Slot canyons of the Escalante River and its tributaries.
Although associated with the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
, most of the Escalante River and its countless tributaries are within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
, and some of the more southerly side canyons are best explored by boat as the lower 15 miles of the river are now part of Lake Powell
. The only vehicular access to the area is from the north, primarily via the Hole-in-the-Rock Road
on the west side of the river, starting along UT 12, five miles east of Escalante. The upper reaches are crossed by Highway 12, the Burr Trail
, and several lesser tracks, while the Wolverine Road
gives access to some canyons in the northeast, but the southeast region adjoining the lake is completely unreachable by road - the Waterpocket Fold
forms a barrier to the east while the land is too uneven to the north, hence this is one of the most remote, least visited areas of Utah.
Besides its famous canyons, the Escalante region has a number of impressive arches and natural bridges, plus many springs, streams, sheer cliffs and ridges, sand dunes and desert plains, but mostly just vast expanses of colorful, eroded, layered slickrock, the dominant component being the familiar reddish Navajo sandstone
. The longer canyons are deep, sheer-walled but relatively wide, and often carry permanent water; the most visited locations (all with official trailheads) being Calf Creek, Coyote Gulch, Death Hollow
, Deer Creek, Harris Wash
, Hurricane Wash, Pine Creek ('The Box'), Twentyfive Mile Wash, The Gulch and the Escalante River
itself (the upper section), but there are many others. Those on the east side of the river are the deepest and hold a more significant amount of water, though the majority are wild, rarely explored and unnamed even on topographical maps.
The Escalante slot canyons are for the most part smaller drainages, tributaries of the main gorges, and there are many dozen if not several hundred of them - ranging from the quite long but not especially enclosed (eg Little Death Hollow
, Llewellyn Gulch
, Red Breaks
) to extreme slots so narrow that traversing requires stemming sometimes as much as 50 feet above the floor, in conjunction with the usual downclimbing, rappelling, wading and swimming.
Canyons such as Brimstone Gulch
(lower end), Davis Gulch
and Egypt 3
give an idea of the character of these places without need for technical equipment. Other good slots include, on the east side of the river, the canyons of Choprock, Neon
, Baker and Ringtail, or on the west side, Fortymile Creek, Willow Creek, Cottonwood Gulch, and many tributaries of Coyote Gulch and its Dry Fork. In most cases the main drainage has various different branches, all forming slot canyons.