Have you ever stood somewhere that made you feel incredibly small? This is exactly what would happen to you in Coyote Gulch, Escalante UT, every turn is another towering sheer canyon wall, or breathtaking natural arch. A powerful river has, for thousands of years, cut into the rock walls of Coyote Gulch to form this beautiful place and we get to experience all of it’s natural wonder. Lucky us!
This April, Adam and I took a 3 day 2 night backpacking trip to Coyote Gulch. Below I will share how we made it all happen!
We knew that we wanted to see as much of the canyon as we could in the alloted 3 days. We woke up early on day #1, packed up some last minute things and headed out for the 3 hour drive to Escalante, UT from our hometown St. George, UT.
Some Things To Keep In Mind
Check out our video here!
Permit and Waste Removal
Our plan was to stop in Escalante at the visitor center to get some canyon info and pick up our permit and wag bags. Permits for the canyon are free and can be filled out at the trailhead if you choose not to stop at the visitor center. However, an advantage of stopping here is to get any weather/canyon info and to pick up the $4 wag bags since you have to pack out all human waste from the canyon. What is a wag bag??? I had the same question! It is a biodegradable bag that is filled with this powder (particular polimyres and enzymes) that turns the waste to gel and starts the decay process. Most bags can be used twice, if you want to skip the stop to the visitor center in Escalante you can purchase them here (Tip: There is one toilet down in the canyon just past Cliff Arch, however; a portable toilet/bag is required for the hike into Coyote Gulch) Read more here
What trail to take?
Although we were staying multiple nights, we wanted the shortest hike into the canyon. We opted for the Jacob Hamblin trail, also known as the “sneaker route” or the “water tank trailhead.” It is about 38miles down Hole in the Rock Road, where you will turn left onto Forty Mile Ridge Road and travel about 7 miles down another dirt road and you will head left, right up to the water tower. The 2 mile hike to the canyon is beautiful, you will hike through sandy trails and then head slightly left of the butte where you will start your trek across beautiful rolling rock hills that reminded us of the surface of another planet.
This route is not for those with any fear of heights. There is a nearly 150ft scramble down a cliff to get into the canyon, and it was honestly a little nerve wracking with all that weight on our backs. There was a little blue nylon rope tied up to the cliff, however we didn’t use it because it was very dynamic and we were unsure of how long it had been sitting in the sun. It is recommended that you bring a 100ft of class 5 friction rope, and let me tell you.. I do wish we had it. We made it in and out just fine, but it would have felt a lot more secure with a rope.
Read more about the other trails here!
There are 6 landmarks that I feel are must sees down in the gulch, but really every turn is another amazing site!
#1- Jacob Hamblins Arch
This was my favorite spot of the entire canyon, we spent our first night here camped on a sandbar under some aspyn trees. I can’t quite describe the feeling of laying in the tent in Adams arms with the door unzipped and the fresh air breezing in, staring up at such a grand natural structure. The canyon walls here actually lean forward and were directly above us. The breaks between the earth and the sky were so crazy and messed with our perspective in the coolest way. (This is the arch pictured in the beginning of this post!)
#2- Coyote Natural Bridge
This is where Adam and I spent our second night camping. The river runs right under this natural bridge and there is a really nice bed of sand just after the bridge to set up camp.
#3- Indian Petroglyphs
We didn’t actually get the chance to hike up to these, but you can see them from the river, they are just past Coyote Natural Bridge on your left hand side. There are trails leading right up to them.
#4- The Black Lagoon
Just past the Petroglyphs on the left side of the river if you are heading down toward Escalante River, there is a little hidden trail that leads back to this beautiful lagoon. The river trickling down from the lagoon is seriously pretty gross, but the lagoon was not too bad, I took a little dip. I wanted to get in further but it was pretty chilly when we were there!
#5- Cliff Arch
This is the “tea cup handle” arch that hangs just off the mountain on the left side heading down to Escalante River. Keep a close eye out because there are some really beautiful waterfalls just before along the trail and we missed it at first! It wasn’t until our trek back that we noticed it!
#6- Nathans Arch
This arch is the hardest to reach, once you get to the Escalante River, there are some small hidden trails through the brush to the left. We didn’t actually go this way because we were running short on time, but we did get a nice view of the arch by climbing up “crack in the wall” trailhead. This will also save you from scrambling along the side of the river on some very steep pitched and slippery rocks.
What to Bring
Bellow is a list of what we brought and what we wished we had!
- Backpack to suit your needs. I have a Kelty and love it!
- Backpacking Tent. These tents are specially made for carrying for long distances. They are light and easy to set up. They also provide a lot of space for laying down. We wished we had one!
- Good water/hiking shoes! You will be in the river most of the hike, there is no avoiding it in some areas. You will get wet. I loved my barefoot merrells for this, they also provided awesome grip on those steep parts of the trail.
- Dehydrated meals! We were super impressed with these, they tasted so yummy and it was awesome to have a hot meal on the trail. We tried the Chicken and Dumplings, Beef Stew, and the Biscuits and gravy.
- Backpacking Stove! There are no campfires allowed in the gulch, so one of these is a must if you want to cook some food. They aren’t pricey and are super light to carry.
- Wag Bags! If you choose to stop at the visitor center, they sell these for $4.00 each, if you want to just grab your permit at the trailhead you can purchase these online. Each person in your party has to have their own!
- Last but not least, your camera! You will really want to capture some amazing photos down here. I was able to do it with my go pro which has a 14mm lens. It was so nice to have!
Have you done this hike or planning on doing this? Comment below and share you experience or questions with me!