Lower Escalante River

  • Distance: 70 miles
  • Time: 10 days
  • Elevation gain: -1,700 feet
  • Difficulty: 3
  • Overall: 8
  • Reference: Southern Utah, about 15 miles east of the town of Escalante.
  • User groups: Hikers, dogs. No wheelchair access.
  • Permits: No permits are required. Parking and access are free.


From Escalante, UT, take State Route 12 east approximately 15 miles to where the road crosses the river on a bridge, and park.


Trails Illustrated's Canyons of the Escalante. For USGS topographic maps, ask for Calf Creek, King Bench, Red Breaks, Silver Falls Bench, Egypt, Scorpion Gulch, King Mesa, and Stevens Canyon South.


Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, 337 South Main Street, Cedar City, UT 84720; (435) 865-5100.

Trail notes

Hiking along the Escalante River ranks as one of the best extended backpacking trips, perhaps the best extended backpacking trip in canyon country. Campsites are abundant and pleasant, and water is always available, although you might need to let some of it settle before filtering. The sandstone wonders are endless, and numerous side trips beg to be taken. A group of us spent more than a month exploring the entire Escalante River, Upper and Lower, and then came back for two more weeks to see some of the things we missed on the first trip. We could easily have stayed longer to see more. If you lack the desire or time to do the entire route, several side canyons offer "escape routes" including Horse Canyon, Silver Falls Creek, Phipps Wash, Harris Wash and Twentyfive Mile Wash. It would be a shame to fail to climb onto King Bench for the view or up Little Death Hollow for the adventure. You'll walk in the river many times, bully your way through stands of willows, and risk getting stuck--but not dying--in quicksand here and there. The canyon of the Escalante once extended 30 miles more, those last 30 miles now lying beneath the placid waters of Lake Powell. Hiking all the way down to the lake is worth the effort, just to see what it looks like when a canyon is drowned by a lake, and you can leave the Escalante by hiking up and out of Coyote Gulch via Hurricane Wash. Keep in mind that the hike out Coyote Gulch adds about 14 miles to the 70 of the lower Escalante, and be aware that the mouth of Coyote Gulch often lies underwater, requiring you to backtrack to near the mouth of Stevens Canyon and ascend to the west rim before dropping into Coyote Gulch.

Information courtesy of Buck Tilton, author of Utah Hiking.

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