Canyons of the Escalante
The large swath of land known as Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a collection of geologic splendors and a labyrinth of seemingly endless colorful canyons. Southwest Adventure Tours will take you on an intimate tour through many of these canyons and visit the monument’s unique landscapes. The monument has one of the highest concentrations of slot canyons anywhere in the world and this tour will concentrate on hiking through some of the best ones.
The name Grand Staircase comes from the series of geologic formations, or steps, that start at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and extends across this national monument to Bryce Canyon National Park, which is the “top” of the staircase. This geology created a series of large colorful cliffs giving half of the national monument’s name. The name Escalante comes from the river drainage responsible for creating so many winding, deep and narrow canyons on the east side of the monument. Although this tour covers the north half of the monument, you’ll see many of its highlights.
The best way to see the canyons of the Escalante is on foot. That’s why every day of this tour will consist of 5 to 10 miles of hiking (only one day will include a hike of 10 miles in length). Every day will consist of a hike through some sort of canyon – whether it be a series of slot canyons or a lush green canyon surrounded by colorful canyon walls. Along with trekking through a bunch of canyons, you’ll also see several arches and natural bridges, a dinosaur trackway, and Native American ruins and rock art.
- Willis Creek Slot Canyon
- Kodachrome Basin State Park
- Escalante Canyon natural bridges and arches
- Calf Creek Falls
- Hole in the Rock Road
- Twenty Mile Wash Dinosaur Track Site
- …and lots of slot canyons
- Services of a Southwest Adventure Tours tour director – a professional tour guide
- Comfortable transportation
- 6 nights hotel accommodations
- 6 breakfasts
- 6 lunches
- 2 dinners
- Park entrance fees
- Gratuities for included meals and activities
- Applicable taxes and fees
- Day 1: Arrive in St. George, Utah
- Day 2: St. George – Kodachrome Basin & Round Valley Draw
- Day 3: Willis Creek & Bull Valley Slot Canyons
- Day 4: Escalante Canyon – Arches & Natural Bridges
- Day 5: Hole in the Rock Road: Sites & Slots
- Day 6: Lower and Upper Calf Creek Falls
- Day 7: Big Horn (Slot) Canyon – St. George
Visual Itinerary Video:
Canyons of the Escalante (full tour)
See what it's like to go on one of the slot canyon hikes in this tour:
Big Horn Slot Canyon
Either fly into St. George (SGU) or Las Vegas (LAS). If flying into Las Vegas, we can arrange transfers on one of the hourly shuttles from Las Vegas to your arrival hotel in St. George. If you plan on driving here, arrangements can be made to keep your vehicle at the hotel.
The St. George skyline:
Abby Inn Best Western Inn Plus, St. George, UT
Depart St. George at 7:00 AM and travel approximately 3 hours to just outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. When we arrive, enjoy a scenic drive through Kodachrome Basin State Park and go on a couple of shorter hikes to hoodoos and other unique formations that inspired the folks from National Geographic in 1949 to name this place after the Kodak film they were using. Afterwards, you’ll travel east to Grosvenor Arch for a view of this unique formation. The arch was initially the symbol for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument when it was first formed. Next up, we explore close-by Round Valley Draw, our first slot canyon. This 5-mile round trip hike takes you through a rarely visited slot canyon offering beautiful sandstone formations and the opportunity to see the start of Hackberry Canyon, which is a backpacker’s wilderness.
We’ll then head to our hotel in Bryce Canyon City. After dinner, there will be a private astronomy program for the group where you will learn about the stars you will be seeing for the rest of the week!
Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn, Bryce Canyon City, UT | Meals: B, L
This morning, we explore Willis Creek Slot Canyon, which is a “user friendly” slot canyon and is a great way to break you into what you’ll be experiencing over the next several days. Along the way, there are a few waterfalls where you can experience seeing a slot canyon being formed by Mother Nature. We’ll walk down Willis Creek, which usually is a few inches deep with water and a foot or two wide, for about two miles or more and return back to the trailhead.
We then continue down the road a few more miles so that you can experience Bull Valley Gorge, which is a bit more sinister-looking than Willis Creek. You’ll see where an automobile from the 1950s is part of the road bridge over the gorge. We’ll descend into this deep, dark and ominous slot canyon and explore its bowels for a few miles while we negotiate the chockstones that have been moved here during many flashflood events over thousands of years. Total hiking distance for both slot canyons will be about 4 to 6 miles.
After we spend the day exploring these two slot canyons, we’ll head over to the town of Escalante, which is about an hour away.
