GSENM Camping Question

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My wife and I are planning to head down to GSENM between March 6-8, 2019. Since this will be our first time in the area and it is such a short trip I have been contemplating just reserving a campsite in Esclanate Petrified Forest State Park to limit the time required to find a dispersed campsite. I would prefer dispersed camping so I figured I would come to the experts seeking advice.

1. Since that time frame is spring break for several schools how crowded should I expect it to be in the area, including dispersed campsites?

2. Is it relatively easy to locate acceptable dispersed campsites along Hole-In-The-Rock Road?

As it stands right now we plan to drive down the 6th most likely arriving in the early afternoon. I had planned to hike Lower Calf Creek and then find and set up a campsite. On the 7th we wanted to do the Peak-a-Boo / Spooky gulch loop and explore other areas along HITR road. On the 8th I still haven't decided what we would do prior to heading home. We may visit some of the state parks or look for some shorter canyons/gulches to explore. I have ordered Canyoneering 3 to help with trip planning, but I am always open to suggestions.

Thanks in advance.
 

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Nick

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#2
That's still pretty early in the season down there, especially at the higher elevations right around Escalante. The shaded bends of the upper Escalante will likely still be covered in ice and snow, even if it's pretty nice out. I would absolutely plan on primitive camping if that's what you prefer. You shouldn't have to work too hard to find a spot. I recommend using satellite imagery to identify a bunch of potential spots and then once you're out there you're not just exploring blindly.
 
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That's still pretty early in the season down there, especially at the higher elevations right around Escalante. The shaded bends of the upper Escalante will likely still be covered in ice and snow, even if it's pretty nice out. I would absolutely plan on primitive camping if that's what you prefer. You shouldn't have to work too hard to find a spot. I recommend using satellite imagery to identify a bunch of potential spots and then once you're out there you're not just exploring blindly.
Thanks for the info. Any preferred satellite imagery that you use, or just google earth?
 

Nick

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#5
Thanks for the info. Any preferred satellite imagery that you use, or just google earth?

I usually just make a google map and use the sat layer to find sites before I head out for a trip. You can pull that up in a number of places like CalTopo or Gaia. From there I export the KML/GPX and upload into my Gaia account so that it's all on my phone.
 
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#6
Many easy to find spots along Hole In Rock Road. The state park you mentioned is nice as it has showers. We have been in the area the last 5 years around that time and it does cool down at night but warm sleeping bag remedies that.

Stop in at the ranger station in Escalante. They have tons of good info.......Of course that is if there is still not a govt shutdown still happening.

Have fun
 
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Many easy to find spots along Hole In Rock Road. The state park you mentioned is nice as it has showers. We have been in the area the last 5 years around that time and it does cool down at night but warm sleeping bag remedies that.

Stop in at the ranger station in Escalante. They have tons of good info.......Of course that is if there is still not a govt shutdown still happening.

Have fun

Well it is open for the next few weeks anyway, hopefully it wont' be shut down again. Just curious as to your thoughts about camping in the area if the govt is shut down and I can't get a permit.
 

Nick

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#8
Permits are self-issue at most trailheads. Just grab one somewhere along your way and you're good to go. No shutdown worries there other than not going in the visitor center.
 

Kmatjhwy

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#9
Many good replies already. Now there is a BLM campground in Lower Calf Creek that is decent but it charges $10 a night. Like others have said, this is early in the season and I don't expect you to have much problems with people. There are all kinds of dispersed camping sites all over the area if one looks. There are some dispersed camping sites that I know of down the Harris Wash road, not far from Spooky Gulch also. Have hiked a bunch in and out of Harris Wash thru the years. Have a Great Time!
 

LarryBoy

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#10
Some really cool stuff off the beaten path on Wolverine Loop road or in the Moody Canyons area. Just keep driving until you find somewhere you like!
 

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Many good replies already. Now there is a BLM campground in Lower Calf Creek that is decent but it charges $10 a night. Like others have said, this is early in the season and I don't expect you to have much problems with people. There are all kinds of dispersed camping sites all over the area if one looks. There are some dispersed camping sites that I know of down the Harris Wash road, not far from Spooky Gulch also. Have hiked a bunch in and out of Harris Wash thru the years. Have a Great Time!
Thanks for the info. I have identified a few potential campsites off HITRR that are not too far from spooky that we plan to use as a base camp. Also nice to know the permits won't be an issue even if the government shuts down again.

I was showing my wife the hikes planned and she is getting excited, but also a little anxious with some of the slots. I will be sure to write up a trip report to let everyone know how it went. I'm hoping her anxiety doesn't get the best of her.
 
