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Bryce Canyon National Park – Idyllic Must-see Scenery in Southern Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of my favorite national parks in all of the United States. With narrow rock spires and hoodoos, Bryce creates a fairytale-like experience that must be experienced to understand. Like so many beautiful natural areas, pictures do not do it justice.

Not strictly a canyon, Bryce is a collection of giant natural amphitheaters along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. As you approach the edge, you are greeted with thousands of spires of stones, carved from soft sandstone for eons by water, ice and wind. These are called hoodoos, and some are as high as 150 feet. Many hoodoos create tiny windows (small arches) or take on interesting shapes like the aptly named Thor’s Hammer.

The colors of Bryce would fit in well at South Beach or Curacao, with gentle oranges and pinks streaked with white making for an idyllic environment. The terrain is very inviting, and fortunately, there are hiking trails crisscrossing amongst the hoodoos that are highly recommended. The elevation drops about 500 feet for most trails and will make for a moderately difficult hike that is worth it if you can manage it.

Cool Respite

Pronghorn Deer, Bryce Canyon National Park
Pronghorn Deer

Southern Utah is canyon country and has some of the most striking terrain in all the world. Being a desert-like environment makes for a very hot experience in the summer, but Bryce rises above all of this. The park sits on a high plateau with elevation that varies between about 8,000 to 9,000 feet and is a welcome relief from the heat of most areas nearby. The forests filling much of the park are filled with Blue Spruce and Douglas Fir that can reach almost 200 feet in height. The canyon edge is dotted with a variety of smaller pinyon and pine trees, including the Bristlecone pine which is considered the longest living organisms on earth with ages of several thousand years being known.

There are also occasional grassy areas with wildflowers in season, and you will often see deer, pronghorn antelope and elk grazing there. There are also many smaller mammals and birds to keep an eye out for. Please do not feed the wildlife. The ground squirrels in particular are used to getting handouts from well-meaning but mislead visitors.

Crowds of Folks

Bryce can get busy, but usually not oppressively so. In peak season, they will run a free shuttle to major locations within the park. Since parking can get hard to find when busy, the shuttle is a nice convenience and is recommended. In non-peak seasons, you can readily find parking everywhere you go.

Rim Drive

Most of Bryce Canyon is accessible from a single road that leads from the main amphitheater down to Rainbow Point. There are numerous places to stop along the way for viewpoints, but in general, the hoodoos get smaller and less numerous as you drive south. I usually only go as far south as the Natural Bridge before doubling back. There are hiking trails that are accessible from some of these viewpoints all along the drive. I find them less compelling than those in the main amphitheater but they will be less visited.

The whole drive is about 18 miles each way, but you will have to drive fairly slowly for much of it. Please watch for cars coming in and out of parking for viewpoints.

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge, Bryce Canyon National Park
Natural Bridge

Just as Bryce Canyon is mislabeled as a canyon, Natural Bridge is technically an arch. It is 85 feet high and is viewable a few steps from the parking area along the rim drive south of the main amphitheater.

Rim Trail

The Rim Trail follows along the edge of the canyon in the main amphitheater area – from Fairyland Point south to Bryce Point. The trail leads to the various overlooks like Sunrise Point, Sunset Point and Inspiration Point. These overlooks can be driven to separately, but you are likely to just walk between some of them. The most popular hikes of the park are available from these overlooks. Note that Bryce Point and Fairyland Point are a good bit farther along, so you’ll need more time to hike to those from the main area.

Navajo Loop Trail

The most popular hiking trail at Bryce is the Navajo Loop Trail. This hike begins and ends at Sunset Point. If you go counter-clockwise on the trail, which is probably the easiest way to go, you begin the loop by descending through Wall Street – a switchback trail that descends between high walls of sandstone. Once past Wall Street, the trail mostly levels out for a more relaxed walk. From here, you’ll see the hoodoos from below, interspaced with the occasional tall tree that has managed to find a foothold amongst the hoodoos.

Bryce Canyon National Park Trail
Navajo Loop Trail Switchbacks

Once at the bottom, you have the option to go in different directions than completing the loop trail. The Peekaboo loop trail can be added to this hike, or you can divert to the Queens Garden Trail which I discuss below.

If you stay with the Navajo loop, the trail starts climbing gradually here but eventually more steeply, but never as steep as it was at Wall Street. You’ll pass by Two Bridges, which is a pair of small natural bridges along a side canyon. Near the top of the trail, you’ll see Thor’s Hammer on the right. The entire Navajo Loop trail is 1.3 miles, but the 550 feet down and back up makes it moderately difficult.

