If you’re looking for an adventure, we’ve got three off-the-hook family-friendly hikes in Escalante that will knock your socks off. This breathtaking arid landscape provides hidden gems of unique sandstone formations and narrow slot canyons. It’s amazeballs. Here’s your personal guide to it all.
Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument is nestled between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon national parks. It offers some of the most beautiful hikes in all of southern Utah. Our cute little family of six (four boys ages 10 down to 4) decided to conquer some of its amazing hikes and it was a three-day adventure not soon to be forgotten. Here’s the three hikes that we enjoyed.
Day 1: Lower Calf Creek Falls
This hike is probably the most popular family-friendly hikes in Escalante. It is a six-mile out and back adventure to a 126-foot waterfall. You can access the trailhead just off the Utah Scenic Byway 12.
We hiked this trail on Memorial Day Weekend. There were a lot of people on the trail but it wasn’t overwhelming. I would recommend starting early in the morning though because it was hot. We packed a picnic lunch and brought lots and lots of water. There is also a place to fill your water bottles at the trailhead.
Our group of 21 people included 14 kids. My husband ended up carrying our 4-year-old on our shoulders for most of the way. All of the older kids did great though. Make sure each of them has their own water bottle. They may want to wear their swimming suit too but keep in mind that the pool at the bottom of the waterfall is ice cold.
The sandy trail is relatively flat with just a few rocks to scramble over. However, there is a lot of deep sand to trudge through but it’s definitely worth it when you see the falls at the end.
While you’re hiking, you can look for an 800-year-old granery and a pictograph on the cliff walls across the canyon. At last, you’ll reach the falls, which can be seen peeking above the tree line.
Our boys loved playing in the sand next to the pool of water. It was just like the beach. A few brave people in our group jumped in the ice cold water. Many people brought hammocks to hang on the trees. It was truly an oasis in the desert. It was the perfect place to rest and eat lunch.
Day 2: Devil’s Garden
This is one of the easiest family-friendly hikes in Escalante. We loved this hike because it’s right next to the parking lot and it is chock full of amazing hoodoos, rock formations and arches. There is no official hiking trail, you just explore!
Devils Garden is located on Hole-in-the-Rock Road in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. From Highway 12, drive 12 miles down Hole-in-the-Rock Road (which is very washboard but you don’t need 4wheel drive). There will be a sign identifying Devils Garden and a parking lot located just off of the road. There are restrooms here.
This was the perfect hike for day two of our trip because the kids were pretty tired from hiking six miles the day before. Everyone was more than happy to just run around and explore.
You can spend one hour or four hours at Devil’s Garden. It really wasn’t very busy either because there was so much room to run around. We even saw some rock climbers on top of some of the formations.
Day 3: Peek-a-boo and Spooky slot canyons
The hour-long drive along a bumpy washboard gravel road was 100% worth it to see these spectacular canyons. They were like nothing I have ever seen before.
To get to there, drive the 26 miles down the Hole-in-the-Rock Road off of Highway 12, until you find Dry Fork Road. Look for signs that say Peek-a-boo and Spooky.
Both of these canyons can be combined to make a fun loop hike. You have to hike 1.4 miles to reach the entrance of Peek-a-boo Gulch. Then, after you exit Peek-a-boo Gulch, you walk half a mile until you reach the mouth of Spooky Gulch. The total loop route is about 3.5 miles long.
You will see a wooden sign when you are about 100 yards away from the entrance of Peek-a-boo Gulch. Although the sign says keep walking straight ahead, go to the right. We went straight ahead and walk about a 1/2 mile off the trail and we had to go back. If you start heading up a hill, you’ve gone the wrong way.
Once you reach the entrance to Peek-a-boo, it’s like you’ve entered into another world. You start by climbing up some steps carved into the canyon wall. Our kids needed a little bit of help getting up but it wasn’t too difficult.
Both of these slot canyons are super tight and narrow. I am kind of claustrophobic and I was worried that it would freak me out. However, it’s only narrow in certain parts and not completely head to toe tight the whole time. My friend was a little bit more panicked but with a little bit of focus she made it through fine.
All of the kids were virtually unphased by the narrow spaces. They absolutely loved it, especially my four-year-old. Once we exited Peek-a-boo Gulch, we sat under a tree and ate lunch before we entered Spooky Gulch.
Spooky Gulch definitely had tighter spaces. I think the tightest space was about 12-inches wide. We just took off our backpacks and held them in front of us. There was also a small 10-foot drop that you had to shimmy down. We had an adult at the bottom and an adult at the top helping kids.
The entire hike from start to finish took about four hours. We made the mistake of not bringing enough water. Everyone was thirsty when we finished and we still had to drive an hour back to our camp. So bring lots of water!!!
Everyone had so much fun. This was one of the most adventurous family-friendly hikes in Escalante. Here’s a video I took of these cool slot canyons:
I hope this post was helpful. Where else do you recommend visiting in Escalante? Leave your comments below.
Related link: How to hike Arches with kids