Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Escalante, UT

  • Published 2022/11/07

Whether you’re going solo, on a couple retreat, or having a family getaway, the best things to do in Escalante, Utah, will treat you to an adventure.

This city lies in central Garfield County, along Utah Scenic Byway 12 (SR-12), in the south-central portion of Utah.

Silvestre Vélez de Escalante, a Franciscan missionary and part of the first European expedition into southern Utah, inspired the city’s name.

Escalante is home to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, one of the country’s most unusual landscapes.

Since its inception in 1996, Escalante has witnessed a significant rise in visitors, particularly during the spring and fall seasons.

Escalante is home to a plethora of lesser-known but definitely worth-it attractions, including waterfall hikes, scenic drives, and even slot canyons, all of which are perfect for road trippers visiting Utah.

Check out our list of the best things to do in Escalante, Utah.

Have a Picnic by Lower Calf Creek Falls

Tourist enjoying at Lower Calf Creek Falls

BlaineT /

The lengthy falls’ water cascades over 100 feet down mineral-stained rock, sprinkling revelers and the densely-packed vegetation alike as it creates a calm sanctuary.

At the base of the waterfall, there’s a swimming hole.

Remember that the area might resemble a waterpark during the summer months, especially on weekends, so prepare accordingly.

After bathing in the water and cooling off, a picnic or a lunch is a good idea before returning the way you came back.

Close up view of the falling water at Lower Calf Creek Falls


There are also several interesting stops along the path and a trail guide available at the trailhead.

This six-mile out-and-back trek isn’t very challenging, but it does lead to a stunning 126-foot waterfall.

At other times of the year, Lower Calf Creek Falls can get very crowded.

If possible, plan ahead and come early in the day.

Beautiful view of the Lower Calf Creek Falls

Kris Wiktor /

Climb the Upper Calf Creek Falls

Stagnant water beneath the Upper Calf Creek Falls

Jeremy Christensen /

During the busiest times of the year, the higher falls welcome respite from the crowds that swarm the region below.

Hiking up this route demands both strength in your hands and agility in your feet.

It’s best to avoid the Upper Falls trek if you have minors who can’t ascend the steep slope independently.

Because it is relatively level, the lower falls are ideal for families with young children.

Scenic view of the Upper Calf Creek Falls

Jeremy Christensen /

Upper Falls is a tranquil haven unlike any other in the world.

The swimming hole is complemented by a waterfall that cascades into it.

Refresh yourself with a dip in the crystal-clear water, or ascend to the rocky ledge above and dive in.

At the southern end of Hogsback, on Highway 12, you may find the Upper Falls trailhead.

Rocky landscape of Upper Calf Creek Falls

Arlene Waller /

Stop by Escalante Interagency Visitor Center

In Escalante, Utah, this visitor center is tucked away in the middle of the city.

It’s full of information about the geology and ecosystem of the nearly one million acres that make up the National Park.

Visitors will get the most out of their trip during their stay thanks to the friendly and well-informed staff.

The visitor center also has information on enjoying and exploring the Dixie National Forest and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and getting there.

One of the Department of Interior’s first Gold LEED-certified buildings, this center opened to the public in 2005.

It’s staffed by people from the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the Forest Service, and they work there.

Visit Devil’s Garden with Your Kids

Natural rock arch at Devil's Garden during sunset

Chris Curtis /

The Devil’s Garden is an excellent place for children to play.

They can climb and investigate the rocks in search of two arches.

Hole-in-the-Rock Road is a dirt road located off Scenic Route 12 near Escalante.

Scenic view of the sun setting in-between the arches /

A 4WD vehicle is recommended, and caution should be used if there is a risk of flooding.

The name “Devil’s Garden” comes from how hot it gets amid the rocks because there is little to no shade to be found.

If you’d want to stop for a bite to eat before continuing your journey, there are also some picnic tables nearby.

Tourist standing beneath the rock boulders at Devil's Garden

Barbara Ash /

Cap Off Your Day at 4th West Pub

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument’s single pub, 4th West Pub, is located on Scenic Highway 12.

Originally from Southern California, they relocated to Escalante in 2004 to work on a cattle ranch in the area.