Queen’s Garden Trail

Bryce Canyon National Park
Queen’s Garden Trail

Queen’s Garden Trail begins at Sunrise Point. Apart from the Navajo Loop trail, Queen’s Garden is my favorite trail. It is a bit longer, but does a much more gradual descent/ascent into the canyon. You can take the trail down and back to the Queen Victoria formation, or do what I recommend, which is combine Queen’s Garden with half of the Navajo Loop for a whole hike of about 2.7 miles. Note that you will have to hike along the Rim Trail between Sunset and Sunrise Points but this is a pleasant walk.

Queens Garden is more open, with farther views than the closed-in Navajo Loop but still having a nice collection of hoodoos to explore. I like this trail more than the Navajo Loop for portrait photography.

Mossy Cave Trail

One other trail I want to highlight is the Mossy Cave Trail. This trail is not accessible from the main part of the park, but is found off of highway 12 a bit further north. The hoodoos here are shorter than the main area of the park, but there will be a lot fewer visitors here and the setting is quaint. The trail is a short one of 0.4 miles each way that climbs gradually next to a nice stream. The trail forks near the end, with the left side leading to Mossy Cave, which is not a real cave but a deep recess in the rock. Do not enter the cave itself as the moss is delicate. Note that in winter, the cave develops interesting icicles that do not completely melt until mid-summer. The right branch leads to a nice 15-foot waterfall that is very scenic when there has been enough rain to make it interesting. You can see all of it in about 30 minutes.

The Grand Staircase

Bryce Canyon is considered the top step of the Grand Staircase, a geological wonder in southern Utah and northern Arizona. Layers of sandstone create distinct layers of different colors of stone and varying hardness that is the building material of most of the irresistible scenery of the area. Starting at Bryce and ending at the floor of the Grand Canyon, the eroded sandstone layers feature prominently in many nearby locales, including Zion National Park, Monument Valley, Natural Bridges National Monument and hundreds of slot canyons.

Grand Staircase Diagram
Grand Staircase Diagram

Bryce in Winter

Bryce Canyon National Park
Winter in Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce is a great place to visit in winter. The hoodoos are even more scenic when covered with snow, and the view is a very memorable one. Snow piles pretty deep here, so plan on trudging through the snow if hiking, making the trails harder to navigate. There is also cross-country skiing and you can rent snow shoes at Ruby’s Inn if you want to try them out. There is a winter festival at Ruby’s in February each year. Ice Skating and sleigh rides are also available.

The road to Bryce is kept open during winter, but recent snowfalls can close them for a while. Check on recent conditions and I recommend a high clearance vehicle as well as bringing along snow chains for tires.

Be a Careful Adventurer

Bryce Canyon is a pretty safe place to visit. The heat of the surrounding areas of Utah and Arizona is lessoned to a great extent by Bryce’s high elevation. It still gets warm, but not oppressively hot. Still, take enough water with you in the summer months. Also, the hiking trails do not stray as far into the wilderness so risk of getting in trouble far from help is minimal. There is also still the possibility of snakes and other biting things, although the risk is likely lessoned compared to some areas in the southwest. I’d recommend you not put your hands or feet into tight areas.

Bryce Canyon National Park
Thor’s Hammer

The main concern is drop offs as there are cliffs along the bowl of the hoodoos. These cliffs are not as high as many others in the area, but it is still best to be wary.

Winter in Bryce offers some new risks. Cold can be oppressive so bundle up appropriately. Also, stay farther away from cliff edges to remove risk of slippage.

Lodging and Food

There are not as many options near the park for lodging and food as I would like. The main complex is Ruby’s Inn right outside the entrance. They have several lodging options and a couple of restaurants as well some shops and a few purely tourist experiences. They offer horseback rides into the canyon as well which can be a nice way to see it. The lodging at Ruby’s is a little on the high side, but its location and availability of services is a big plus.

Bryce Canyon National park also has a nice lodge where you can stay right inside the park, but be aware that it fills up early and you’ll need to plan ahead to get lodging in busier seasons. The lodge offers some nice meal options as well.

There are a few other motels and restaurants scattered about the area, including a few in the nearby small town of Tropic. Ruby’s has a pretty large camping area including full hookups for RVs and you can camp in Bryce as well.

In wintertime, prices in general are cheaper due to far fewer visitors.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Park Pass Needed

Visitors to Bryce Canyon have to get a park pass at the entrance station. An annual pass for all national parks is a good deal if you are visiting several parks during a 12-month period. There are a lot of great national park options nearby such as Zion, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands and the Grand Canyon.

Bryce Canyon National Park Map
Bryce Canyon National Park Map
Bryce Canyon National Park Map
Amphitheater Detail

A gallery of pictures from Bryce Canyon National Park can be seen here.

