Calf Creek, a south-flowing tributary of the Escalante River, has carved a deep canyon into the Navajo Sandstone and Kayenta Formations. Within the canyon are two beautiful waterfalls, Upper and Lower Calf Creek Falls. This easy, popular trail travels along scenic Calf Creek Canyon and leads to the base of the stunning lower falls set amid a shady oasis.
This is not a trail for hikers looking for solitude. The path gets quite crowded during the height of the spring/fall season and on weekends.
To Lower Calf Creek Falls
From the day use parking area for Lower Calf Creek Falls, located 15.6 miles northeast of Escalante, Utah (see driving directions below), walk north/northeast along the paved road for 0.1 miles to the beginning of the signed trail to Calf Creek Falls on the left. (The trailhead is located near the point where the road curves to the right (east) and drops down to and crosses Calf Creek on a bridge to access the camping area along the east side of the creek.)
At the trailhead pickup up an interpretive brochure that provides information about the canyon and points out the location of two granaries and a pictograph panel. The wide, boot beaten path travels up canyon on easy grades along the west side of perennial Calf Creek, passing through grasses, sagebrush, rabbitbrush, copses of Gambel Oak, pinyons and junipers. Multihued Navajo sandstone cliffs, decorated with desert varnish, line the scenic canyon.
As up hike, watch for numbered markers corresponding to the sites in the interpretive brochure. At 0.9 miles stop at marker #6. Look across to the west side of the canyon. Near the top of the sandstone wall is a narrow alcove with a granary.
An interesting pictograph panel is located at 1.4 miles (stop #9) in a bay along the west side of the canyon. To find the panel look at the light color sandstone along the lower section of the west wall, just to the left of the long lines of desert varnish that extend from the top to the bottom of the cliff face. Here you will see three large red anthropomorphic (human-like) figures holding hands. Each is wearing a headdress.
At 1.8 miles stop at marker #10, which points out the location of a granary in a small side canyon along the east side of the canyon. The ruin is located in a shallow, south-facing alcove about half-way up the canyon wall. Binoculars or the zoom lens of a camera will help you to see the white pictographs along the top of the alcove.
Beyond marker #10, the canyon begins to constrict and sections of the trail now travel along the side of the creek. If you look carefully you should be able to spot trout darting about the shallows.
As you proceed up canyon the vegetation becomes more verdant. Copses of birches, gable oaks and box elders grow along the canyon floor providing some welcome shade on a hot day. The lovely green foliage offers a stunning contrast to the white, pink, terracotta, tan and brown shades of the sheer sandstone walls.
Follow the trail as it passes besides a series of small beaver ponds and then curves to the left (northwest). As you round a curve views open to the spectacular falls tumbling 126-ft. down a slickrock cliff into a large plunge pool. Spray from the falls and dripping seeps support mosses and small hanging gardens along the walls. The pool is surrounded a sandy beach and birch trees that offer shady spots to sit and enjoy this stunning location.
Be aware that you will not be alone. This is an extremely popular trail. The area around the falls can be quite crowded, and at times noisy, with people frolicking in the pool on a hot day. This is not a good trail for people seeking solitude.
The popularity of the hike can also translate into parking problems. The day use area fills quickly during the season and on weekends. It is best to get an early start to nab parking spot and beat the crowds.
The hike can be hot, especially during summer months, and hikers should carry adequate water. Sections of the trail are quite sandy, which slows progress. Dogs must be leashed at all times.
From Escalante, UT: From the intersection of Main Street and Center Street in downtown Escalante, drive east on Utah 12 E (Main Street) for 15.6 miles. Turn left (northwest) into the Calf Creek Recreation Area and proceed down the hill to the day use parking area. Hikers are charged $2.00 per vehicle to park. This is a very popular trail and the parking area can get quite crowded.
From Boulder, UT: From the intersection of the Burr Trail Road and Utah 12 (near the Burr Trail Grill), head south on Utah 12 W for 11.3 miles. Turn right (northwest) into the Calf Creek Recreation Area and proceed down the hill to the day use parking area. Hikers are charged $2.00 per vehicle to park. This is a very popular trail and the parking area can get quite crowded.
South Central Utah
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