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#12
I was showing my wife the hikes planned and she is getting excited, but also a little anxious with some of the slots. I will be sure to write up a trip report to let everyone know how it went. I'm hoping her anxiety doesn't get the best of her.
What is her specific anxiety re: the slots? If it's claustrophobia, the lower (south) end of Spooky gets super tight and twisty. But it's easy enough to go up till that point, then turn back if it gets to be too much. Same if entering via the top (north) end, which is actually what I usually recommend due to a fairly good drop along the way that can be harder for people to navigate if they're trying to go up.

And yes, still could be very chilly and wintry at that time, especially with the good winter we're having this year. It might even make the slots a moot point, with water, ice, or even snow still in them. Or, after the big snowstorms coming this week, everything might warm right up and melt off all the snow. Never know. There is still lots to explore that can be accessible right from the highway if dirt road conditions are too challenging. Agree that checking in with the rangers at the interagency center is a great idea. They'll have good suggestions for you. Oh, and another option is to head down the Burr Trail as far as you can (it's paved a fair ways), pulling over to explore at whatever catches your fancy.
 
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#13
Just remember that all car camping anywhere inside the Monument requires a free camping permit, available at the visitor's center for car camping or self-issued at most official trailheads for backcountry camping.
 
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Thread starter #14
What is her specific anxiety re: the slots? If it's claustrophobia, the lower (south) end of Spooky gets super tight and twisty. But it's easy enough to go up till that point, then turn back if it gets to be too much. Same if entering via the top (north) end, which is actually what I usually recommend due to a fairly good drop along the way that can be harder for people to navigate if they're trying to go up.

And yes, still could be very chilly and wintry at that time, especially with the good winter we're having this year. It might even make the slots a moot point, with water, ice, or even snow still in them. Or, after the big snowstorms coming this week, everything might warm right up and melt off all the snow. Never know. There is still lots to explore that can be accessible right from the highway if dirt road conditions are too challenging. Agree that checking in with the rangers at the interagency center is a great idea. They'll have good suggestions for you. Oh, and another option is to head down the Burr Trail as far as you can (it's paved a fair ways), pulling over to explore at whatever catches your fancy.
I called the rangers last week and they thought we should be able to explore Spooky and Peak-a-Boo, but said zebra and tunnel would most likely have very cold water. They recommended looking into Bighorn Canyon. My wife's main anxiety is just not knowing how she will handle the tight slots, she isn't sure if she is claustrophobic. We have done some fairly narrow (10-12") canyons, but that narrowness usually only lasted for a few feet. She was able to handle that okay. We figured we would just give things a shot and if either of us get uncomfortable just turn around.
 
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#16
I was in Zebra in late Jan and despite all the snow elsewhere, the narrows were bone dry. Also quite short and not that constricting, I would think this canyon is just fine for almost everyone. Bighorn is great and you should go there.
 
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I called the rangers last week and they thought we should be able to explore Spooky and Peak-a-Boo, but said zebra and tunnel would most likely have very cold water. They recommended looking into Bighorn Canyon. My wife's main anxiety is just not knowing how she will handle the tight slots, she isn't sure if she is claustrophobic. We have done some fairly narrow (10-12") canyons, but that narrowness usually only lasted for a few feet. She was able to handle that okay. We figured we would just give things a shot and if either of us get uncomfortable just turn around.
Parts of Spooky are the same, literally about a foot wide, or less. Have to turn sideways and slither through. If she's handled that before, she probably should be fine. It does last longer than just a few feet, but not forever. Whatever you guys end up doing, have a wonderful time!
 
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I was in Zebra in late Jan and despite all the snow elsewhere, the narrows were bone dry. Also quite short and not that constricting, I would think this canyon is just fine for almost everyone. Bighorn is great and you should go there.
A question about bighorn. In Canyoneering 3 there is a loop described starting on Old Sheffield road, I’m just wondering if that is the best route or if exploring from the Hole In The Rock Road side would be good. We are only going to be down there 2 nights so I was trying to stick to things along HITRR.
 
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#19
Re. bighorn: we tried to head to that area in Jan via the Old Sheffield road and were turned around by an easy hill that we could not climb in the snow (in a 4runner). It was fun to give it a few tries but it was drifted in right at the steepest part and no dice. HIRR was plowed, so that worked out better. Not sure what it's like there right now.
I've only been in Bighorn once, and this was from HIRR. I think the obvious thing is to park where HIRR crosses Harris Wash, but we instead parked a bit farther south and walked cross-country to where Bighorn meets Harris. I don't remember why, but this worked fine.
 
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#20
Bighorn is nice and you'll likely have it to yourselves. It's easy to spend a whole day exploring various forks, walking cross-country a bit, etc.
 

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