Sunday, May 19, 2013

Escalante, Utah - Slot Canyons

Roger and I spent last weekend enjoying the perfect Springtime weather by exploring some of the best places that Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has to offer.  We left Salt Lake on Thursday evening for the five hour drive to Escalante in south central Utah where I had reserved a convenient campsite in Escalante Petrified Forest State Park.  As we passed over Boulder Mountain on the drive south, we were treated to a spectacular sunset with views across Capitol Reef National Park.

Sunset on Boulder Mountain

After a great breakfast, we broke camp on Friday morning and headed down Hole in the Rock Road with a backcountry permit and plans to explore Zebra and Tunnel slots canyons as well as find a place to camp for  Friday night.  Some trail guides make these canyons sound difficult to find, but there was a well established  trail from a parking area along Hole in the Rock Road leading directly to Upper Harris Wash.  Once in the main wash, there were enough footprints to make the location of Zebra Slot Canyon fairly obvious.  Still, the GPS was useful to confirm we were heading up the right drainage from Harris Wash.

Roger exploring a dryfall and pothole.

Along the trail to Zebra Slot Canyon

The fun began as soon as we reached Zebra Slot Canyon.  The canyon narrowed up and water presented itself immediately.  Trail guides seem to indicate there is almost always water in the canyon, but recent thunderstorms meant that water levels we running on the high side.  There were a few minor obstacles to crawl over which were only difficult because we were often in water over our waists, but overall this was a spectacular and easy canyon to explore.

Wading into Zebra Slot Canyon

Zebra Slot Canyon

Roger works his way through the canyon

Zebra Slot Canyon

Zebra Slot Canyon

Zebra Slot Canyon

After enjoying Zebra Slot Canyon, we walked down Harris Wash to find Tunnel Slot Canyon.  This was another fantastic, short slot with lots of water to add to the fun.  This canyon was deeper with the water being about chest high in one spot.  After the main tunnel section, the canyon opens up a bit but remains beautiful and worth exploring.  We finally turned around for the return trip back through the cold water of the tunnel before sunning and drying ourselves on the rocks and hiking back to the trail head.

Roger in Tunnel Slot Canyon

Tunnel Slot Canyon

 Roger trying to avoid the deep water

Flowering yuccas in Harris Wash

After a fun day at Zebra and Tunnel slots, we headed off to the Harris Wash trailhead to find a place to camp for the night.  We found a great spot about a half mile from the trailhead and enjoyed a great dinner and a walk along Harris Wash before calling it a day.

Awesome company for a fun adventure

Harris Wash

Camping near Harris Wash

We spent Saturday hiking from our camp near the Harris Wash through a portion of Red Breaks Canyon, another slot canyon that doesn't receive much in the way of hiker traffic.  This canyon was much longer than either Zebra or Tunnel and presented many obstacles to overcome along the way.  Some trail guides indicate this canyon is generally dry, but we found water throughout most of the canyon on this trip.  Avoiding the water added another fun challenge to the hike.

Roger in Red Breaks Canyon

 Red Breaks Canyon

Red Breaks Canyon

 Red Breaks Canyon

A dryfall at the end of the main canyon

We returned to camp for a nap after hiking through Red Breaks Canyon and back down along the canyon  rim to Harris Wash.  Although our campsite was great, there wasn't much shade and it was too hot and sunny to be hanging around camp.  We decided to check out Devil's Playground a few miles south on Hole in the Rock Road  and spend our last night camping back at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park.  We took the opportunity to hike the petrified wood trail within the park, my first time despite several trips to this park to camp.

Whipple's Fishhook

Cottonwood Trees are my favorites

 Metate Arch at Devil's Playground


Petrified wood

 Petrified wood

Sunset at Wide Hollow

On Sunday, before returning to Salt Lake, we did two must-do things in the Escalante area:  breakfast and coffee at Kiva Koffeehouse and a short hike to Upper Calf Creek Falls.  It was a great ending to a perfect weekend - thank you Roger!