Coyote Gulch

Located in the vast Grand Staircase-Escalante desert, Coyote Gulch is a winding, semi-narrow canyon that snakes its way down through incredible red rock country, and joins with the Escalante River just above Lake Powell. The hike is long, best suited for an overnighter, though it can be hiked in one day by those satisfied with a march instead of a casual exploration. Either way bring plenty of water, or even better, a water filtration system to use in the multiple springs. Hikers will pass a good number of arches, as well as the hardy wetlands that thrive within the shade and moisture of Utah’s desert oases.

If you’re planning to stay the night (or two) anywhere in the Grand Staircase, you’ll need a backcountry permit. Pick those up in Escalante at the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center or nab one at the entry trailheads. Groups are limited to 12. While the permit is free, you’ll still need to pay the per-vehicle fee to enter the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Backpackers flock to this canyon more than any other in the area, so be a responsible user. You know the drill. Pack it in, pack it out. Take only pictures. Leave no breadcrumbs or gum wrappers for the squirrels. Same goes for the mandatory climbing rope (at least 50-feet long) you’re going to bring.

Trail Head: 37.389971, -111.034848

Trail Type: Hiking

Length: 11.5 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Hard

The trailhead is co-located with some water tanks on the Fortymile Ridge, just south and west of the confluence of Coyote Gulch and Escalante Canyon. From that position, hikers can choose to follow the popular route, going from the tanks up to Crack-in-the-Rock, and down to the river, before heading upstream, and eventually climbing out of Coyote Gulch at Jacob Hamblin Arch, or they can choose any of the other routes, such as beginning at Hurricane Wash, which is just under a mile and a half upstream (northwest) of Jacob Hamblin Arch.

Though non-technical, this route is long and strenuous, and requires experience with both overland navigation and major rock-scrambling.

Only 4.4 miles up the Fortymile Ridge Road, off of the Hole-in-the-Rock Road coming from the town of Escalante, the water tanks seem to sit out in the middle of nowhere. But it makes the perfect starting point to reach any of the possible trailheads that visitors might choose as the beginning of their adventure.

A crack in the 50-foot cliff allows hikers to shimmy their way down to the sand dune below, and on down to the confluence of the Escalante River and Coyote Gulch. This is a challenging climb, and it is recommended that hikers lower their packs by way of a rope, instead of trying to climb down with them.

With a span of 225 feet, and at 160 feet tall, Stevens Arch is one of the largest arches in the country. It sits just to the northeast of the Escalante-Coyote Gulch confluence, and is worth the extra time for a short hike to get a closer look.

Eight miles into the hike, visitors will pass Coyote Natural Bridge, a small arch with a stream that runs underneath it year round.

The Jacob Hamblin Arch marks the ascent back up to Forty Mile Gulch. The exit climbs the slope that sits atop the arch itself. It is a very steeply pitch climb that requires hikers to be able to hoist themselves and their packs up a 100-foot, nearly 45-degree incline, before it deposits them at the edge of the Fortymile Ridge. The next step is to navigate back to the water tanks and the vehicles.

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