An Oasis in the Desert
Lower Calf Creek Falls is one of the prettiest places in Utah. Imagine a roaring 126ft. waterfall tucked into a gorgeous redrock canyon. In a desert known for ruthless temperatures and bone-dry landscapes, it's pretty magical.
I love it. But ... so does everyone else driving along Highway 12. The 5.4-mile trek to the falls is probably the busiest hike in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. It's one of the few hikes in the region you can access from a paved, signed, well-marked road. In an area famous for its remote solitude, Calf Creek can feel a bit like Disneyland. Even mid-week, we had to share the path with dozens of other hikers. I had to constantly remind myself not to be such a wilderness snob and ignore the GIGANTIC GROUP OF MBA STUDENTS SCREAMING ABOUT THEIR WORKLOAD (ahem ... sorry.)
But it's worth it. Just look.
Lower Calf Creek Falls is definitely the most accessible hike in GSENM -- think a paved trailhead, signs, a designated campground, restrooms, and drinking water. From the town of Escalante, UT drive east along Highway 12 for 16.3 miles until you reach the Calf Creek Campground. The trailhead is near the back of the campground. (GPS coordinates: 37.79573, -111.41359.) Use an envelope at the fee station to pay your $5 (an annual fed pass works, too,) put your dog on a leash, and start trekking.
Navigation to Calf Creek Falls is really straightforward. From the trailhead, start hiking along the path the runs parallel to Calf Creek. The hike is 5.4 miles, round-trip. It's fairly easy and elevation gain is minimal, although there are some sandy sections. Grab a free trail guide and keep an eye out for Fremont graneries and pictographs (mile-markers 0.9 and 1.6.) After 2.7 miles, Calf Creek Canyon abruptly ends at the waterfall. Glorious. Take a few minutes to gawk before returning the way you came.