To read about other National Parks, go here.

Utah is full of things to do, learn about a bunch of them here.

Bryce Canyon Natural Bridge in Bryce Canyon National Park – 85 foot tall arch

Natural Bridge, Bryce Canyon National Park
Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge located in Bryce Canyon National Park is misnamed as it is in fact an arch. It is 85 feet high and is easily accessed from the Bryce Canyon rim drive – it is only steps away from the parking. The way the land falls away from it offers a nice view and photo opp. There are no hiking opportunities around the arch as the ground is too steep.

Bryce Canyon has myriads of small arches (I’d call them windows), but Natural Bridge is easily the best of them. There are two artificial arches that you can drive through along state road 12 in Red Canyon state park which is near Bryce Canyon. They are technically tunnels, but if looks and feels more like driving through arches.

Red Rock Arch
Road driving through tunnel arch at Red Rock State Park near Bryce

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwestern Utah and is well worth your time. You can read about it here.

To read about other national parks, go here.

See a list of natural bridges and arches I have seen with descriptions and advice here.

Utah is a great state to visit, with lots of things to see and do. Learn a bot a bunch of them here.

 

 

Capitol Reef National Park – Utah Park offering Diverse Geology to Explore

Capitol Reef National Park is a somewhat unappreciated gem in our National Park system. Filled with sandstone cliffs nearly as tall as Zion, eroded cliffs and temples, natural bridges, wide vistas and slot canyons, it offers much to appreciate for any fan of wild country. Visited by ancient Fremont Culture natives who left their mark on the landscape in mostly subtle ways, you can see their imaginative rock carvings along the main road running through the park. Settled by Mormons in the 19th century who built orchards along the river where the visitor can still pick fruit in season.

Goosenecks, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Goosenecks

Capitol Reef National Park is one of the ‘Mighty 5’ National Parks in Utah. This is mostly a marketing gimmick as Utah has an incredible 35 million acres of protected lands – that is 2/3 of the entire state. This includes 13 national parks. There are so many beautiful places in the state, inside of national parks and on other public lands as well, that you could spend a lifetime trying to see them all. Capitol Reef has always been much less visited than the more popular Zion, Bryce and Arches national parks, but visitation has grown a lot in recent years and crossed 1 million for the first time in 2016. As with all the national parks in Utah, visitation is greatest during the summer months. Despite this increase in visitation, you will have no trouble finding places to be alone with the beautiful scenery.

Capitol Reef gets its name not because of the existence of an ancient coral reef or anything like that, but because the huge waterpocket fold that runs along the entire length of the park looks at times like such a feature. The land folds due to great geologic forces that have twisted and flipped the landscape in a manner that will be wondrous to the casual visitor and make geologists giddy.

Hickman Natural Bridge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Hickman Natural Bridge

Highway 24

Most visitors to Capitol Reef only visit for a few hours, and keep to the well paved areas along highway 24 and the scenic drive south to Fruita and Capitol Gorge. Along highway 24 you’ll find several worthy places to stop and visit. If you have a high clearance vehicle, then more of Capitol Reef awaits your exploration and a couple of days will be needed to do it justice. Of course, if you are a back-country hiker, you can spend many days exploring.

Hickman Bridge

Hickman Bridge is a nice easy hike suitable for families that take you to a nice natural bridge. Read all about it here or click the image.

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Petroglyphs

Some excellent petroglyphs carved by the Fremont culture in approximately AD 600 to 1300 are available for easy viewing just a few steps from the parking right off of highway 24. The Fremont peoples, named for the Fremont River Valley in which their sites were discovered, were contemporaries to the Anasazi who left their mark in such places farther to the south as Mesa Verde, Canyon De Chelly and Chaco Canyon, to name but a few. The images are fanciful and what they are depicting is largely unknown. Some have gone so far as to claim they represent alien visitors.

The Castle, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
The Castle

The Castle

The most prominent feature along highway 24 is probably The Castle, which is an eroded formation right across the road from the visitor center. Stop here for a bathroom break, fill your water bottles and get some information on the area.

Chimney Rock

West of the visitor center is another attractive spire called Chimney Rock. This red formation can be approached via a short hiking trail. Just to the east of Chimney Rock is a short hike to Panorama Point and Goosenecks Overlook. This overlook shows meandering canyons carved by a small river, but is not nearly as big as you will see at Goosenecks State Park or at Horseshoe Bend, but is still worth a look.