Willis Creek Slot Canyon:
Canyon Country Lodge, Escalante, UT | Meals: B, L, D
After traveling to the Escalante Canyons region of the national monument, you'll hike up Escalante Canyon to two unique formations. First will be the Escalante Natural Bridge. This is perched at the top of the cliffs that border the Escalante River. A short distance further we’ll take a look at Cliff House Arch and the small Native American ruins beneath it. After a picnic lunch, you’ll hike down Escalante Canyon to Phipps Arch. Afterwards you will continue down-canyon and hike up to Bowington Arch before returning back to the trailhead. If we have enough time left over, from the trailhead parking area, we’ll climb up a few ledges to view the very rare and unusual Native American pictograph site called 100 Hands.
Hiking today will include many water crossings. Come prepared with appropriate footwear that can get wet without giving your feet blisters. Before your tour, we can help you find the perfect footwear solution. Contact us in enough time before your departure date. Once finished with the hikes, you will return to Escalante for the evening. The distance of the series of hikes today can be up to a total of about 10 miles, depending on the group’s abilities and desires, but hiking portions can be eliminated to reduce the distance.
Escalante Natural Bridge, Escalante Canyon:
Canyon Country Lodge, Escalante, UT | Meals: B, L
Today you’ll explore and experience sites along one of the monument’s well-known roads that was named and made famous by Mormon Pioneers that trailblazed this road to settle regions in southeast Utah and Arizona – Hole in the Rock Road. Our stops and hikes include:
- Covered Wagon Natural Bridge, a series of unique and large natural bridges that you’ll walk under;
- Nearby Cedar Wash Arch, which is located inside a beautifully sculptured canyon;
- Devil’s Garden, containing some not-so demonic sandstone hoodoos and arches;
- Twenty Mile Wash Dinosaur Track Site, with its series of footprints and tracks left behind by two different prehistoric animals during the Jurassic Period;
- And finally, a series of slot canyons situated close by including Dry Fork Coyote Gulch, famed Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon and Spooky Gulch.
The total hiking distance around these slot canyons and the other sites will be 3 to 5 miles. We’ll return to Escalante again for the evening.
Dry Fork Coyote Gulch:
Canyon Country Lodge, Escalante, UT | Meals: B, L
Lower Calf Creek Falls may be the crowning jewel of the monument and you’ll see why. Since parking at the trailhead fills up quickly, this morning will be an early start at 7am. This iconic hike meanders through 3 miles of lush canyon scenery with colorful walls and a flowing stream in the middle. Along the way, you’ll see some more pictographs, these being almost the size of a person. Be sure to look into the river for trout, which may or may not be on the menu tonight.
After the 6 mile roundtrip hike, it’s time for a hearty meal at the unique Kiva Koffeehouse, which is perched above the lush Escalante Canyon we hiked through a few days ago. We’ll enjoy lunch enjoying the views and building our strength for our afternoon hike to Upper Calf Creek Falls. To get to the trailhead for this hike, we cross over the notorious Hogback of Hwy 12. The hike to these less visited falls is only three quarters of a mile one-way but entails a drop in elevation of almost 600 feet, while walking on solid Navajo Sandstone. Overall hiking distances today is about 8 miles.
Lower Calf Creek Falls:
Canyon Country Lodge, Escalante, UT | Meals: B, L, D
Your last day in the Escalante area involves yet another slot canyon called Big Horn Canyon. Unlike the other slot canyons you will have hiked through taking this tour, the sandstone here is very swirly, stripy and colorful. Portions of the slot canyon may be blocked. But that’s not a problem because it’s easy to bypass these areas unlike other slot canyons. We’ll hike up Big Horn about 3 to 4 miles, then return back down the same way. When we’re finished, we’ll head back to St. George in the afternoon, a 3-hour drive.
The colors of Big Horn Canyon:
We will return to St. George by 5:00 PM. Book any flights or transportation after 7:00 PM or consider spending another day or two in beautiful St. George.
Meals: B, L
- Items of a personal nature (alcohol, room service, etc.)
- Meals (other than listed in the itinerary)
- Optional activities
- Airport transfers
- Gratuities for the tour director
Arrival / Departure Info:
- Arrival Location: St. George Regional (SGU) or Las Vegas Airport (LAS)
- Arrival Time: any time on day 1
- Departure Location: SGU or LAS
- Departure Time: anytime after 7:00 PM on day 7
- Guests should be comfortable walking on uneven terrain for an average of 3 to 5 miles at a time.
- Elevation gain and loss averages between 50 to 1,000 ft over the course of the areas visited during this tour.
- Touring and overnight locations are between 5,000 to 8,000 ft above sea level
- THIS TOUR REQUIRES A LOT OF HIKING – Please let us know if you have any other physical/health limitations or requirements
Southwest Adventure Tours is an authorized permittee of the following parks:
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
- Double Occupancy: $2,999
- Single Occupancy: $3,299
- Triple Occupancy: $2,899
- Quad Occupancy: $2,799
Departure Dates 2024
|Apr 21||May 5|
|May 19||Sept 8|
|Sept 22||Oct 6|