April 16, 2019

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Exploring potato valley.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

With spring on the way, the family was looking forward to our first big trip of the year, especially with our new camp trailer. While we really liked our popup trailer, we had just outgrown it a lot faster than we thought we would, and could use just a little more space. So earlier this year we traded in the popup for something a little bit bigger.

For the trailer’s maiden voyage, we decided to head down to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. After getting everything packed, and hitting the road, we arrived in Escalante, UT late in the evening, with enough time to setup the trailer and get settled for the night. We had a full day of hiking and exploring planned for the next morning, so a full night of sleep was our goal.

The next morning, we woke feeling mostly refreshed, as the folks in the campsite next to us had stayed up most of the night partying. However, as we were so worn out from our packing to get ready for this trip and the drive, we actually were able to sleep through most of the night.

Our first stop of the day was to head southwest of town, and hike Willis Creek. This was a pretty easy hike to get the trip started with, as it was only about 3.5 miles, round trip. Mostly flat as well, with not much elevation gain either. A lot of the trail winds through high canyon walls, so much of it was in the shade as well.

Willis Creek

After some lunch, we then drove north east of Escalante, to look for Covered Wagon Natural Bridge. This was another short little hike, really only about a quarter mile from the road, but it was a fun off-road drive  to get to, and the hike was pretty relaxing. The payoff was a small sandstone bridge that can be walked under, followed shortly by a small grotto that had been carved out of the sandstone ages ago.

Once we finished exploring the area near the grotto, we drove down the road a bit more to look for Cedar Wash Arch, which is another sandstone arch, but this one was way off in the distance. While the hike wasn’t too bad, the wind was starting to pickup, and we weren’t really up for watching someone get blown away on such a blustery afternoon. We enjoyed the views, then began a return trip to town.

We did stop for a short look around the Escalante Heritage Center, but it was closed for the evening, so our looking was limited to the outdoor information they had posted. In addition, folks were getting hungry, so it was time to return to camp for some dinner and rest.

Escalante Heritage Center

The next morning, we began our day with a stop at the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center to learn some more about the area from the ranger staff there, before heading off to our planned adventures.

After a short drive, we arrived at the trailhead for Lower Calf Creek Falls. This hike was a bit more strenuous than the day before, coming in at just over 6 miles roundtrip. However, it was worth it. While the sun  wasn’t fully out, and it was a bit overcast, it was pretty toasty hiking. Once we arrived at the falls though, the shade and the mist from the falls we incredibly refreshing. So much so, that by the time we cooled down and had finished the lunches we brought with us, we were actually a bit chilly. Actually felt a bit good to get back out into the sun on the return back to the trailhead.

Once back at the trailhead, we got our lunch out of the cooler, and took some time to relax and eat lunch in the shade before loading up to continue up Highway 12 to the town of Boulder. We wanted to go see Anasazi State Park, and learn some more about the people that had once lived in this area nearly 1,000 years ago. The park was really interesting, offering both a replica of the types of dwellings that these people had used, as well as the remains of the original site that had occupied the area.

The drive from Escalante to Boulder offers some fantastic views, however, it’s also not for someone that has a fear of heights. The road over the Hogback was a lot of fun, but it also requires your full attention, as those views come complete with about a 500 foot fall on either side of the road. Still, worth the drive.

Crossing the Hogback

Worn out by our first set of adventures for the summer, we returned to town, got some pizza, then called it a night. The next morning, I left to gas up the truck, wandered around town for a bit, then we packed it up, and headed home.