What if we told you that there is a criminally underrated city in Utah? Enter Escalante, your new favorite spot. Here’s why.
Escalante might not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of Utah, but this city offers the intrepid adventurer plenty of unique charms, especially in the form of canyoneering and classic Utahn hiking.
Utah’s Mighty Five are usually the go-to’s for newbies, but experienced explorers who’ve seen it all might be looking for something else — and they’ll find it in Escalante.
One of Escalante’s biggest claims to fame is the Grand Staircase National Monument (more on that in a moment), known for its labyrinths of sandstone slot canyons and hiking bliss. It also has a rich history which has left traces on its crusty face and is a delight for tourists to stumble upon by accident or design.
Have we got your attention yet? Read on to discover some of the best things to do in Escalante while you’re there.
Need a place to stay? Escalante Yurts offers a luxury glamping experience like no other, complete with breakfast and private bathrooms.
Top 5 Things to Do in Escalante
Trek the Slot Canyons at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
It’s no secret that slot canyons can be challenging… But the unusual landscape and colors of rock formations they offer are breathtaking.
Two of the most popular slot canyons near Escalante are Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyon.
Spooky’s 0.9-mile-long passageways are a little more confining. So if the thought of squeezing through stomach-sucking-in spaces makes your anxiety rise, head for Peek-A-Boo. It’s only a 0.7-mile round trip and is one of the most beautiful slot canyon experiences around the area, which you can also explore on a tour.
The hike to these slot canyons is 4.2 miles with a 615-foot elevation gain, and the steep ascent and descent can pack a punch to your thighs. But don’t worry, as long as you are relatively fit, this hike isn’t too difficult.
Tip: Never attempt a slot canyon hike when rain is in the forecast due to the dangers of flash flooding.
Cool Off at Calf Creek
Odds are that when you visit Escalante it’s going to be HOT. You’ll be glad to know then that a perennial stream that flows through the barren desert, Calf Creek forms a small oasis with two different waterfalls before joining the water of the Escalante River.
The waterfalls are about 5.5 miles apart, with Lower Calf Creek Falls being the more popular of the two. This is probably thanks to its impressive 100-foot journey down mineral-stained rocks into the delightful pool below. It’s the perfect picnic spot to cool down in the desert heat.
The Upper Calf Creek hike, albeit steeper, offers more vistas of the Grand Staircase and a top-down view of a crystal-clear emerald pool by its small waterfall.
See the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
In Escalante, things to do should include a trip to the unique Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. It’s situated just a few minutes outside of town, so there’s no excuse not to.
Only one 2-mile round-trip loop runs through the park with a 500-foot elevation gain. It passes picture-perfect views of the Wide Hollow Reservoir and the “Sleeping Rainbows,” the most concentrated section of colorful petrified wood on the hike. There are also dinosaur, plant, and marine fossils at the park.
Visit the 100 Hands Pictograph
Between Boulder and Escalante, you’ll find the 100 Hands Pictographs on a rock overlooking the Escalante River.
The trailhead begins just past the ‘No Parking’ road off Scenic Highway 12. You’ll quickly reach the base of the cliff band, where the short climb begins. There are several weak pictographs here if you want to look for them.
Otherwise, further on, you’ll encounter the Snake, the Shaman, the Bighorn Panel, the Hunter Panel, and the 100 Hands Panel. It only takes 0.5 miles to reach and is a short walk, so you can easily fit it into your day.
Backpack Through Coyote Gulch
When it comes to things to do, Escalante has a lush secret hidden beneath its crusty desert top — Coyote Gulch. It’s an oasis of greenery and trees with otherworldly rock formations and wildlife sprinkled throughout.
The most impressive landmark within its embrace is Jacob Hamblin Arch. It’s 150 feet wide and 100 feet tall, towering over you as you walk beneath the deep-ombre stone. Talk about incredible!
Brilliant Things to See & Do in Escalante
Take a Day Trip to Bryce Canyon
There are many incredible things to do at Bryce Canyon National Park, making it the perfect day trip from Escalante.
Hiking the Navajo Loop or the Queen’s Garden Trail are ways to spend your time there or simply watch the sun rise or set over an ocean of orange hoodoos from Sunset Point.
The Scenic Drive is also a must, especially if you use the self-drive tour, as is a glorious moment or five soaking in the vistas at Inspiration Point. Luckily Bryce is only about an hour outside of Escalante, so you can fit in a fair amount of activities in one day.
Visit the Devil’s Garden
It’s not as terrifying as it sounds. We promise. The Devil’s Garden is named for its intense heat and lack of shade rather than any ghoulishness.
Many of its fascinating rock formations are rather whimsical, really — ones shaped like giant mushrooms, sandstone arches, and even some jagged hoodoos are all there. Scrambling up and over the rocks makes for a fun afternoon, or you could follow one of the mile-long trails that lead through the Garden.
Take a Day Trip to Capitol Reef
Escalante just happens to be close to the famous Capitol Reef National Park, so why not take advantage of that?
The Cassidy Arch is a popular tourist stop, as are the orchards where you can harvest your own fruit and view the petroglyphs. The many things to do in Capitol Reef are wonderful and varied, offering a park experience like no other.
Better yet, Capitol Reef is about 90 minutes’ drive from Escalante, making it a perfect day trip opportunity.
Unique Things to See & Do in Escalante: Hidden Gems That are Off the Beaten Track
Do the Scenic Drive
Hell’s Backbone Scenic Drive is one of the most beautiful in the state. It’s between Boulder Mountain on the north and Escalante River’s tributaries to the south. The terrain includes red and orange rugged sandstone formations bristling with a desert brush.
Take care – in one area of the road, you’ll be driving along a Hogsback, a thin strip of land with steep declines on either side. But overall, it’s a safe ride, especially in the dry summer.
Dine at Hell’s Backbone Grill
Just a 30-minute drive away in the middle of nowhere is a James Beard-nominated restaurant named Hell’s Backbone Grill.
They take farm-to-table seriously — just as seriously as they take the quality of their melt-in-your-mouth cuisine. Expect craft cocktails and delightfully decorated dishes that are, quite frankly, delicious with farm-fresh ingredients.
Things to Do in Escalante: Practical Tips for Your Trip
How Long to Visit in Escalante?
2-3 days is the perfect amount of time to see the highlights Escalante offers. If you’re a hiking enthusiast and plan to include nearby parks like Bryce and Capitol Reef in your visit, you might find 5-7 days suits you more.
Best Time to Visit Escalante?
If you ask us, Fall is the best time to visit Escalante. October to November brings stable, sunny weather with clear days and cool nights.
The spring months, from March to May, are also quite popular amongst visitors. Though, it goes without saying, hotel rates will start to creep up at this time.
Where Should I Stay in Escalante?
Slot Canyons Inn B&B (Mid-Range)
This charming B&B is a rustic home away from home. With a cozy seating area and air-conditioning in every room, Slot Canyons Inn also boasts a restaurant, shared lounge, and terrace.
Free private parking and Wi-Fi is offered, and most rooms come with a spa bath for ultimate relaxation.
Canyon Country Lodge (Luxury)
Canyon Country Lodge offers guests total luxury with a fitness center, on-site restaurant, indoor pool, and hot tub.
There are flat-screen TVs, air-conditioning in each of the modern rooms, as well as free Wi-Fi. Relax on the sun terrace and soak in mountain views after indulging in the hotel’s delicious buffet or American breakfast.
Recommended Tours in Escalante
- Utah: Grand Staircase-Escalante Self-Guided Driving Tour
- From Kanab: 3-Hour Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon Hiking Tour