Goblin Valley and Escalante
After our trip here in 2014, we were excited to plan an eventual trip back to Southern Utah. With many areas of the desert being very crowded and developed (Bryce, Zion, Page, etc), Escalante is a relatively uncrowded refreshing tiny town offering a plethora of outstanding adventure hiking.
With a lull in snow and warm weather, we opted to join Chris’ family on a camping trip around Escalante. Seeking a cure for a little Cabin Fever, we were excited to get out camping.
Although most recently famous for a group of Boy Scouts that toppled a hoodoo, Utah’s Goblin Valley is a mini-Bryce Canyon and is nonetheless beautiful. It is perfectly situated to visit on the way further south to Escalante.
After a late start to our drive, we arrived in Goblin Valley close to sunset. The valley behind the state park has excellent dispersed camping tucked back in towards cliff faces. We initially settled on a site that was apparently “marked” with a shipping palate (usually dispersed sites are ‘marked’ with usual camping things such as tents, chairs, etc). After moving to an “unmarked” spot we set camp right at sunset. Goblin Valley is famous for its dark sky, which did not disappoint with an insane starry sky we enjoyed a from the comfort of a nearby campfire.
The following morning, I photographed a stunning sunrise inside the state park. After eating breakfast, we returned to the park for a quick hike. We were happy to get out on the trail and stretch our legs on a quick ~3 mile trip. On returning back to the parking lot, we were surprised to see it packed full with Spring Break revelers. Disappointingly, Goblin Valley allows humans everywhere – including climbing on top of hoodoos!
Following our brief foray into Goblin Valley, we made our way to Escalante. After an impromptu picnic with my parents at Capitol Reef National Park – we lazily made our way to Escalante. Once in town, we found our watering hole for the next few days at Escalante Outfitters – which is a do-it-all store with retail, a bar (serving Utahan 4% beer), and restaurant. Although our usual camping preference is dispersed, our basecamp the next several days was Petrified Forest State Park near Escalante where we were joined by Chris’ family.
The next day, we explored a few slot canyons off “hole-in-the-rock” road – which is a dirt road leading 52 miles along some of the best canyon country in the desert southwest. Although we have explored them before, Peek-a-boo and Spooky Canyons offer a relatively easy and short introduction into Slot Canyons. After squeezing our way through Spooky Canyon, we headed back to the car and a relaxing evening in camp.
While Chris’ family hiked to Lower Calf Creek Falls, we opted for a hike new to us! The hike to Golden Cathedral is a classic desert hike. The trail is unmarked (there are many unofficial, “social trails”) and offers a few rewarding challenges such as basic navigation, river crossing, and a canyon to explore. The Golden Cathedral is a stunning rock formation that features 3 arches carved by flash floods. We ate a quick lunch there and then backtracked our way to the trailhead, this time opting for a more direct route.
The following day, we went on another slot canyon hike – this time to the extremely photogenic Zebra Canyon. Appropriately named, the linear rock striations are reminiscent of a zebra! This “family friendly” canyon was slightly more challenging than anticipated with young kids and my parents in tow. The water pools and tight canyon walls required shuttling dogs and packs, however, the payoff was well worth it! After drying in the warm sun, we then hiked over to Tunnel Slot canyon – which was not nearly as pretty as Zebra. That evening, Katie and I camped at Capitol Reef National Park on our way back towards Denver.
Utah’s Desert offers some of the most spectacular scenery around – and its weather is often perfect to cure the cabin fever at the end of winter. Escalante remains ‘off the beaten path’ compared to its more well known desert rivals – Page and Zion/Bryce.
Pros: awesome scenery, great weather. The hike to Golden Cathedral was an awesome classic desert adventure
Cons: the trip ended!