Featured Hike: Zebra Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

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Featured Hike: Zebra Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Admire the pink and white-striped walls of this stunning slot canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The out-and-back Zebra slot canyon hike, one of the prettiest in Utah, is one you won’t soon forget. In fact, the entire national monument area is one of the country’s most rugged and remote places to hike. There’s Buckskin Gulch, one of the world’s longest slot canyons and The Canyons of Escalante, including Calf Creek Falls, Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulch slot canyons and Coyote Gulch.

Zebra Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument: The Details

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Location: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Distance: 5.3 miles roundtrip

Elevation gain: 25 feet

Time: 3-4 hours


Directions: Drive down Hole in the Rock Road outside Escalante. The trailhead is about 8 miles down the road.


What Is the Zebra Canyon Hike Like?
Cross the road and find the well-marked path near a cattle guard. You’ll walk along this path for about 45 minutes before coming to the entrance of the slot canyon where it connects to Harris Wash. As you hike, the canyon becomes narrower and narrower. You may even find pools of water waist deep in places, depending on the season and recent rainfall. After walking 15 minutes up the canyon, you’ll arrive at the Zebra section, where there is a small dryfall and a large pothole.


The hike is exposed with little shade for most of the way and can get extremely hot in the summer. For the most comfortable weather, visit in spring or fall. Always carry more than enough water.


You can add on a hike to Tunnel Slot Canyon while you’re here. Go down the Harris Wash about 20-30 minutes from Zebra Canyon to the first side canyon that comes in on the left. Hike this side canyon about 10 minutes to reach the Tunnel Slot Canyon.

Other Hikes in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument


Spooky Slot Canyon/Spooky Gulch

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Located on the Hole in the Rock Road 26 miles south of Escalante, Utah, the Spooky Slot Canyon hike is famous for how dark it gets when you’re deep in it, as well as its very narrow walls.


To get there, turn off Highway 12 onto Hole in the Rock Road and drive 26 miles to Dry Fork Road. When the Dry Fork turnoff branches, stay left to reach the Dry Fork Overlook.


Consider combining Spooky Gulch with Peek-a-boo Gulch for a loop hike. It’s recommended that you hike Peek-a-boo Gulch first, heading north, then exit and hike overland toward the east for a half-mile until you reach the streambed above Spooky Gulch. You’ll then follow the Spooky Slot Canyon back to Dry Fork. The whole loop is about 3.5 miles long.

Calf Creek Falls

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Find the Calf Creek Falls Trailhead at the Calf Creek Campground on Highway 12, 11 miles south of Boulder, Utah, and 15 miles east of Escalante, Utah. The hike between mineral-striped cliffs of Navajo sandstone and past prehistoric rock art sites will lead you to the 130-foot-tall Lower Calf Creek Fall. Take a dip in the deep swimming hole and admire the lush greenery all around, a verdant desert oasis surrounded by tall, multi-colored sandstone walls. The Upper Calf Creek Falls are 88 feet high; you can swim here as well, usually with a smaller crowd. Bring water shoes, sun protection and plenty of water.


Devils Garden
This hike can be found 12 miles south of Highway 12 on Hole in the Rock Road and Escalante, Utah.

Coyote Gulch

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The remote Coyote Gulch hike is located in the Grand Staircase Escalante desert. It is recommended as an overnight backpacking trip, although it is possible to do it one, very long day. Follow the winding, somewhat narrow slot canyon through vibrant red rock. Eventually the canyon meets up with the Escalante River above Lake Powell. It’s a strenuous, 11.5-mile roundtrip hike. Along the way, you’ll come to Crack in the Rock, where you can shimmy through a cliff to a sand dune below. You’ll also see the 225-foot-wide, 160-foot-tall Stevens Arch. At the 8-mile mark, you’ll pass the Coyote Natural Bridge. And before heading back to up Forty Mile Gulch, you’ll reach the Jacob Hamblin Arch.



Golden Cathedral-Neon Canyon
This fairly technical hike requires a fair amount of navigational skill. The unique destination is worth the effort. The Cathedral is found ¾ of a mile up Neon Canyon – look for the domed pour-off from the upper Neon Canyon. The water has dug three separate pothole arches in the overhang. When the sun is just right, it shines down the arches in golden columns – giving it that ethereal cathedral ambience.


Round Valley Draw
A spectacular slot canyon in, Round Valley Draw is found southeast of Cannonville and the Kodachrome Basin State Park within Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. You’ll be enclosed within the canyon for most of the route. Notice the beautiful striation of the canyon walls.


Escalante River to Natural Bridge
This is a great intro hike for those new to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Find the Escalante River Trailhead off Scenic Byway 12, north of the Boynton Overlook. You’ll get your feet wet as you cross the river several times and see everything from petroglyphs to arches to a cliff dwelling to the natural bridge.


Willis Creek Slot Canyon
This out-and-back slot canyon hike showcases the incredible diversity of the geology of Grand Staircase Escalate National Monument. Wide as far as slot canyons go, this is a great hike on which to find some shade on hot summer days. Avoid it in late summer as there can be flash floods during monsoon season. Find the trailhead off Scenic Byway 12 on a dirt road best for 4WD vehicles.


The best time for any of these hikes and others within Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is early spring and fall to avoid extreme summer heat and flash floods in late summer. These day hikes to not require a permit, however, you will need to secure one at a visitor center if you are camping or backpacking.

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