Trip Number: 13043A
Staff: Vincent Jones
- Hike through miles of red slickrock canyons coated with desert varnish
- Explore magnificent Silver Falls and Choprock side canyons
- Visit magical Neon Canyon with its unique reflecting pool
- All cooking equipment
- All meals
- Guidance on the trails
Please note that the trip dates have changed from what was originally published. If you
have questions, please
Photo: Vincent Jones
Located in arid southern Utah, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
encompasses 1.9 million acres of multicolored high plateaus, remote mountains,
and a spectacular array of canyons. In addition to the area's isolated beauty,
it also contains a wealth of archeological, historical, geological, and biological
treasures. The Escalante area, carved by millions of years of water and wind,
features a 1,000-mile maze of interconnected canyons. This area contains natural
bridges and arches, dramatic and colorful geologic features, and petroglyphs
from native cultures.
The weather should be magnificent. We will explore unique scenic areas of the
Escalante area that feature everything from slot canyons to broad vistas. During
our moderate backpacking trip, we will visit numerous side canyons, view canyons
from their rims, and gaze in the distance at the Henry Mountains and the Kaiparowits
Plateau. This backpack trip also provides opportunity to view breathtaking rock
formations and study a few 700-year-old petroglyphs. We will be surrounded by
sheer red rock walls as we camp on benches near the Escalante River and its
side rivers. The area has a surprisingly rich variety of wildlife, including
golden or bald eagles and condors soaring in the sky, canyon wrens offering
their laughing call, coyotes and bobcats prowling at night, and more than 16
confirmed types of bats. This desert is teeming with more life than most people
Day 1: Our trip will begin when we meet in the town of Escalante
at 8:00 a.m. in the parking lot of the Prospector Inn. We will have a short
meeting, hand out the commissary gear, and then begin our car shuttle, placing
cars at our exit point from the canyon. After getting our cars in place we will
begin our scenic adventure at the Calf Creek Recreational Area. Not long after
we leave our vehicles behind, we will cool our feet in the clear water of the
Escalante River. We will follow the Escalante River downstream -- sometimes
bushwhacking through dense brush, other times walking through the desert sand
alongside the slick canyon walls. But for certain our feet will be cool and
wet from our many river crossings. We will explore Phipps Wash and view Phipps
Arch, a huge natural arch on the Escalante esplanade. After returning from Phipps
Wash, we will continue downstream and find a deep pool to cool off in before
making camp for the night.
Photo: Vincent Jones
Day 2: After breakfast we will put our stream crossing shoes
back on and continue our scenic adventure alongside the Escalante River. With
a little luck we may come across a mother turkey or two with her herd of young.
As we continue downriver and walk along the canyon walls we will take the opportunity
to climb to the rim of the canyon and gaze across the slickrock esplanade with
incredible views. While in the canyon we may see a real life cowboy or two searching
for lost cattle in the side canyons.
Days 3-4: Our journey will continue downriver, taking plenty
of time to cool off in the clear water of the Escalante River. You will look
forward to these cooling breaks after exploring the side canyons or climbing
to the rim to see where we have come from and where we are going. At the end
of day four we will set up camp in Silver Falls. There should be plenty of time
to explore this splendid side canyon with many scenic views and potential for
encountering natural canyon wildlife.
Day 5: When we start the day, you will notice the river becoming
more shallow, often only ankle or knee deep. This will make our stream crossings
easier, but the deep pools to cool off in will also be less common and harder
to find. We will bushwhack our way downstream and know we have reached our camp
for the night, Choprock Canyon, when we see the magnificent "Choprock"
high above the canyon floor and our camp. We will have time to climb to Choprock,
for amazing and wondrous views of the Escalante River and side canyons far below.
Day 6: After breakfast we will put our water crossing shoes
back on and continue our trek alongside the Escalante River. We will pass by
Fence Canyon, our final route out of the canyon, and continue downriver to Neon
Canyon. There will be plenty of time to view and explore Neon Canyon, one of
the most spectacular sites along the Escalante River. We will make our camp
for the night near the mouth of Neon Canyon alongside the Escalante River.
