Third in a Series
In our first two guest posts from Mitch Stevens, founder of Tucson-based Southwest Discoveries — which runs guided hiking tours of Arizona and the Southwest — Mitch gave riveting accounts of “The Most Beautiful Hike in the Southwest” and “The Incomparable Stevens Arch.”
His Hiking the Escalante series that appears on his website focuses on the extraordinary Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument in southern Utah.
In today’s guest post, Mitch takes you into Dry Gulch, Spooky Gulch, and Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon.
The names alone are enticing, and if you’re looking for some adventure and what Mitch calls “spectacular solitude” deep in the heart of southern Utah’s no man’s land. you may want to add them to your life list.
As Mitch notes, though, these are not suited for hikers who are overly claustrophobic or with limited climbing and scrambling skills.
But if you’re an active baby boomer (or younger) willing and able to squeeze through some tight spots, give Mitch a call at 888-882-2282 or 520-722-6860 or email Info@southwestdiscoveries.com and he’ll set you up.
By Mitch Stevens
Dry Gulch, Spooky Gulch and Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon: These three chasms are among the most spectacular slot canyons of the Southwest.
I joined a group of eight fellow hikers last April and headed into southern Utah’s Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument, which is far less crowded with hikers than many better known parks in Arizona and Utah. Our group spent an exhilarating day of discovery and delved into the mystery of the canyons.
The first, Dry Gulch, was a good warm-up for the next two. Spooky Gulch and Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon proved more challenging and claustrophobic, but fun and exciting.
Hole in the Rock Road provides access. From the trailhead where we parked our vehicles, we hiked north to the edge and started down the trail. Rock cairns guided us on the route down.
We worked our way to the west side of the wash and descended a sand dune before returning to the wash. We then walked up the main canyon, Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch, which had several slot-like sections of its own.
Narrow sections alternated with deep, wider stretches that featured the sheer Navajo sandstone cliffs this region is known for.
The walk up Dry Fork was easy, the scenery and photographic opportunities delightful.
Spooky Gulch Lives Up to Its Name
Next up was Spooky Gulch, a dark and mysterious place.
Spooky contained a half-mile of sheer exhilaration, wonder, and amazement. The passages were narrow and serpentine where it was often possible to see just a few feet ahead. The canyon twisted and turned through numerous 180-degree bends.
The colors and textures of the rock were extraordinary, revealing shades of red, purple, and magenta, the scenery almost unearthly.
Walls had an unusual knobby appearance, which further heightened the drama and added to the eerie nature of the place. Navajo Sandstone walls appeared to curve inward near the top, allowing only occasional light shafts to filter down from above.
When we entered Spooky, the canyon quickly slotted up and its many boulders required scrambling and climbing to proceed further.
Other sections were so constricted that hikers in our group had to squeeze through sideways, holding day pack in hand. Some areas involved crawls through narrow passageways, similar to caving.
In these tight corners, the slimmest among us enjoyed the distinct advantage.
Peek-A-Boo, I See…Vistas
Our last adventure for the day was to plunge into Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon (a.k.a. Peek-a-Boo Gulch).
Although not very long or physically demanding, Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon required some navigational and rock climbing skills to negotiate its twists and chutes.
We entered it from the top at the crossover route upon exiting Spooky Gulch. The highlight of Peek-a-Boo was an impressive double natural bridge.
To add to the vistas, there were two more small natural bridges, carved out features that gave this slot its name.
To exit Peek-a-Boo, we climbed down scooped-out pockets in the rock and carefully lowered ourselves to the floor of the wash.
Dry Gulch, Spooky, and Peek a Boo Slot Canyon combined for a fun, exhilarating and beautiful loop hike, totaling 5.5 miles.We took our time, exploring and photographing the dramatic scenery.
Late in the afternoon, we retraced our steps out of the wash, back up the sandy trail to the trailhead above. It capped another great day of adventure in the canyons of the Escalante.
Note: For further background, Mitch recommends the book Hiking The Escalante, a detailed wilderness guide to the canyons of the Escalante and Glen Canyon region, by Rudi Lambrechtse, a knowledgeable guide and baby boomer river rat who has spent over 40 years traipsing through the canyons of the Escalante.