They fell in love with Escalante as soon as they arrived for their job interview and knew it would be their new home.

Incorporating their appreciation of local history and culture, as well as a dash of California flair, Dave and Erin set out to create an environment where EVERYONE could feel at ease.

Locals and visitors may both enjoy this bar’s good vibes.

Play pool, read the paper, or listen to music while catching up on the latest local news.

All are welcome, whether it’s for an excellent beer, a fabulous cocktail, or even just a short lunch.

See the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park

View of Escalante Petrified Forest State Park with mountains in the background

Jose Arcos Aguilar /

The Escalante Interagency Visitor Center lies far from the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park.

The park’s name is derived from its abundance of petrified wood.

Many marine and plant fossils have been preserved by the process of petrification.

Here, you’ll find dinosaur fossils and a 50-foot petrified wood.

View of the landscape at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Utah

IrinaK /

Boating, canoeing, fishing, and water sports are popular Escalante Petrified Forest State Park activities.

An RV campsite and a large group area are available at the park.

There’s also a nice picnic place in the vicinity. Large petrified logs may be seen on the slope above the campsite.

The petrified woodland has a well-marked hiking track.

Petrified trees at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park

IrinaK /

Cross the Covered Wagon Natural Bridge

Consider making the short trip to Covered Wagon Natural Bridge when in the Escalante area.

A tributary of Alvey Wash may be seen from the quaint small bridge.

Cedar Wash Road may be reached from Proctor Road in Escalante.

There are 3.3 miles of gravel roads before getting to the trailhead on Cedar Wash Road.

Unless it rains, a conventional passenger automobile can navigate the route.

The trailhead is an unmarked pull-off with no signage.

There is a well-marked track that descends into a wash from the parking lot.

The natural bridge is only a short distance away if you turn left.

You can view a carved cave by going a bit deeper.

Return the way you came when you’re ready.

Drive along Hell’s Backbone Scenic Drive

Aerial view of Hell's Backbone Scenic Drive

Roman Khomlyak /

In Utah, the Hells Backbone Road is one of the state’s most beautiful drives.

With steep declines on both sides, it takes the form of a narrow Hogsback in one location.

It’s a bit rocky in places, and stormy weather may make it dangerous.

Rocks and trees at Hell's Backbone Scenic Drive

Roman Khomlyak /

This is an excellent option if you’re looking for a scenic drive.

Located between Boulder Mountain on the north and the Escalante River and its tributaries on the south, Hell’s Backbone is rugged terrain.

In dry weather, Hell’s Backbone Road is a safe gravel road for family vehicles.

Trees at the top of Hell's Backbone Scenic Drive

Roman Khomlyak /

Go Hiking at Wire Pass Trailhead to Buckskin Gulch

Dusty narrow road at Wire Pass Trailhead to Buckskin Gulch

Nella /

Buckskin Gulch may be reached from various trailheads, although the Wire Pass Trailhead is the most convenient for day hikes.

The day trip can be extended indefinitely by going up or downcanyon through Buckskin’s narrows.

There is no better slot canyon experience than Buckskin Gulch in canyon nation.

It’s a narrow, 100- to 200-foot-deep valley that encircles the gulch for 12.5 miles, surrounded by the Navajo Sandstone walls Navajo Sandstone.

Narrow path amidst the tall rock boulders at Wire Pass Trailhead to Buckskin Gulch /

Through Wire Pass, you’ll reach Buckskin Gulch and its spectacular gorge.

Buckskin’s narrows can be explored up or downcanyon to lengthen the day trek.

If there is even a slim chance of rain, do not enter Wire Pass or Buckskin Gulch.

When even a quarter of an inch of rain falls in these valleys, the slick rock turns into deadly traps that can’t be avoided.

Wire Pass Trailhead to Buckskin Gulch at Utah

Serge Yatunin /

Go Camping at Escalante Cabins and RV Park

Escalante Cabins RV Park is a convenient location for visitors visiting the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

It has easy access to restaurants, supermarkets, post offices, and banks.

While Escalante isn’t as well known as some of its neighboring towns, it’s a great place to get away from it all while still having access to some of the best hiking and fishing in the country.