Chimney Rock, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Chimney Rock

Fruita

South on the Scenic Drive is the oasis of Capitol Reef: Fruita. Founded by Mormons in the late 19th century, its orchards once earned it the nickname “The Eden of Wayne County”. The residents never exceeded 10 families, however. When purchased by the NPS, most of the old buildings were razed. A few buildings remain, including the one room school house and the Gifford House, which sells a nice array of traditional treats. The fruit trees are carefully maintained and guests are allowed to harvest ripe fruit as long as care is taken to not harm the trees in any way.

Grand Wash

The scenic drive continues south from Fruita along the western edge of the waterpocket fold. The views are nice as the cliffs are high and dramatic. Two canyons cut into the fold and, while unpaved, can be navigated for a bit by passenger car unless recent rains make it a danger or have washed the road out. The first is Grand Wash. This road features Cassidy Arch, which is high on the cliff and can be reached via a steep hike. You can’t drive too far into the wash but the entire distance can be hiked from this point over to where the wash ends at highway 24.

Grand Wash, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Grand Wash

Capitol Gorge

The more impressive canyon to me is Capitol Gorge. This gorge can be driven for a bit further and the walls close in more impressively. As with Grand Wash, you can walk further if you wish, but you’ll need to double back to your car. Both canyons are not navigable with longer trailers or RVs.

Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Capitol Gorge

Cathedral Valley

For those with a high clearance vehicle and the willingness to go off-road a bit, there are a couple places well worth your time. Cathedral Valley is an impressive area that will take about 6 hours to see in most cases. To do the loop requires fording a river that when passable is about 18 inches deep. The area is named for the eroded formations that look reminiscent to gothic cathedrals. Read all about Cathedral Valley here or click the image.

Temple of the Sun, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Cathedral Valley

Burr Trail

The other road available to high clearance vehicles is the Burr Trail. This dirt road follows the waterpocket fold south. There are some nice slot canyons along the way as well as some impressive switchbacks. The road splits at one point and you can either go west toward the small town of Boulder, Utah, or much farther south to Eggnog Junction and on to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. There are other unpaved roads available as well. I haven’t made this trek yet, so it is still on my to-do list.

Be a Careful Adventurer

The paved areas of Capitol Reef will be well traversed by other travelers, but if you journey to any of the unpaved areas or hike any longer trails, make sure to be prepared. Services are few and far between and you cannot rely on someone else rescuing you. Take plenty of water and food – it can get very hot here in the summer months. City travelers can be surprised by the remoteness of places like this. We drove for 6 hours in the busy season in Cathedral Valley and met 2 cars total. There are also rattlesnakes, spiders and scorpions to consider. While the risk is small, do not put your extremities into tight places or into rock seams and holes, which are plentiful here.

Lodging and Food

There are not many options near the park for lodging and food. Plan ahead and bring a sandwich with you. You’ll have to stay at one of the motels in nearby small towns – Torrey, which is to the west of the park, is your best bet. Have a full tank of gas before proceeding off-road to Cathedral Gorge or the Burr Trail.

Park Pass Needed

Visitors to Capitol Reef have to get a park pass at the visitor center to go anywhere other than driving through the park on highway 24. Go to the visitor center to acquire the pass. An annual pass is a good deal if you are visiting several parks during 12 month period as you likely are if coming to Capitol Reef. Such nearby national parks as Arches, Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands and the Grand Canyon are natural inclusions in a visit to Capitol Reef.

A gallery of pictures from Capitol Reef National Park can be seen here.

To read about other National Parks, go here.

Utah is full of things to do, learn about a bunch of them here.

Map of Park

Capitol Reef National Park Map
Capitol Reef National Park Map

Capitol Reef National Park Gallery – Pictures including Hickman Bridge & Cathedral Valley

Capitol Reef National Park is a nice, diverse park in central Utah. Featuring many interesting geologic features, the chief of which is the huge waterpocket fold that runs the length of the park, visitors can soak in the high sandstone cliffs, natural bridges, slot canyons and a myriad of other formations as well as learn the history of Mormon settlers and ancient Native American visitors to the area.

I have written a detailed article about the park here. Below are some hi-resolution pictures to whet your appetite.

Capitol Reef National Park Sign, Utah

Chimney Rock, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Chimney Rock
Panorama Point, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Panorama Point
Goosenecks, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Goosenecks
Visitor Center, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Visitor Center with The Castle
The Castle, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
The Castle
Gifford House, Fruita, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Gifford House, Fruita
Petroglyphs, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Petroglyphs
Grand Wash, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Grand Wash
Grand Wash, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Grand Wash
Grand Wash, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Grand Wash
Scenic Drive, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Scenic Drive
Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Capitol Gorge
Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Capitol Gorge
Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Capitol Gorge
Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Capitol Gorge
Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Capitol Gorge
Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Capitol Gorge
Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Capitol Gorge
Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Capitol Gorge
Hickman Natural Bridge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Hickman Natural Bridge
Temple of the Sun, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Temple of the Sun, Cathedral Valley
Upper Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Upper Cathedral Valley
South Desert Overlook, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
South Desert Overlook, Cathedral Valley
Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Cathedral Valley

Read a detailed article on Capitol Reef National Park here.

