Spooky slot canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a fairly accessible slot canyon that can be explored without equipment and with a minimum of canyoneering skills. It is typically combined with a loop up Peek-a-Boo slot canyon and then down nearby Spooky slot canyon. While these slots are growing in popularity, their relative remoteness make it so that you can still enjoy them, but you are unlikely to have them to yourself, especially during the busier summer months.
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon
I recommend doing Spooky Slot Canyon as part of a loop starting with Peek-a-Boo slot canyon. This loop is 3.5 miles round trip. To read about Peek-a-Boo slot, go here.
Just Doing Spooky Slot
After hiking down from the parking area to the wash, follow the wash downstream (right). The wash will T into another wash – head left and you’ll get to the downstream exit from Spooky Slot. Enter here and proceed upstream. You will have a few scrambles over spot, but your biggest issue will be passing other hikers likely heading downstream, since most folks do Spooky as part of a loop and will be heading in the opposite direction you are. When you come to a pile of boulders about 6 feet above your head, double back – you have done all the good parts of Spooky.
One advantage of doing this route is that if you are unable to manage the climbs or are of larger size, you can go as far as you are comfortable and then double back. Doing the loop in kind of commits you a bit as doubling back would be challenging. Total hiking if you do Spooky in and out likely will be just as long as doing the loop with Peek-a-Boo – about 3.5 miles.
Part of Loop
If you did Peek-a-Boo slot first, then you will be catching Spooky Slot canyon from upstream after walking over from Peek-a-boo gulch. This portion of the wash is wide and sandy. As it begins to narrow up, you will come to a pile of boulders. It may not look like much, but this is the only way into Spooky Slot from here. The scramble down requires a bit of crawling and then dropping about 6 feet to the sandy bottom below. By hanging as far down as possible before letting go, you only have to drop a short distance.
This will feel scary as you can’t see the ground at all from this vantage and it is hard to let go without being able to see where you are dropping. I recommend you have the tallest and most adventurous to go first and then offer assistance to those that follow. My wife found this particularly hard with her fear of heights.
Beautiful narrow, tall slot
Once you have navigated the boulder entrance, Spooky slot is gorgeous. It gets its name due to its deep and narrow, winding nature. Shadows abound, and if you enter the slot at the right time of day, near midday, you will be treated with beams of light that are reminiscent of the famous Antelope Canyon slot, but without the extreme crowds. I loved this slot a great deal, other than the discomfort of the squeezes…
Fat Man’s Squeeze
There are places in Spooky slot canyon where a larger person will have difficulty getting through. When I went through, I weighed 260 (I’m told I carried it well, whatever that means) and there were times when I wasn’t sure if I would fit, particularly in Spooky slot canyon. I literally had to exhale and squeeze through a few times. The real issue for me was the thickness of my chest, not my oversized stomach – the latter I could squish, but my deeper chest made it very tight. In Spooky slot canyon, when you encounter these tight squeezes, there are no alternative routes – it is fit through or double back and retrace your steps. If you are afraid of heights, are claustrophobic, or of larger size, this is not the hike for you.
To access to Spooky Slot canyon, start in the small town of Escalante, which is on highway 12. Escalante is a natural stop o a route from Capitol Reef National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. From Escalante, go east on highway 12 for 5 miles and turn right on the Hole in the Rock road (BLM200). Continue on this rugged washboard gravel and dirt road for 26 miles and then turn left on BLM 252, which is an even less finished dirt road (going right heads to Batty Caves). The area where these slots are located is called Dry Fork.
After about 1 mile, you will come to a small parking lot. This is as far as I would recommend you go unless you have a high clearance vehicle. The road leads from here to another, larger parking lot that is closer to the trailhead by about 1 mile, but the road is very rough at this point. We followed behind a minivan that managed to do it, but from what I saw, he risked much in making the trip. If you don’t have a high clearance, you can just walk this extra mile each way and not risk your low clearance vehicle.
While this is not a technical canyon, and I have seen folks of many ages make this trip, it is far from trivial. The distance is not the issue – the route up and back for just Peek-a-Boo is 2 miles. The recommended loop through Peek-a-Boo and Spooky is 3.5 miles total. It is very hot here in the summer months – make sure to take plenty of water. Do not take this lightly.
Besides the heat, if you do the loop you will have to do quite a bit of scrambling and climbing up small cliffs and up and down boulders. Peek-a-Boo is harder in this way, with the hardest part of Spooky coming at the boulder upstream entrance.
My two teenagers had no trouble, but it was hard on my wife, who is a bit scared of heights. We managed to make it, but there were times she wasn’t sure if she would and she swears she will not let me take here there again. Smaller kids will have to be pushed and pulled up the higher areas. I would hesitate to take kids under about 8 on the whole loop trail, but if they are adventurous and you have fit, strong folks to help, they likely can make it through. Strollers and babies on back packs are not recommended. If you only do Spooky from the downstream entrance, then you could probably manage to go quite a ways with younger kids or even a baby in a backpack.
I have read about short cuts from the bottom of Spooky Slot that lead more directly back to the parking area. We tried to find this, and lost our way. There are traces of trails running in multiple directions and it is easy to get turned around and there are no landmarks to look for. Already tired and it being over 100° Fahrenheit, we chose to be careful and went back into the canyon and followed the wash back to the entrance of Peek-a-Boo, where the trail back to the parking area was easy to locate. Following the creek bottom back is my recommendation.
Make sure to have a map with you or at least have the route in your head to prevent the likelihood of problems. American National Parks are wild country, and you cannot expect to get help from anyone and have to assume ownership of your own safety. While in the slots and on the main trail, you’ll likely encounter other hikers, and can probably get help if needed. We had a nice group of older scouts and their leaders who helped us over a couple of the challenging spots up Peek-a-boo and down the large boulder drop in Spooky, but you can’t assume this help will be available.
GPS coordinates for the trail can be found here.
Brimstone Gulch Slot Canyon
Many folks feel like the nearby Brimstone Slot Canyon is better than either Peek-a-Boo or Spooky slot canyon. It requires some extra hiking and gets so narrow at times that you have to exit it and reenter. I have not made that trip yet, but here is a map showing its location relative to the other slots. Also, Dry Fork Narrows is here and is worth the hike, but is less dramatic (and less challenging) than the other slots.
Hole in the Rock Road
Hole in the Rock Road is not paved, and gets in rougher shape the further you travel from Escalante toward the Hole in the Rock, but there are lots of amazing hikes that begin from this road. Many other great slot canyons of varying length and difficulty are here. I haven’t done any of these yet, but plan to. You’ll need a 4WD vehicle to get to many of these.
I’ve put a gallery of hi-resolution pictures from Peek-a-Boo Slot canyon and Spooky Slot canyon here.
To read about nearby Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, go here.
Read about all the slot canyons I have visited here.