Thanks to its proximity to slot canyons in the desert and Boulder Mountain, the highest timbered plateau in North America boasts cooler midsummer temperatures.

Scenic Byway 12 connects Escalante to Bryce Canyon National Park, which is located halfway between the two national parks, as well as Calf Creek Falls.

Try Passing through the Slots at Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons

Tourist trying to find a way out at Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons

chrisontour84 /

Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons are two of the most popular attractions in Southern Utah.

The Peekaboo and Spooky slot canyons may be found further down Hole-in-the-Rock Road if you’re up for something a little more daring.

To get to Peekaboo Gulch, you’ll have to scale a 12-foot cliff and wade through water and muck in some places.

Even though these canyons are just a few miles long, they should not be taken lightly.

Water flowing through the Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons

chrisontour84 /

This three-mile hike in Southern Utah’s slot canyons will open your eyes to a new perspective.

Many slot canyons in the Escalante area necessitate technical equipment, but Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulch just demand a little bit of navigation and rock scrambling expertise.

Because of Spooky’s confined passageways, this canyon is best suited for petite body types.

Spend an hour poking about in one of the canyons to get a sense of what it’s like, but why not do something different?

A young man peaking in the Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons

chrisontour84 /

Get Your Trekking and Camping Needs at Escalante Outfitters

There is no better place to start your Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument journey than Escalante Outfitters.

Trying to stock up on supplies before embarking on a new adventure?

It has everything you need for a day trek or a lengthy, multi-day trip into the bush.

It has hiking and camping supplies, including sunscreens.

The outfitter has knowledgeable staff on hand to provide assistance if needed.

Loved the trip and want to commemorate it with a souvenir?

You may also buy your loved ones merchandised shirts, caps, magnets, and stickers.

See Zebra Slot Canyon’s Awesome Walls

Zebra Slot Canyon at Escalante, Utah

kojihirano /

Zebra Slot Canyon, so named because of its remarkable orange-striped walls, may be found in Southern Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

You don’t need a guide to explore this unique slot canyon, unlike more well-known ones like Arizona’s Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons.

The water level at Zebra Slot Canyon ranges from a few inches to a few feet in certain areas.

Closeup view of the orange white stripped walls at Zebra Slot Canyon

Filip Fuxa /

It’s a challenge to get to the striped canyon walls!

There is a lot of wading through murky water and a lot of squeezing between small canyon walls to get through the most challenging parts.

The canyon’s zebra-striped walls, on the other hand, are breathtaking.

Beautiful natural patterns of rocks at Zebra Slot Canyon

sumikophoto /

Learn the Region’s History at Hole-In-The-Rock Escalante Heritage Center

As part of a Mormon mission to establish a settlement in southern Utah, the early Mormon settlers of Hole-in-the-Rock Escalante Heritage Center built an almost vertical road to transport wagons, animals, and supplies.

Historic portraits, information panels, a covered wagon, and old agricultural equipment are just a few of the items on show in the plaza’s expansive outdoor area.

Two massive murals illustrating the hardships of the pioneer trip in 1879 and 1880 are also included.

Hole-In-The-Rock Road is the name given by the pioneers to the primitive, steep path they carved out of the rock to reach the Colorado River’s banks.

The story is so absurd it’s hard to believe it’s genuine, but it illustrates the early Americans’ tenacity.

An old telephone station, portraits of pioneer families, and antiques from Escalante are on exhibit at a modest museum.

Bring Out Your Moves at Dance Hall Rock

Huge natural hole at Dance Hall Rock

Alberto Loyo /

Do you like to breakdance or dance the Waltz?

Your dance style doesn’t matter when you’re at a fantastic amphitheater.

At the end of the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, you’ll find Hall Rock, a massive sandstone amphitheater.

Because it’s not a popular route, you may dance like no one is looking because, well, no one will be.

Dance Hall Rock during night with the milky way galaxy in the background

Mike Ver Sprill /

In the end, it won’t take much time at all.

Amazing views from inside the curving rock await you after a 2-mile trek to the top.