Read about Cathedral Valley here.

To read about other National Parks, go here.

Utah is full of things to do, learn about a bunch of them here.

 

Cathedral Valley Loop Road and River Crossing in Capitol Reef National Park

I have been to Capitol Reef National Park numerous times, and each time, I wished longingly that I could travel into Cathedral Valley and see the eroded sandstone monuments there. On each previous occasion, I was always in a basic passenger car or regular van that seemed inadequate to travel on the unpaved roads and the river crossing seemed daunting to me. But on our trip this time, I was determined to see Cathedral Valley. We rented a small Toyota Rav4 and I scoured the rental agreement looking for restrictions on going on unpaved roads. Finding none, I knew that we had to finally do Cathedral Valley.

Temple of the Sun, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Temple of the Sun

I dug into online documents and could fine little information on what to expect on the river crossing. How deep was it? What kind of vehicle is required? Details were scarce. I determined to give it a go, one way or another. We stopped by the visitor center at Capitol Reef and I spoke to the Rangers there, but they were deliberatively evasive. Despite my frustration, I understood how they couldn’t make assurances to people without facing backlash if someone had trouble. We were on our own.

River Crossing

We approached the river crossing and I stopped the RAV4 and made my son walk walk across the river to check the depth wearing water shoes that I prepared ahead of time. The water depth never went higher than about half-way up his shins – good enough. The water is usually only about 1 foot deep, which is about what we encountered.

The path to follow is indicated in the picture here. We turned into the river and made a hard right turn to follow the right bank until we were directly across from the road on the opposite side. Making a hard left turn, we plunged across the river with no trouble. Yeah! The biggest obstacle was already overcome. There was now just the dirt road and occassional dry creek bed crossings that contained light amounts of sand.

The road, called Hartnet road, was dirt with occasional sand. Scrub board ripples were not too common, so the drive was pretty pleasant. The distances are deceptive, as I could not  drive very fast on this road – it takes a lot longer to drive a mile here than I am used to. The stream bottoms encountered were dry with light amounts of sand – the RAV4 had no trouble and I think that most cars would be able to navigate the ones I encountered.

Map Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Map of Cathedral Valley

Painted Desert

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

The initial land we travelled through reminded me of the Painted Desert in Arizona, with eroded hills striped with improbably colorful stripes of red and mauve. The road meandered up through these hills and topped out on the North Blue Flats – a long, dry plain with hills in the distance. About the only thing we saw that broke the monotony of the next 10 miles or so was a wreck of a truck that looked to be from the 40’s whose door had been used for target practice at one time. Behind it was a rig of some kind that was of unknown purpose to me.

Lower South Desert Overlook

South Desert Overlook, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
South Desert Overlook

A turn off appeared on the left and we took it. Parking at the end of the road, we were the only ones there and we took the short hike to look out over the desert. The landscape was more interesting here, with small broken hills and painted hills further on, with the first cathedrals we have seen on this trip. The cathedrals are eroded monuments similar to others in the southwest, but also distinct. These are more shapely – appearing to be of softer stone than those in Monument Valley or around Arches National Park and having more erosion along their sides. The term cathedral seems apt as they reminded me of gothic cathedrals I’ve seen in Europe. My teenagers enjoyed scrambling about on the rocks here.

Upper South Desert Overlook

Upper South Desert Overlook, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Upper South Desert Overlook

We went back to Hartnet Road and travelled another 14 miles or so. The next turn off was for the Upper South Desert Overlook. It offered a short hike to an overlook of the land there, with a cliff that dropped down to the desert below. We encountered our first other travelers here – a nice couple.

Upper Cathedral Valley Overlook

Upper Cathedral Valley Overlook, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Upper Cathedral Valley Overlook

Not far past this turn off was another to the right. This gave a nice view of the Upper Cathedral Valley from above. The road we were to travel could be seen winding down amongst the cathedrals scattered about below. Just past this overlook is the only campground in Cathedral Valley. We stopped here and had a picnic lunch on one of the provided tables and availed ourselves of the waterless toilets. It gets hot here in the summer, but we moved our table into the shade and it was pleasant enough.

