Ideas for 4 nights in Escalante

munro

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Feb 26, 2020
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I am going with my SO to Southern Utah for the first time in a couple of weeks. We will be spending 3 days/2 nights hiking Salt Creek Trail in Canyonlands with a shuttle (I know a longer trip there would be better, but that's all we could get permits for!). Then we're heading down to Escalante and will have four nights camping there. My current plan has us driving down Hole-in-the-rock Road and doing a couple of 1-2 nighters linked by short drives.

I wanted to do Reflection Canyon for one of the nights. Does anyone have any suggestions for the other 3? Of course I was looking at Coyote Gulch trip reports and photos of Spooky Canyon and the Golden Cathedral, but I don't want to be in freezing cold waist-deep water for an extended period of time. I'm also new to canyons/desert hiking, so I don't want to do anything technical or too exposed. I will be checking with the visitor center and following the weather, of course, but would love the advice from people here.

Thanks so much!
 

Brendan S

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If you’re set on doing Reflection, I’d say just spend the rest of your time down in that area. Some of the best stuff in the Escalante. Check out llewellen and cottonwood and the country between (accessed from same TH). You can do Davis from there too. Just walking to the Reflection overlook is passing right by some very killer stuff. The bench lands between all those canyons is glorious.
 
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canadug

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Depending on your vehicle it can be a pretty rough ride near the end of H.I.R road. Great stuff to do near the end of the road but don't expect solitude. We were there a couple of years ago during March and Reflection has turned into an "Instagram Crowd" gong show. Check the forecast as you do not want to be on any unpaved road if they get wet......Turns into a dangerous mud mess.
 

Brendan S

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Great stuff to do near the end of the road but don't expect solitude. We were there a couple of years ago during March and Reflection has turned into an "Instagram Crowd" gong show.
This phenomenon is so bizarre. Map from Strava of the area...

4C83791F-FD4F-4CDF-B7FD-69FE41F89029.jpeg
 

munro

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Whoa, maybe I don't want to do that after all! It looks stunning in pictures, but I don't want to be on a super busy trail (though I don't need total seclusion - a campsite by myself but seeing a few other hikers during the day is about the level of solitude I'm looking for). Do you think it would be crowded during a weekday in mid-March? And if I am not set on Reflection, what else might you suggest for my 4 nights in Escalante? I'll definitely be paying attention to weather, and we have rented an AWD Jeep.
 

SteveR

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Interesting, Brendan S. Piggybacking on this thread:
I knew Coyote was busy, having seen some of it on an October dayhike, in and out via the crack. We are contemplating a trip to the general area for 2 1/2 weeks in the mid April-mid May timeframe, possibly revisiting Coyote to see it all on a 1-2 night backpack. Any comments as to how crowded it might be, compared to October? We don't mind encountering others, just don't want to compete for campsites, or be forced to camp in close proximity. Do insects start to be an issue there by May?
 

canadug

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This phenomenon is so bizarre. Map from Strava of the area...

View attachment 86787
Yep, that says it all. We first went to Escalante area 7 years ago and it was fairly quiet and little traveled. Fast forward to three years ago and the gong show had arrived. People all over the place at the end of H.I.T.R road with dogs running loose and dog shit all over the place. The "Instatool Crowd' had arrived and now we no longer go to this area. I no longer post detailed info of places I go because there are just way too many clueless people who have no idea what 'leave no trace' means and I figure why make it easier for people like that to destroy more places. WE hike down crack in the wall to Coyote Gulch and counted 100+ people in the few hours we were there. Leash less dogs, blue tooth speakers a blaring, and crowds everywhere.
 

canadug

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Whoa, maybe I don't want to do that after all! It looks stunning in pictures, but I don't want to be on a super busy trail (though I don't need total seclusion - a campsite by myself but seeing a few other hikers during the day is about the level of solitude I'm looking for). Do you think it would be crowded during a weekday in mid-March? And if I am not set on Reflection, what else might you suggest for my 4 nights in Escalante? I'll definitely be paying attention to weather, and we have rented an AWD Jeep.
March and April is Spring Break for most American schools......Does not matter what day of the week there will be plenty of people. Anywhere that you can easily find info on the internet you will also find mucho people. I now look at topo maps and set out exploring where there is no info to be easily found net.....Still plenty of untrammelled places out there.
 

John Morrow

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Wow, as short time ago as 2016 C/L/R seemed really quiet to us. I posted a TR and wonder if I contributed to the popularity:
http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8020512 Like Brendan said, C/L are very nice. Look for rock art toward the lake. I never understood the attraction to Reflection, looking at a half empty reservoir with a gross bathtub ring to see a couple rincons was quite overrated in my opinion. But the rest was great. We were glad we did C/L loop as a dayhike from a Cottonwood camp and didn't deal with the hassle/discomfort of the big packs in the slots.

