Hole-in-the-Rock Road stretches south from the town of Escalante, on the south edge of Boulder Mountain, and cuts through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It provides access to an amazing canyon network and some of the best slot hikes to be found on earth. Hiking, backpacking, biking and horseback riding are favorite activities in this area.
The main canyon, called Coyote Gulch, offers towering high walls and superb narrows. Hiking Coyote Gulch itself is a great multi-day adventure. Tributary canyons also offer excellent hiking. The four tributaries listed below provide some of the most popular hikes in this area.
- Dry Fork Canyon is a major tributary to Coyote Gulch and serves as a corridor into this scenic area. The Dry Fork Trailhead and parking area is signed from Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Dry Fork itself is not a slot but is a beautiful, narrow canyon that offers several miles of hiking opportunity.
- Peek-A-Boo Gulch is a beautifully sculptured slot that runs for about half a mile to a wide, sandy wash. It is a hanging canyon with an arch just inside the opening. To find it hike from the Dry Fork Trailhead down into Dry Fork Canyon. The trail follows a side canyon down a cliff face. When you emerge from the side canyon into the wide, sandy bottom of Dry Fork, immediately look across and down-canyon a short ways to find Peak-A-Boo. It is just a small crack in the wall, located about 10 feet above the canyon floor. Hand and foot holes have been carved into the wall to allow hikers to climb up into the opening. Sometimes there are pools of water in pot holes in this gulch. You may get your feet wet hiking through them but they are not deep. You can hike up the slot for about a half mile before it ends in a sandy wash.
- Spooky Gulch is the next opening as you hike down Dry Fork. It offers a great slot canyon hike through beautifully eroded Navajo sandstone. The canyon is deep and it constantly twists and bends, creating the eerie and haunting nature captured in its name. It is located approximately a half mile down-canyon from Peek-A-Boo, just past a large sand dune. The mouth of Spooky is wide but it quickly funnels into a tight slot. Spooky is the narrowest slot normal-sized adults can get through. In many spots you have to squeeze through side ways, your chest and back touching the opposing walls. If you are a large person, do not try to hike this canyon. Many people make a loop hike by going up Peek-A-Boo and down Spooky.
- Brimstone Gulch is the next canyon as you continue down Dry Fork from Spooky and it could be considered the ultimate slot canyon. Much of Brimstone is narrow with many spots that are less than a meter wide along its one-mile length. The bottom is fairly dim with curving walls that block out sunlight. To reach the mouth of Brimstone you need to down-climb over a large chokestone, which may be difficult for some people. The mouth of Brimstone is wide; you have to hike into it for about a half mile before it becomes a slot. As you hike up Brimstone it eventually becomes so narrow it is impassable. There are deep pot holes and high poor offs along the route. Don't attempt this one until you have some canyoneering experience.
There are many other hikes possible from Hole-In-The-Rock Road. Most are considered day trips ranging from one to 12 miles, but there are plenty of opportunities for longer backpack trips.
Water is scarce here but deep pools and mud may be encountered throughout the season. Wading may be required. Beware of flash floods when you are hiking any narrow canyon. Flash floods are rare but can be incredibly destructive. They are most common during late summer.
These canyons have spots that are extremely tight. Climbing and stemming may be required to negotiate pour offs and chock stones. Large packs and excessive amounts of gear should be avoided. Most routes are unmarked.
Hikers must pay attention to landmarks to find their way out. Hiking cross-country is not recommended. Obstacles may be tricky to negotiate and could pose a falling hazard to those unprepared or inexperienced. Heat-related injuries and dehydration may become a problem. Midget-faded rattlesnakes are occasionally seen in these canyons. They are not aggressive and pose little danger if left alone. If you try to catch them you may be bitten. Stay alert when placing hands on ledges. Dogs are not permitted.
For more information about this attraction and the surounding area contact the Escalante/Boulder Chamber of Commerce at 435-826-4810.
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