Glen Canyon National Recreation Area / Grand Staircase-Escalante
National Monument, UT
Maps: Trails Illustrated 1:70,500 Canyons of the Escalante; USGS 1:24,000 Quads: Kings Mesa, Stevens Canyon South
Access: From the town of Escalante UT, drive 3-4 miles east on Hwy 12 and turn right on Hole in the Rock Rd. Drive to Big Hollow Wash, Red Well TH, or Hurricane Wash TH. Hole in the Rock Rd is suited to lower-clearance 2WD cars at least as far as Big Hollow Wash, and seasonally should be suitable for much further. Other trailheads exist for entry mid-way down the Gulch, but these routes are not discussed here, although I’ve read they require high-clearance vehicles to access.
Fees: None. A free permit is required for backcountry stay, available at visitor centers or official trailheads.
Trail: The trail is well-trod, and thus easy to follow. Getting lost is impossible since escaping from the inner canyon would require climbing gear. Total length from the junction of Big Hollow Wash and Hole in the Rock Rd to the Escalante is 16 miles, one way. Generally the trail is flat and sandy, crossing the creek hundreds of times, and leading down the middle of the watercourse near the river. Camping is dispersed. Elevation gain is 800 ft from the road to the Escalante River.
Dog Regulations: 6’ Handheld leash
Saturday April 9 2005
On the road. 8AM. Dogs left starting forlornly out the front window
of the Myrna and Jeff’s east-Denver suburbia house towards the last spot
they saw the bumper of our green ’99 Saturn cruising up the street. No
dogs on this trip. Barely 5 miles away, we stop for a breakfast burrito
of eggs, potato and green chilis (too few green chilis) at a roadside cart
beyond the incorporation of civic taxes. Capitalism blooming on the side
of the newly-widened county road. In 2 years, this will all be housing.
Back outside, in the wind, I pilot our car 300 ft to the John Wesley Powell Memorial Museum and Information Center where we score a free Utah road map. Andra drives. Back on I-70, the post-lunch lethargy grips us, and despite the music, eyelids droop. Rain comes and goes in tidy, 4-minute showers, only once actually wetting the back window. Colossal gusts of winds threaten to bump us right off the highway. The rain showers become snow showers as we top out at higher elevations near Salt Wash, and visibility drops. We opt to pull out at a scenic overlook and nap. Thirty minutes later, the sun peeks out enough to wake me up, and I trade places the groggy Andra and drive on.
Very shortly, Hwy 27 looms ahead, we exit and head south in a light,
steady snow. Acres of aspen line the road, with small spruce challengers
mixed in every once in awhile. The blacktop is wet, but white on hilltops
where the snow hasn’t melted. We pass a deer herd so large it takes 20
seconds to pass at 50 mph. The road enters and leaves Fremont, Loma, Bicknell:
all untidy and run-down farming/ranching towns, largely composed of muddy
feed-lots, feed stores and collapsing ranch houses with an obligatory tractor
out front. Torrey, at the crossroads of Hwy 24 and 12, is quaint, and we
stop for a snack and gasoline at the Shell station. Andra pilots us on
over Boulder Mt, where all is blanketed in a glimmering shell of snow,
4-5’ deep on the high passes and ridges. Only once does the car slip, luckily.
This drive is beautiful, although far from spring-like. We descend into
the small town of Boulder and pass through in minutes. Five minutes out
of town, we turn west on a dirt road that advertises the glamorous attraction
of Hell’s Backbone. In a light snow, we cruise down the shiny graded road
to a pullout and quickly conoiter a campsite 100’ north of the road, just
out of site beyond thick juniper and pinyon. Taking only the essentials,
we hastily pitch the tent and climb inside while the snow, tiny hard flakes,
drop from above. It is cold, but the sleeping bag is warm. After reading
for only a few moments, I shut off my tiny flashlight. Andra reads on in
the dark long past my falling off to sleep.