Into the Valley

Upper Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Upper Cathedral Valley

After lunch, we continued onward, and descended down a switchback road into the valley proper. The cathedral monoliths are scattered about, we we played leap-frog with another vehicle as we pulled out to take in each view offered. The monuments here are memorable, and a few puffy clouds made for nice pictures. The road followed along the bluff we had just descended down as we journeyed along from here, offering many nice views of eroded cliffs and monoliths.

Gypsum Sinkhole

Gypsum Sinkhole, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Gypsum Sinkhole

The next turnoff is for the Gypsum Sinkhole. It is located up next to the cliff walls and is little more than an interesting geologic pit. Groundwater dissolved soft gypsum underground and the cavity left behind collapsed. The hole is 50 feet in diameter and 200 feet deep. Don’t stand too close as the rock is soft (the picture here is staged, of course!)

Cathedral Valley

Back on the main road, we drove about 15 miles through Cathedral Valley proper. The bluffs to the right continue to be scenic. The next turn off leads to the most famous monoliths here and we could see them from a distance as we approached. The road leads right up to them and hiking needed to see them is minimal, although you can explore about freely as the landscape is dramatic.

Temple of the Sun, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Temple of the Sun, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Temple of the Sun

The most famous monolith appears first – the nicely named Temple of the Sun. It rises sharply from the plain it sits on and makes for a dramatic view.

Glass Mountain

Nearby is another spot, the appropriately named Glass Mountain. Not quite a mountain, it is a large mound of exposed selenite crystals, which is a glassy form of gypsum. Sadly, evidence of people collecting some of this neat stone abounds – please leave it alone. It is prohibited to take and makes for a worsening experience for all who follow after.

Glass Mountain, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Glass Mountain, Temple of the Sun

Temple of the Moon

A bit farther along is the Temple of the Moon – a similar monolith to the Temple of the Sun, but less large and generally less dramatic. You can drive up to it or take a short hike.

After this stop, we continued along Cathedral Road. It is 15 miles from this turnoff back to highway 24 near Caineville. The landscape is mostly flat for this route, up until the last third as it works its way down along Caineville Wash and passes through more of a painted desert landscape similar to the one the loop started with. The dirt road ends at highway 24 – the small town of Caineville is to the left and Capitol Reef is to the right.

Cathedral Valley Loop Drive

We completed the entire 57.6 mile loop and it took us about 6 hours, including our stop for a picnic lunch. With the time we had left in our day, we went back to Capitol Reef and enjoyed some more of the national park. I was so pleased to finally get to see the monoliths of Cathedral Valley.

Caineville Sign, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Caineville Sign to non-river access

What if I Can’t Cross the River?

Having driven the entire loop, which I’m glad I did, I would not hesitate to visit the valley without doing the river crossing. Enter Cathedral Road just south of Caineville and go as far as the Upper Cathedral Valley Overlook or thereabouts. See all of this and then double back. The landscape is not that much different on the south part of the loop and you will see all the best parts of the trip for about the same mileage.

Cathedral Gorge

Don’t confuse Cathedral Valley with Cathedral Gorge. The latter is a state park in Nevada that features some nice eroded hills that is also worth a visit. Check out my article about Cathedral Gorge here.

Be a Careful Adventurer

Traffic to Cathedral Valley is light – we only encountered 3 other cars in 6 hours and this was in early June when visitation is approaching the busy season. Take plenty of water and food and make sure to gas up before making the journey. Having a shovel would likely be a good idea (we didn’t have one) and some emergency supplies to doctor anyone who gets hurt. The river crossing conditions can change dramatically with rain and the river crossing can be worse than we encountered, needing a true 4WD or even becoming impassible. Try speaking to the rangers – hopefully when conditions are really bad they will steer you away from it.

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

I have put hi-resolution pictures from our visit in order as we encountered them doing a clockwise trip through Cathedral Valley here.

Capitol Reef National Park

Cathedral Valley is part of the underappreciated Capitol Reef National Park. This park has varied experiences and landscapes for you to enjoy. Read all about it here.

Utah is a great state for sight-seeing and adventure. Read about other things to do in Utah here.

See my national park write-ups with excellent advice here.

Cathedral Valley Loop Road Gallery – Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Cathedral Valley is a little visited area in Capitol Reef National Park in Utah, United States. The most common way to visit it is to do drive the 57.6 mile loop road beginning with a Fremont river crossing and looping back to highway 24 near Caineville. It takes about 6 hours to do the whole loop with adequate time to stop and take in the sights.

The river crossing and navigating the other obstacles need to be considered carefully. I have written a companion article that goes into the needed details as well as what we encountered on our trip.

Below I have put some hi-resolution pictures from our trip. The pictures are in order as we experienced them doing the Cathedral Valley loop clockwise, which is the recommended way to do it. The area is very remote, so please read my detailed article to make sure you are prepared and know what you are signing up for. Despite the bit of extra effort, Cathedral Valley is well worth your time and you’ll have good memories of its vast landscape and towering scenic monoliths.

