Death Hollow Loop in mid-September

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Jun 3, 2016
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Hi all,

I've gathered from searches that this is a popular topic here, so apologies for bringing it up yet again, but I have a few specific questions I haven't seen addressed.

Details: A friend and I are planning to do a 3-day clockwise loop next week starting in Escalante, hiking north on the Boulder Mail Trail, down through Death Hollow, and then back to Escalante along the river (essentially this itinerary: https://www.outdoorproject.com/united-states/utah/death-hollow-backpacking-loop). We're both experienced backpackers who have been on several trips in GSENM, but we'll be flying in from elsewhere and I just want to make sure I'm not overlooking something while we still have time to change plans.

Questions:

1) It seems like the vast majority of information, including on here, is about the route from Boulder to Hwy 12. Why is that? In my experience, loops tend to be more popular where possible, so I'm a little confused that so many people seem to do that route and comparatively few do the loop we're planning to do.

2) Anything specific we need to know about this time of year? In particular, anything water-related would be helpful. It looks like the Escalante is really low, but from what I've read I'm assuming Death Hollow will definitely have water? And I'm guessing we should assume Mamie Creek will be dry on our way in? Right now the forecast is calling for showers during the first day of our trip (Wednesday), should we be concerned about that?

3) Not really a question, but if anyone has suggestions for places to camp near Escalante the night before, I'd love to hear them. I'm a photographer, so I'm especially interested in any particularly scenic camping spots not too far from the trailhead.

Thanks for your help!
 

boulder

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Hey MOY-I have done this loop and while it is enjoyable it is my least favorite route into death hollow, from the Death Hollow confluence back to Escalante the Escalante river can be hit and miss this late into summer as far as quantity (if any) and quality of water. Death Hollow will have good water. If your coming from the North I would camp on the Boulder Mountain somewhere off Hwy 12 the views into the desert are awesome and if your coming in late Sept.-early Oct. the quakies will be blazing!
 
Last edited:
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Thanks for the info! I kind of assumed there might not be much water in the river based on the current flow rate and another trip report I saw, but my thought was we could fill up when leaving Death Hollow and carry what we need for the last day (which I think should be the easiest day?). We've already done the stretch between Hwy 12 and Sand Creek on a previous trip, so I'm curious to see a different stretch of the river. I'll check out Boulder Mountain for the first night...we'll be coming down from SLC.
 

Bob

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Always water in DH and the Escalsnte.
 

Artemus

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Always water in DH and the Escalsnte.
Second that... both Death Hollow and the Escalante river always have water flowing. They are both perennial streams. The water quality in Death Hollow's water course is typically much better but the Escalante is always drinkable too (after filtering or magic wanding of course - there is plenty of cattle and other sources polluting it).
 

IntrepidXJ

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boulder

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I have been through this section (Escalante town to the Death Hollow confluence) many times in late summer where there has been no water. In 2017 me and my kids spent 6-7 hours under some shade trees waiting until evening to exit due to heat and lack of water.
 

Bob

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It's not that far from DH to Escalsnte TH.... Pack it from DH.... The times I've been thru there in late aug. Always fround water in hokes..
 

Freebie

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(essentially this itinerary: https://www.outdoorproject.com/united-states/utah/death-hollow-backpacking-loop).

I just completed this loop alone yesterday. I’m from the PNW and am relatively new to canyons and the Death Hollow section had one or two spots in the narrows that pushed my limits of comfort. The water level in DH is low enough (still plenty of water) that I never got wet past my upper thighs (I’m 6’1”). I was committed to not swimming or getting in too deep, otherwise even the sketchy moments would have been fine. At first I assumed the ‘narrow ledge’ in that route’s description referred to something up high and dry, but that proved to be a dangerous dead-end. The ‘ledge’ I ended up using was partially submerged and slippery, and I utilized handholds in the sandstone while crouching under a low overhang to get past the deeper pools more or less dry above the knees. It was dicey.

Also, there are very large, very tall and healthy-looking patches of poison ivy along the entire DH section. Keep your eyes open! I wore long sleeves and seem to have escaped unscathed, but there were times I just raised my hands above my head and ‘waded’ through poison ivy up to my chest. Unsettling. Most of the time you can avoid those patches by staying in the water, but there were a couple times I went through them.

Questions:

1) It seems like the vast majority of information, including on here, is about the route from Boulder to Hwy 12. Why is that? In my experience, loops tend to be more popular where possible, so I'm a little confused that so many people seem to do that route and comparatively few do the loop we're planning to do.


I agree, loops are the best! I saw two people total from the trailhead until reaching the Escalante River. I enjoyed the solitude, especially on a not-too-hot Saturday when I have to assume lots of people were out in GESNM. I probably saw 9-10 folks along the Escalante River section.

2) Anything specific we need to know about this time of year? In particular, anything water-related would be helpful. It looks like the Escalante is really low,

At the confluence with DH, the ‘river’ looked almost stagnant and scuzzy so I filled up an extra bottle from DH. About a mile upstream it was completely dry, but in another ½ mile or so, a strong flow returned and continued all the way to the trailhead. I don’t know how quickly that can change, but I’d be very surprised if it was dry next week. At minimum I’d expect regular pools.

You’ll have a chance to assess the ER flow at the beginning of your loop: before leaving the river at the BMT junction, take a minute to hike down to the river and look at the water level. Should be a pretty good indicator of what you can expect on your final leg.

Here’s a photo of the Escalante River a few miles away from the trailhead:
B60E02CA-69AA-45C9-A5E3-864BD42DBB93.jpeg

but from what I've read I'm assuming Death Hollow will definitely have water?

Yes, lots.

And I'm guessing we should assume Mamie Creek will be dry on our way in?

Where the BMT crosses, Mamie wasn’t flowing but there were large pools. Depending on your treatment method(s) I think you’ll be able to find water if you look a little up and down stream when you cross. Expect the quality to be less than a flowing creek, but I’m of the opinion that any water in a desert is good water.

There were actually large pools along a more seasonal (un-named?) stream bed as you cross Antone Flats a couple miles before Mamie (assuming you go clockwise as per the route description you referenced). I’d bet there will still be water in some of them.

It was a fantastic loop, providing several different experiences in a compact route. Enjoy!
 
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Bob

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In the top of Mamie in the box canyon is a large pouroff pool. Holds fish so should be there year round.

If you really want an extreme I retesting trip with lots of swims start at the very top.....
 
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