Mormon pioneers in 1879-80 had to wait two months for a road to be completed to the Colorado River on their route to establishing a town.

The natural stone amphitheater’s excellent acoustics drew Mormon pioneers who valued dance.

Closeup view of the hole at Dance Hall Rock

Alberto Loyo /

Stop by 100 Hands Pictograph

On rocks that look out over the Escalante River, you may find 100 Hands Pictographs at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument between Boulder and Escalante, Utah.

The round-trip distance to the 100 Hands Pictograph takes only one mile.

This short trek in Escalante is ideal for stopping and getting fresh air during a long day of driving across Utah.

It’s convenient to stop at because it’s directly off Scenic Highway 12.

The heavily used social route begins from the trailhead beyond the No Parking road.

In only a minute, you’ll reach the base of the cliff band, where you’ll have to make a significant ascent to reach a ledge that leads to a short loop that ends in a shallow wash.

This area features several weak pictographs. Keep on the path as it ascends the external wash, which has one minor hurdle along the way.

There’s a cairn on the right as the trail emerges from the wash.

After appearing from the wash on the right, there is a wall with a giant, hardly visible snake petroglyph.

The two-minute detour is well worth it for this hidden gem.

You may also find the Bighorn Panel, the Shaman, and the Hunter Panel in addition to the 100 Hands Panel.

Relax in Luxury and Catch a Drive-in Movie at Yonder Escalante

Yonder Escalante is a luxury RV park with RV hookups, campsites, cottages, and refurbished airstreams.

It is home to a drive-in movie theater that will take you back to the old American West.

Every night around dusk, there is a screening of a new release film, and you can get complimentary popcorn at the snack bar.

Aside from its drive-in movie, it has resort-style facilities, outdoor showers, and onsite food trucks.

Relax in the morning with a cup of coffee and a good book in the public seating area equipped with fire pits.

Explore the Area on Wheels with Epic Jeep Rentals

Hiking in Utah is a great way to see the state’s natural landscape and all its peculiar rock formations.

By contrast, a jeep tour allows you to explore the great outdoors of Utah in style and luxury.

Leave the dust, sweat, and sweltering heat of a hiking trip in Southern Utah behind you.

Enjoy Utah outdoors without sacrificing comfort or your favorite music because of a lack of air conditioning and feeling adventurous.

Rent a Jeep to get you further down the path so you can spend less time hiking and more time in Utah’s beautiful landscape.

Access the wilderness easily for everyone in your company when renting a Jeep from Epic Jeep Rentals.

Those physically capable of an arduous trek may arrive at the trailhead in luxury.

At the same time, those who are not can still enjoy the area’s breathtaking scenery by traveling to the most breathtaking spots in a Jeep.

Paddle at Wide Hollow Campground

Wide Hollow Campground is an excellent alternative to commercial RV parks with all the conveniences you need, including flush toilets, picnic tables, and power outlets.

Stay at a campsite near Wide Hollow Reservoir and enjoy the crystal-clear waters while paddling a rented canoe, kayak, or paddleboard.

Bluegill and Rainbow trout are waiting for you in the reservoir, so don’t forget your fishing gear!

You may enjoy a hike through a petrified forest on the park’s nature paths, but please leave all personal belongings at home.

Legend says anyone who steals a piece of petrified wood is doomed to a lifetime of misfortune.

Buy Organic Produce from Halfacre’s Farm

Halfacre’s Farm is a converted 1.4 acres of abandoned, overgrown land into a thriving Market Garden farm.

It supplies the freshest vegetables to the local community and the nearby rural towns and businesses.

The farm lies off Escalante’s gorgeous Byway 12 in the heart of Canyon Country.

The farm commits itself to use regenerative farming methods to improve its land and increase its ecological and economic worth.

You’ll find delicious strawberries, carrots, radishes, and basil on the farm.

It’s worth checking out what this organic farm has to offer!

Final Thoughts

Escalante has a wide range of plant and animal populations because of its vast differences in elevation and topography.

In Utah’s Escalante National Monument, you may experience pure wilderness, solitude, and adventure.

Try our list of the best things to do in Escalante, Utah, for a memorable trip!

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