River Crossing Sign, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
River Crossing Sign
River Crossing Route, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
River Crossing Route

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

South Desert Overlook, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Lower South Desert Overlook
South Desert Overlook, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Lower South Desert Overlook

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Upper South Desert Overlook, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Upper South Desert Overlook
Upper Cathedral Valley Overlook, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Upper Cathedral Valley Overlook
Upper Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Upper Cathedral Valley

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Gypsum Sinkhole, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Gypsum Sinkhole

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Temple of the Sun, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Glass Mountain, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Glass Mountain with Temple of the Sun
Glass Mountain, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Glass Mountain with Temple of the Sun
Glass Mountain, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
King of Glass Mountain
Temple of the Sun, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Temple of the Sun
Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Temple of the Sun
Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Temples of the Moon and Sun

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Caineville Sign, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Caineville Sign at Access to Cathedral Valley Road

Read my detailed article on Cathedral Valley here.

Cathedral Valley is part of the underappreciated Capitol Reef National Park. This park has varied experiences and landscapes for you to enjoy. Read all about it here.

Utah is a great state for sight-seeing and adventure. Read about other things to do in Utah here.

See my national park articles with excellent advice here.

Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Peek-a-Boo 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. This Peek-a-Boo slot canyon should not be confused with the less well known Peek-a-Boo slot canyon near Kanab, which is more commonly known as Red Canyon slot. 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, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon

Tough start

Entrance Cliff, Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Entrance to Peek-a-Boo

After hiking down from the parking area to the wash, the entrance to Peek-a-Boo slot is a 15 foot scramble up a cliff. There are moki steps cut in a few places, but this is the hardest scramble up for the slot. Any fit person should be able to make this, although a helpful hand or push up might be needed. My wife is afraid of heights and this was a real trial for her. We pushed and pulled her and managed to get her to the top. Falls from here could result in a pretty good blow, so please start your adventure here carefully.

Peek-a-Boo Slot

Once you are up this initial cliff, you will see the twin arches for which this canyon gets its name.  There are a few more small arches along this route as well. The walls switch back and forth in a wonderful meandering way that make this a great hike, but the scrambling is not over. There is another spot where there is about a 6 foot wall to ascend, the base of which is often full of water. On our trip, there was a friendly scout leader who gave us a hand up – by stepping on a narrow ledge and grasping the hand, we were able to reach the top. My wife failed to make the step, and dropped into the murky water, getting herself wet from her shorts down. Please be careful here as well.

Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon

After this spot, the remaining scrambling was much easier. The beauty of the slot continued to impress and it was quite enjoyable.

Watch for your exit

The canyon will open a bit wider a time or two, but continue on – more slots await farther upstream. Eventually, it will start opening up and shallowing up. If you are only doing Peek-a-Boo, this is your cue to turn around and double back. You will have to jockey for position at times with the traffic coming up stream. If you are continuing to Spooky slot canyon, which is my recommendation, then exit to the right and head overland in that direction. There is a trace of a trail and an occasional cairn of stones, but it isn’t very well marked. Not to worry – if you go straight, you will come to the wide wash that leads to Spooky Slot canyon.

Spooky Slot Canyon

Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Peek-a-Boo near time to exit

Go downstream (right) down this wide, sandy wash and you will reach the Spooky Slot canyon. Read about it here.

Directions

To access to Peek-a-Boo 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.

High Clearance

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.

Challenging Trail

Map Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Spooky Slot Canyon
Map Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Spooky Slot Canyon

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.

Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon

Besides the heat, you will have to do quite a bit of scrambling and climbing up small cliffs and up and down boulders. The initial cliff is the highest, but there are a couple of others that are a bit challenging to the unfit. A couple of spots can hold water for a long time after rain, so getting your legs and feet wet is a possibility.

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 this 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.

Fat Man’s Squeeze

Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon Squeeze

On top of that, there are places in these slots 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 over-sized 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.

Trail Back

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.

Be Careful

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.

Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Peek-a-Boo

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 are nearby and is worth the hike, but is less dramatic (and less challenging) than the other slots.

Map Brimstone Gulch Slot Canyon
Map Brimstone Gulch Slot Canyon

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 Spooky Slot Canyon, go here.

Read about all the slot canyons I have visited here.

 

Spooky Slot Canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

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.

Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon

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

Downstream Entrance to Spooky Slot Canyon
Downstream Entrance to Spooky Slot Canyon

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

Spooky Gorge Wash, Upstream from Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Gorge Wash, Upstream from Slot Canyon

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.

