Friday, May 30, 2014

The Slot Canyons of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

peek-a-boo gulch

Part of our Southern Utah parks tour took us though Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. While it may not attract the same level of attention as the national parks in the area, there are plenty of sights to see there, particularly for the more adventurous traveler who is willing to explore off the beaten path. We decided to have a look at Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulches, two of the more accessible slot canyons in the area. I use "accessible" in relative terms. Access involves a 26 mile drive on the unpaved Hole-in-the-Rock Road, a short hike to the canyons, then a climb up a 15 foot rock face to the entrance of Peek-a-boo Gulch.

Once inside, you are treated to beautifully sculpted rock walls that reveal new formations at each turn. Peek-a-boo lives up to its name with formations like these:

peek-a-boo gulch

After climbing out of Peek-a-boo, we made a short traverse to Spooky Gulch and followed it back down to complete a loop. The canyon narrowed, and then narrowed some more. At a certain point, we had to remove our daypacks in order to squeeze through sideways. Some hikers found Spooky to be too claustrophobic, but the narrow slit of sky above kept us from feeling too closed in.

spooky gulch

Despite its relative remoteness, there were a fair number of people enjoying this hike, so while it is a fantastic introduction to Utah slot canyons, you won't find much solitude there. For those who want to escape the crowds, opportunities abound in the area, but real canyoneering takes a level of knowledge and gear that are well beyond the scope of standard day hiking, so it's best left to those who have the requisite experience or who are willing to hire a guide.

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