Do folks think it is detrimental for me to post maps like that? I've kinda stopped except for the very trailed well known regulated places.

With Canyoneering Three you can create your own trip loops combining overland with canyon and using fun entry/exits and find your own solitude. Even if you share portions of crowded canyons like Coyote.

How can I find that Strave map?
 
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John Morrow

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Happy to see that there are a lot of black areas on that map. get out of the popular canyons. Big areas with nothing, including canyons. Selfishly hope people don't venture past the well known. A few safe to name for the most part: Grabens, N. Fk. Road, Lime, Stevens, Fold, Cap Reef on the Reef, Virgin Spring, Saddle Horse, Chimney, Red Canyon Forks, anything north of Spring Canyon (big unknown), everything Boulder across to Horse, 25 Mile, Chop/Silver....haven't looked west of there yet
 
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munro

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I bought Canyoneering 3, which is part of why I was a bit reluctant to plan my own loops from a topo map, to be honest! For example, his C/L loop says it is a strenuous route for experienced canyoneers only that involves 5.4 climbing and requires a 50-foot rope. I'm from the east coast and have literally never set foot into a desert or canyon. So while I am interested in having some privacy, it's not to the point of wanting to put myself into a dangerous situation that I am not prepared for.

Looking at that book, I was also considering SFC/CC (#35) or LDH/WC (#33) off of Burr Trail or maybe some of the HW hikes off of H.I.R. (#11-14)? Those look slightly less busy on Strava (except Golden Cathedral), assuming there isn't too much normalization. Any thoughts on those for someone in my situation?

Thank you for your help with this! Even though I'm a novice/spring breaker, I want to be responsible and respectful (and I use WAG bags and don't use Instagram!).
 

Brendan S

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384
Yep, that says it all. We first went to Escalante area 7 years ago and it was fairly quiet and little traveled. Fast forward to three years ago and the gong show had arrived. People all over the place at the end of H.I.T.R road with dogs running loose and dog shit all over the place. The "Instatool Crowd' had arrived and now we no longer go to this area. I no longer post detailed info of places I go because there are just way too many clueless people who have no idea what 'leave no trace' means and I figure why make it easier for people like that to destroy more places. WE hike down crack in the wall to Coyote Gulch and counted 100+ people in the few hours we were there. Leash less dogs, blue tooth speakers a blaring, and crowds everywhere.
Yeah most of the escalante activity is Coyote, Golden Cathedral, and Reflection and spring is the busiest. I’ve started trips at crack in the rock TH on Memorial Day weekend with a bazillion cars and then not seen anyone for five days because I wasn’t going into Coyote. Plenty of solitude out there with some creativity.
 

Brendan S

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I bought Canyoneering 3, which is part of why I was a bit reluctant to plan my own loops from a topo map, to be honest! For example, his C/L loop says it is a strenuous route for experienced canyoneers only that involves 5.4 climbing and requires a 50-foot rope. I'm from the east coast and have literally never set foot into a desert or canyon. So while I am interested in having some privacy, it's not to the point of wanting to put myself into a dangerous situation that I am not prepared for.

Looking at that book, I was also considering SFC/CC (#35) or LDH/WC (#33) off of Burr Trail or maybe some of the HW hikes off of H.I.R. (#11-14)? Those look slightly less busy on Strava (except Golden Cathedral), assuming there isn't too much normalization. Any thoughts on those for someone in my situation?

Thank you for your help with this! Even though I'm a novice/spring breaker, I want to be responsible and respectful (and I use WAG bags and don't use Instagram!).
Those are good options. You can also do L/C without doing the narrows, which are the tricky element.
 

Titans

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Yeah most of the escalante activity is Coyote, Golden Cathedral, and Reflection and spring is the busiest. I’ve started trips at crack in the rock TH on Memorial Day weekend with a bazillion cars and then not seen anyone for five days because I wasn’t going into Coyote. Plenty of solitude out there with some creativity.

@Brendan S - thanks for the heat map, that was kind of an eye opener yesterday. It will be helpful in many ways.

I'm stunned by how people have settings on their phones & apps that allow everyone to see their hiking/driving/biking breadcrumb trails.
 

andyjaggy

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Don't do reflection canyon. I did it maybe 5 years ago, right as it started getting popular. It was one of my least favorite hikes I have done. Hot, no shade, no water, all for 1 crowded view at the end. There are much better options.
 

munro

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Those are good options. You can also do L/C without doing the narrows, which are the tricky element.

It seems like HW is wetter than SFC/CC (other than the trip downriver). Is that correct? Any suggestions for neoprene socks/quick-drying shoes/waterproof hiking boots/waders for mid-March? The river flow/water depth seems to be a little below average, and the snowpack in Aquarius seems to be like 2019/2017 rather than 2018 (please correct me if I'm wrong!). I will also look into trip reports on L/C avoiding the narrows to see what I can find.

Don't do reflection canyon. I did it maybe 5 years ago, right as it started getting popular. It was one of my least favorite hikes I have done. Hot, no shade, no water, all for 1 crowded view at the end. There are much better options.

Thanks for the heads up! If I wanted to do 3 nights for HW or SFC/CC and then an overnight down towards the lake, any suggestions for other big views that would be less crowded? Or would you suggest 4 nights at the river instead?

Again, thank you all so much for the advice!
 

John Morrow

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Scarpa crux is a great sticky rubber friction shoe that comes in a quick drying canvas. Take a pair of crocs for camp so you don't have to wear wet sneaks.
Someone else may have a better idea, but if you did SFC/CC clockwise (to have a shorter day 3) then driving to one side of the BMT THs would maybe give enough time to hike back in. and stay high for views.

Upper Muley is a great option for views. Probably OK to camp at Strike Valley Overlook.

View camps are most likely dry so you just have to take what you want to be comfortable for dinner and breakfast (depending on 1st water when you return to canyons.) For 1 night carrying it all is not a big deal that time of year.

Or do the whole trip in SFC/CC, head into Neon, find rock art, head up Fence for a view, start finding your eye for the Allen exits. No consequence if you are not required to continue in one direction. Sand slides can be pretty easy to identify. Study Google Earth along side of topos to get an idea of what to expect.
You'll be hooked! Have wonderful discoveries. When I started the Park Service put the fear of angry gods into me that I would surely die of thirst. Reaching water once per day, and accepting occasional dry camps, is all that is necessary to not carry crazy weights and really enjoy the hiking. Then you'll start to realize, oh, I can go 1.5 days w/o reaching water, then maybe two (heavy, admittedly). March really helps.

If you are used to steep vertical in the northern Appalachians then you'll probably find S. UT hiking less strenuous because (deep sand excepted) you're not noticing vertical when walking on mesas and canyon floors and the transition between the two is rarely even 1500 vert, Grand Canyon excepted.

Everything you said here is really awesome, welcome to the desert!:

I bought Canyoneering 3, which is part of why I was a bit reluctant to plan my own loops from a topo map, to be honest! For example, his C/L loop says it is a strenuous route for experienced canyoneers only that involves 5.4 climbing and requires a 50-foot rope. I'm from the east coast and have literally never set foot into a desert or canyon. So while I am interested in having some privacy, it's not to the point of wanting to put myself into a dangerous situation that I am not prepared for.

Looking at that book, I was also considering SFC/CC (#35) or LDH/WC (#33) off of Burr Trail or maybe some of the HW hikes off of H.I.R. (#11-14)? Those look slightly less busy on Strava (except Golden Cathedral), assuming there isn't too much normalization. Any thoughts on those for someone in my situation?

Thank you for your help with this! Even though I'm a novice/spring breaker, I want to be responsible and respectful (and I use WAG bags and don't use Instagram!).

It reminded me that I was challenged by C/L and I wasn't even thinking about that. Mesa crossings down there can be confusing. Time eases memories. It is good you mentioned it.

I don't remember any real challenges in LDH/WC, and though crowded potentially, the color and shapes of the narrows are quite beautiful for non-technical hiking. Getting around the remains of a dead cow was my greatest challenge by memory.
 
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regehr

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Mar 28, 2012
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I bought Canyoneering 3, which is part of why I was a bit reluctant to plan my own loops from a topo map, to be honest! For example, his C/L loop says it is a strenuous route for experienced canyoneers only that involves 5.4 climbing and requires a 50-foot rope. I'm from the east coast and have literally never set foot into a desert or canyon. So while I am interested in having some privacy, it's not to the point of wanting to put myself into a dangerous situation that I am not prepared for.

Looking at that book, I was also considering SFC/CC (#35) or LDH/WC (#33) off of Burr Trail or maybe some of the HW hikes off of H.I.R. (#11-14)? Those look slightly less busy on Strava (except Golden Cathedral), assuming there isn't too much normalization. Any thoughts on those for someone in my situation?

These are totally legitimate concerns, and I think all of us desert rat types would strongly recommend that for a first trip into this area you don't mess around with sketchy routes, possible missing water supplies, etc. Allen is typically very realistic with his route advice, fwiw.

LDH/Wolverine should be a great choice, though when I was last in LDH (years ago) there was a climby spot or two. These canyons definitely get people but LDH is worth it anyway, the narrows are really great. If I was going to do a trip in that area, I'd probably combine one or both canyons with some mesa-top walking, I believe Allen 2 and 3 contain good ideas for how to setup a more interesting loop. In same area, I coudln't help noticing that Silver Falls Canyon had very little traffic according to Strava.
 
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