne Swedo is a botanist who leads wilderness seminars for the Yosemite Association and other organizations as well as her own adventure travel company. She has just written a new book, Hiking the Hawaiian Islands, and she writes trail guides for Falcon Publishing including Hiking Yosemite National Park, Best Easy Day Hikes in Yosemite, and Wilderness Survival. She has led Sierra Club outings for 20 years and has hiked the mountains of every continent.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips