Lower Escalante Trifecta - Davis Gulch to Fiftymile Creek


May 3, 2013

I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown, to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bread by cities. . . it is enough that i am surrounded by beauty.”
Everett Ruess

I hear ya Everett. Speaking of beauty and deep peace, Fiftymile Creek comes to mind.

Day 3. I woke up in Davis Gulch feeling pretty crappy, but I finally roused myself out of the bag and started packing up at a glacial pace. No rush out here, the weather is ideal and itineraries flexible. Up and out of Davis Gulch, then 2 miles overland to the sand slide on the south rim of Fiftymile Creek was a good enough goal for the day, get in and find a camp for a nice nap. The cross country route took about an hour, its certainly not direct and I admit I cheated and used my Gaia GPS for the first time. I would have enjoyed the route more if I wasn't feeling like I had a hangover, but the closer I got to Fiftymile the better I felt. Once I reached the rim and looked in I was feeling good, excited for a new canyon and some rest.

I headed up canyon to the alcove I've read about here and it lived up to its billing. What a camp...shelter, water, an arch and rock art. As soon as I set my pack down I knew I was staying here 2 nights and hiking out instead of floating back to Willow. Canyon wrens serenaded me as I set up (is there a more beautiful sound in the desert?), and I spent the rest of the day doing nothing. It was wonderful. Writing, reading, resting, snacking, just being present and letting all the anxieties and stress I seem to constantly carry around melt away. No need to dwell on the future or look back at the past. Fiftymile is better than any therapist. And cheaper.
I ran into the 2 guys that I saw on the lake, they had packrafted up Fiftymile the day before and were heading up canyon to find another camp. Cool guys, we hung out later gawking at the petroglyph panel, trying to read between the lines, each of us seeing something new as the light changed. There was another older couple from Ft. Collins that had camped in the alcove the night before, they were hiking back from the lake and stopped to chat. While I was counting on solitude this trip, I enjoyed meeting most of the folks I crossed paths with, and there was plenty of time for quiet alone time. Good balance.

The next day I explored the lower canyon, in awe of everything. So much variety, so much recovery, so much awesomeness. The giant alcoves, the rock art, the narrows, bighorn sheep...and then the wind. Ah yes spring in the desert, how could I forget. I got back to camp in the late afternoon, battened down the hatches and "enjoyed" a night of 60 mph gusts, sand everywhere and clouds rolling in. It didn't rain, but I could feel the weather turning and I had cloud cover with a cool breeze...what better conditions to hike 4 miles of open road back to the car. The hike out of Fiftymile is pleasant, a few narrow sections, more rock art, and finally the slog to the road and back to the car.
No regrets staying in Fiftymile and slowing the trip down. Everything worked out, made some new friends, my head was clear and I was ready to get home to take the next step in my life.

Thank you canyon wren. If you only knew the affect that song had on me the first time I hear it every year. I owe ya one.

Hiking out of Davis Gulch

A few bends upcanyon from the sandslide entry I spot the arch

Not a bad place to spend a few days.

Directly below the arch is one of most impressive petroglyph panels I've ever seen. There are figures 30' up the cliff.

A half moon lights up the canyon

Half moon through the arch

Sacred Datura

E Ruess Hunters. 1935. a mile or so down canyon from camp.

Eventually the canyon closes up

Lovely waterfall in Fiftymile. I named this one Big Grin Falls.

The entrance to the narrows

Well below full pool in Fiftytmile

The MASSIVE alcove in lower Fiftymile

I spent at least an hour here. Just wow.

Patience paid off. As I was eating lunch in the alcove, I spotted movement on the opposite rim. A family of bighorn sheep!

I turned around here. Sketchy quicksand/silt/mud cocktail, and the winds were cranking.

Heading back to camp

Sheep procession

Noticed this panel on the hike out, a few hundred yards up from the alcove.

Almost out of Fiftymile

See ya next year
Last edited:


May 3, 2013
Lake elevation was 3594'. 106' below full pool.


Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
Jun 7, 2012
The descending call of the Canyon Wren in context is of the finest sounds one can hear.

Thanks for taking the time to type this all up.


May 3, 2013
@mattvogt7 thanks. I slowed this one down more than most of my trips, I've been in a weird head space lately and the canyons knew it. The majority of my time in Fiftymile was spent sitting, doing as little as possible and I loved every second.


May 18, 2012
Great report again and pics. You must have taken your time - just setting up the tripod and putting it on self-timer! But the pics are worth it, and better for having someone in. That 3rd one probably isn't the most beautiful of the set but it looks unreal...amazing.


May 3, 2013
thanks @Ross . I definitely got my moneys worth out of the new tripod.


Ready For More
Jul 23, 2013
So freaking awesome! Thanks for sharing. Those solo trips where you encounter a few people here and there that turn out to be pretty cool can give one a bit more peace of mind should something happen to oneself, yet not so many as to deeply intrude on the solitude and tranquility you work so hard to obtain, make for an ideal kind of trip sometimes, I think. As you said, a good balance.


Jul 5, 2014
Sounds like an amazing trip. Great pics and narrative. Nothing helps to put things in perspective better than a good solo trip.
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