Day 7: After breakfast, we will backtrack along the Escalante
River to Fence Canyon. Here we will cool our feet one last time and begin our
two-hour climb to the rim. As we climb out of the canyon, we will cross an esplanade
and finally see the white trail carved into the rock long ago by cattle as they
were driven out of the canyon along the same route we will travel to meet our
shuttle drivers. Our shuttle drivers will take us back to our starting point
at Calf Creek Rec area to pick up our cars.
Photo: Vincent Jones
The two nearest major airports are Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, both of which
are about 275 miles from the town of Escalante. A rental car is needed to get
from these major airports to Escalante.
Accommodations and Food
The accommodations are your own tent/tarp and sleeping bag. For specific equipment
recommendations see the Equipment section below. We'll spend all of our nights
in the backcountry.
Our first trip meal will be lunch on day one and the last meal will be lunch
on the final day. Trip meals will include some meat. You need to bring a cup/dish,
and spoon for your personal use. Bring enough water containers to carry one
gallon of water. Group water will be purified with Micropur or by boiling. We
will provide Micropur tablets for purification of your personal water as well.
We provide the cooking equipment. Trip participants share in meal preparation
and clean-up. We will try to share dinner at a local restaurant in Escalante
after finishing the trip (not included in price of the trip) -- if we are lucky
they will still have some of their famous bumbleberry pie waiting for us.
The challenge is to bring enough gear and food while being mindful of the weight
of gear and food. We try to bring enough food so everyone is satisfied. We also
try to make the food tasty, but fairly simple to prepare. All participants share
in the cooking chores, which should be pretty manageable.
This trip is rated moderate (M). Elevation changes will not be great, and
daily distances should be less than eight miles. The difficult part is the actual
walking. Most of our hike will not be on maintained trails, but rather be off
trail. We will be bushwhacking, using the washes and Escalante River as our
guide. When lucky we will have game trails to follow. Many times while in the
desert adjacent to the red rock walls, we will be hiking in soft desert sand.
We will frequently cross or hike in the river and often have to fight our way
through thick tamarisk bushes on the river banks. When crossing the Escalante
River we will frequently climb up or down six-foot banks of the river. Due to
the frequent river crossings, your feet be wet most of the hiking day, so proper
footwear (discussed in the equipment section) is important.
All backpack trips are by their very nature strenuous undertakings, and participants
should engage in a regular aerobic training program several weeks prior to our
trip. Each participant should have some backpacking experience and be able to
carry a fully loaded pack with their own gear, plus 12-15 lbs. of group commissary.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Vincent Jones
You will have between 12-15 pounds of group food and gear to carry in addition
to your personal gear. The size of this group gear will vary, but is about the
size of two one-gallon milk jugs. Your backpack should have room to carry your
personal gear and the 12-15 pounds of group gear. We won't let anyone bring
a heavy pack. You need to try to get your pack and personal gear weight to approximately
20 pounds (this desired weight does not include your water or group commissary
gear). We will weigh your pack at the trailhead. If your pack seems too heavy,
we will ask you to remove unnecessary items.
We will send a complete equipment list to registered participants. If you have
questions about how to reduce weight, or are planning on purchasing new equipment
for this trip, please don't hesitate to contact the leader. It is recommended
that you buy light or ultralight gear.
- A good map of the entire Escalante Canyon area is Canyons of the Escalante,
by Trails Illustrated.
- U.S.G.S. maps: Silver Falls Bench, Red Breaks and Egypt.
Lambrechtse, Rudi, Hiking the Escalante.
Abbey, Edward, Desert Solitaire.
Each of the above items may be ordered from Escalante Outfitters at 435-826-4266.
Photo: Vincent Jones
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.
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.
Vince Jones is a relatively recent convert to the splendors and adventure of the Southwest. He's led several trips in the Southwest, including trips from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to Thunder River, Deer Creek, and Kanab. He has traveled this Escalante route four times in the past with his brother and Co-Leader. Although Vince lives in Florida, he is a desert rat at heart. While he enjoys the physical demands of a backpack trip, he finds the beauty and tranquility of the wilderness and the camaraderie with other trip members especially rewarding.
Bill Jones has lived in Phoenix, Arizona for about 20 years. His backpacking experience began more than 30 years ago as he and his brother explored many portions of the Appalachian Trail. Hiking in the Southwest is a true pleasure to him, especially along the Escalante River and on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips