What originally started out as a trip with my friend Jeremy’s Boy Scout trip turned into a family outing with two dads, Jojo and Brian from the McCracken side, and Paige from the Brummett side. The five of us set out on Sunday night from Nevada, and were hit with an unexpected blizzard as we climbed the hill from St. George to Cedar City. We questioned the wisdom in the trip, but after double- and triple-checking the forecast, concluded that the trail should be cold, but free of snow. After making it into Escalante at 1:30PM, we decided that we shouldn’t go straight to the trailhead, and opted for a night in the newly opened Canyon Country Lodge after finding no other hotels open at that late (early?) hour. It was ridiculously expensive for what it was, but offered a good night’s rest. We woke the next morning to find the snow and ice had not hit Escalante, but the cold had!
We headed over to the Visitor’s Center to get our permits and found a beautiful newly-constructed building. The last time I was in Escalante was 10 years previous, so it was quite a site to see! After obtaining the requisite permit (free), we headed to the trailhead to set our shuttle. We decided on the route entering at Crack in the Wall and exiting at Red Well. This allowed for us to quickly descend and then slowly ascend over the course of several miles. Before heading to the Forty-Mile Ridge trailhead though, I saw that Dancehall Rock was less than a mile down the road from our turn off, and wanted to explore.
After checking out the historical marker and the site, we headed back to our trailhead and set off on our adventure!
We headed out across the slickrock, making good time to an overlook into the Escalante River. We went a little too far south, but corrected quickly to arrive at Crack in the Wall. This is a spot that requires a little downclimbing and some sideways shimmying. The final slot is too skinny for yours truly, and after getting stuck and unstuck, I opted for a much easier downclimb over the slot. We continued on down to Coyote Gulch, with great views of Stevens Arch. The whole route is a series of river crossings in shallow water, with steep canyon walls rising on both sides. The conditions were perfect, and the sun, breeze, and cool weather combined to make an awesome day. After about 6 miles, we called it a day, found a nice spot beside the river to stay the night, and setup camp.
The next morning dawned cold and beautiful. We packed up and headed out. Within 30 minutes, we came to Coyote Bridge, a natural bridge formed by the water working its way slowly through the rock. After a brief stop here and another to filter water, we continued on to Jacob Hamblin Arch. Jacob Hamblin was a man who figured prominently in the settlement of Southern Utah. After passing the arch, we continued slowly up the river, criss-crossing the river, enjoying the beautiful views.
Although we had originally planned to stay for a three days in the canyon, we were making good time and thought it would be easy enough to complete it in two. We continued up all the way to the confluence with Hurricane Wash. As the river continues up, the canyon walls lower and the wash widens. After a surprise short slot section, it finally opens up for good and the water dries up for the last couple miles to the car. We finished the hike with a number of short breaks that allowed tired legs to rest. We grabbed the second car and spent the night at the trailhead before leaving early the next morning. Awesome hike!