Southern Utah & Slot Canyons (Sep 28 - 29, 2020)

This was our first big trip since the pandemic started, and we were excited to be visiting old and new places in the southwest again. We took our 4Runner "Moby" on the trip, because of several 4x4 off road drives we planned to do. 

Moby, our 2017 4Runner

We started our trip on Mike's birthday, and we soon found ourselves in the recently burned Glenwood Canyon, east of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. It was sad to see the impact of Grizzly Creek fire, which had closed this stretch of I-70 for more than two weeks. 

The burned landscape in Glenwood Canyon

Our drive included the beautifully scenic areas between Torrey and Boulder, Utah, on Highway 12. We even managed to catch some fall color from the stands of aspen along the way. 

Views from the Larb Hollow Overlook

We also took a scenic off-road detour through the Box Death Hollow Wilderness, southwest of Boulder, Utah, emerging just north of Escalante. 

Susan taking in a viewpoint in Box Death Hollow Wilderness

We stayed at the very nice Canyon Country Lodge in Escalante, which we'd stayed at once before when it had just recently opened. Because of the pandemic, we got takeout from the grill at the hotel, and ate in our room. 

Early the next morning took the hour long drive on the very rough Hole-in-the-Rock Road to the Lower Dry Fork trailhead, our starting point for Peek-a-Boo and Spooky slot canyons. These slot canyons are in the Scorpion Wilderness Study area, part of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. 

A smoother section of the teeth-rattling Hole-in-the-Rock Road

At the Lower Dry Fork trailhead

After signing the register at the trailhead at about 9:15am, our hike to Peek-a-Boo began on a rim trail, with nice views down to a wash where the slot canyon began, though we didn't spot the entrance until we were hiking back out. 

Susan, along the rim portion of the trail to Peek-a-Boo slot canyon

View of the wash below, with entrance to Peek-a-Boo at left and Spooky to the right

After dropping down a few hundred feet from the rim, Susan enjoys the shade of a red rock fin

Just before the entrance to Peek-a-Boo, we saw another interesting slot canyon, the Dry Fork Narrows, off to the left, so we explored a little ways in. This canyon was the other trail to access the slot canyons from the Upper Dry Fork trailhead and would also have made an interesting hike. 

Entrance to Dry Fork Narrows slot canyon

Mike in Dry Fork Narrows, just before turning back to go to Peek-a-Boo

Just a short distance later we knew we had arrived at Peek-a-Boo, as a group of people were waiting their turn to ascend the tricky entrance. But no complaints about crowds this time as Susan appreciated getting a hand from another hiker. It turned out that a hiking club from Grand Junction, Colorado, was the group of around 20 people ahead of us. Their group leader had experience with this hike, which turned out to be very helpful. 

The human traffic jam where the trail ascends up into Peek-a-Boo slot canyon

Inside the slot, there were friendly faces and helping hands when needed

Although we had our "big camera" (the DSLR) with us, the interior of the slot canyon was too crowded and too narrow to use it, plus we needed our hands to negotiate, so it went into the pack, and our iPhones became our main cameras. 

The last picture with the "big camera" before going deep into Peek-a-boo

Coming back up out of Peek-a-boo slot canyon

We emerged from Peek-a-boo about 10:45am and hiked a short distance around to the entrance of Spooky, the narrowest slot canyon we have ever hiked. 

Hiking in the open area between the two slot canyons

There were several slightly technical sections of Spooky, and it was helpful to have other hikers to advise on the best way through, though we're sure we could've done it on our own. 

Dropping down into Spooky

Narrow section of Spooky

A dead bat was on a shelf on the canyon wall

Susan dropping down on a rope left in the canyon

We haven't heard why the Spooky slot canyon was named Spooky, but it could've been because of several very narrow sections that would be a problem for a large person or someone who was claustrophobic. Mike isn't claustrophobic at all, but at one very narrow section, he had to remove his back, turn sideways, and even then the rock walls were so narrow that he had to exhale completely to allow his upper chest to squeeze through (though he could've got down on all fours to crawl on the wider floor of the canyon). 

The hiker behind Mike; the floor of the canyon here was barely the width of his boot

Several sections were so narrow that our packs barely fit though

It was cool to see a sunbeam filtering through the dust

Mike about to get "beamed up" :-) 

Soon the canyon walls began to widen

And suddenly we were out in the bright sun again :-) 

The hike out was quite a bit warmer than when we started, and we were happy to find some shade hiking back along the rock fins. For us, 75F seems hot on a hike :-) 

One thing we learned is that the best practice for this hike was to go "one way" through Peek-a-boo and Spooky clockwise so as to avoid parties and hikers coming from opposite directions in the many narrow sections. Fortunately, we had already decided to go clockwise, but we ran into people turning around to do it "correctly," and on the way out of Spooky, advised another hiker from the Netherlands who was just starting. 

Entrance of Peek-a-boo viewed from the trail rim;
if you zoom in you might be able to see a person climbing up

After the hike, we drove back out Hole-in-the-Rock Road to Escalante. From there, we took the very scenic route over Highway 12 past the Powell Point overlook. 

Powell Point

Then we drove over to Cannonville to drive down Cottonwood Canyon Road to Highway 89. We had driven Cotton Canyon previously, but from the other direction. This is a very scenic road going through some interesting geologic formations. You don't need a 4x4 or high clearance vehicle for this, but it would be impassable when wet (even with a high-clearance 4x4 vehicle). 

Almost out of Cottonwood Canyon

Once back on Highway 89 we went west to Kanab, our basecamp for the next part of our trip -- exploring the North Rim area of the Grand Canyon. 

The next time we’re around Escalante, hiking to Calf Creek Falls and along the Escalante River to Escalante Natural Arch and Skyline Arch (and the ruins/rock art site) will be on our list. It would also be fun to drive to the end of Hole-in-the-Rock Road. 

 Click here to read Part II of this trip...