Boulder scramble

Rockfall, Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah
Rockfall you have navigate down

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

Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Canyon is very narrow

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.

Directions

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.

High Clearance

Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon Light Beams

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.

Challenging Trail

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.

Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon Mini-arch

Trail Back

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.

Be Careful

Map Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Spooky Slot Canyon
Map Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Spooky Slot Canyon

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.

Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon

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.

Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyon Gallery – in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Peek-a-Boo slot canyon and Spooky Slot canyon are a great pair of slots that can be experienced in a 3.5 mile loop trail. Located in Utah in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument along the Hole in the Rock road, each is impressive in its own right, and I recommend you see both. Peek-a-Boo slot has several small arches that are its claim to fame, while Spooky Slot canyon is famous for how narrow and tall are its winding passages.

This trail is not trivial but can be done by anyone in decent physical shape who can do a bit of climbing and is not afraid of heights or is too large. Read all the details about in my articles about Peek-a-Boo slot canyon and Spooky slot canyon.

Below are some hi-resolution images taken from our hike through these nice slots. They are in order as you will encounter them if you do the recommended loop going up stream through Peek-a-Boo slot canyon and downstream through Spooky Slot canyon.

Trail to Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Trail to Slot Canyons
Entrance Cliff, Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Entrance Cliff to Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, navigating water spot
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon near end of slot
Overland from Peek-a-Boo Slot to Spooky Slot Canyon
Overland from Peek-a-Boo Slot to Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Gorge Wash, Upstream from Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Gorge Wash, Upstream from Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Rockfall, Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah
Rockfall that has to be navigated to get into Spooky Canyon from upstream
Rockfall, Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah
Navigating Rockfall, Spooky Slot Canyon
Rockfall, Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah
Rockfall from below, Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, Spooky Gulch, Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Spooky Slot Canyon nearing exit
Spooky Slot Canyon Exit
Spooky Slot Canyon Exit
Downstream Entrance to Spooky Slot Canyon
Downstream Entrance/Exit to Spooky Slot Canyon

To read an article detailing all the slot canyons I have visited, go here.

 

Goblin Valley State Park – Rock Hoodoos to Explore

Goblin Valley State Park in Utah is a fun little park worth a stop for an hour or two. It is located in remote country but will be along your route if you are travelling between Arches National Park or Canyonlands National Park and Capital Reef National Park. It is tailor made for younger kids through teenagers but adults will enjoy it as well.

Goblin Valley State Park Sign, Utah

Goblins, Goblins

The park is named for the thousands of oddly eroded sandstone rocks or hoodoos that fill the area. They are in such profusion that it would take all day to see them all, if then. But walking amongst them will reveal rocks in shapes that beg to be named or identified. Many look like goblins or alien heads and animals ranging from caterpillars to turtles. No matter what, you will see things you want to explore. Climbing on the rocks is a fun challenge for kids, but please have a careful adventure as falls could lead to injury.

Hot, Hot, Hot

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Goblin’s Valley gets very hot in the summer months. Please take plenty of water. There is a decent primitive bathroom near the goblins and the entrance station where the entrance fee of $10 is collected has a better one.

Goblin’s Lair or Chamber of the Basilisk

Once known only to a few, the Goblin’s Lair (or alternately called Chamber of the Basilisk) is a slot canyon that can be repelled into but there is also a route to hike in. It has grown increasingly popular in recent years. Read about it here.

Galaxy Quest

The comedy Galaxy Quest utilized this other-worldly landscape for the movie. Here are a couple of clips that were filmed in Goblin Valley. Don’t worry, there are no real rock monsters there (that I know of!).

Galaxy Quest Goblin Valley Clip 1              Clip 2

Respect the Goblins

While enjoying Goblin Valley, please don’t deface or damage any of the landscape that has taken so long to be created, unlike these idiot boy scout leaders.

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Nearby Slot Canyons

The San Rafael Swell is just to the west of Goblin Valley, and besides having lots of hiking options and natural bridges, it is well known for slot canyons. I haven’t had a chance to do any yet, a few to look for that are nearby and pretty easy to get to are Bell/Little Wild Horse, Ding/Dang, and Crack/Chute. The most visited due to its beauty and ease of exploring is Little Wild Horse Canyon. Check out my article on slot canyons.

Directions

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Goblin Valley is about 100 miles west of Moab, Utah. From I-70, take exit 149 to go south on highway 24. Drive 50 miles and you will see a turnoff to your right for Goblin Valley State Park. You have to drive another 12 miles or so after turning off of UT-24.

If travelling from the west, Goblin Valley is about 60 miles from Capitol Reef National Park.

Read about other fun things to do in Utah here.

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah