Peekaboo Canyon - Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Dry Fork Canyons
Peekaboo, Spooky,
Brimstone & Dry Fork Narrows

Grand Staircase
Escalante National Monument


          The Dry Fork slot canyons are the most popular hike in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument for good reason. The hike is easily assessable to most adults and older children. The slot canyons are also extremely photogenic, which makes them a shutterbugs paradise. Visiting all four of these slots makes a nice day for your typical family of hikers. Take Only Pictures and leave only footprints.

General Information:
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          Dry Fork contains the four slot canyons of Peekaboo, Spooky, Brimstone and Dry Fork Narrows. These canyons can be combined in many fashions to create an adventure lasting from several hours to a full day of exploring. The slots are accessible to most hikers and photographers with only a small amount of scrambling required. Fall and spring are the preferred seasons to do this route. The routes can also be done in summer as there is shade available.

          The complete Dry Fork route is rated 1A III using the Canyon Rating System. In normal conditions you might find some wading ranging from ankle to knee deep depending on recent conditions. It's also possible you will find the slots completely dry. Go prepared for at least some minor wading. Most groups will find a short 50-foot section of rope useful for handlines and to help in raising and lowering backpacks. This is a desert environment so bring plenty of water.

          A GPS is helpful in identifying waypoints and verifying your location. Good map reading skills and the USGS 7.5' Map titled "Big Hollow Wash" are valuable tools. All waypoints and maps for this route use the WGS84 datum. Navigation for this route is moderate. There is hiker trail for most of the way which is not difficult to follow. Mistakes in navigation are easy to overcome and correct on this route. These canyons have a moderate flashflood danger, check the local weather before entering these slot canyons.

Peekaboo Canyon - Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Spooky Canyon - Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Trailhead Information:
          From Main and Center in the town of Escalante, Utah travel 5.0 miles east on Highway 12 to the signed Hole-In-The-Rock Road (N37 43' 39", W111 31' 54"). The maintained gravel road is located on the south side of Highway 12. Turn south (right) on Hole-In-The-Rock Road and travel 26.3 miles to the signed Dry Fork Road (N37 28' 00", W111 13' 27"). Turn east (left) and follow the Dry Forks Road 0.7 miles to a junction (N37 27' 56", W111 12' 44"). Turn north (left) at the junction and follow the road 0.9 miles to the Dry Fork Trailhead.

          The Dry Fork Trailhead is accessible to all vehicles in normal weather conditions. A vehicle shuttle is not required to complete this route.

Spooky Canyon - Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Spooky Canyon - Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Route Information:
          From the Dry Fork Trailhead (N37 28' 38", W111 12' 58") follow the well used trail north for one mile as it descends to the bottom of Dry Fork Coyote Gulch (N37 28' 52", W111 13' 05"). Once in the canyon bottom you can hike north (upstream) for 1/2 mile and explore the Dry Fork Narrows.

          Once you have explored the Dry Fork Narrows return to where you entered the wash and hike downstream a short distance to Peekaboo Canyon (N37 28' 53", W111 13' 00"). Peekaboo and Spooky are normally done as a loop hike by going up Peekaboo and down Spooky. This is the easiest method of defeating the obstacles you will face. This direction also puts the most difficult obstacle, which is the entrance into Peekaboo first on the to-do list. If you can enter Peekaboo you should have the skills required to complete the loop.

          From the entrance of Peekaboo climb up the 20-foot dryfall using steps carved in the sandstone. Those less skilled might find a partner assist and the use of a handline to be helpful. Once up the dryfall hike upstream and enjoy the show. This canyon contains several nice arches and bridges. Continue up through the narrows until the canyon opens up and a cairned hiker trail (N37 29' 08", W111 13' 00") exits the wash to the east (right).

Follow the hiker trail 1/2 mile east to the top of Spooky Canyon (N37 29' 06", W111 12' 34"). From the top of Spooky hike downstream and enjoy the narrows. You will encounter some great narrows and a couple minor obstacles in this slot but nothing too difficult. Once the canyon opens up continue hiking downstream until you reach its confluence with Dry Forks (N37 28' 49", W111 12' 29").

          Once you reach Dry Forks hike downstream (east) for 3/4 miles to where a wide side canyon known as Brimstone Canyon (N37 28' 32", W111 11' 47") enters from the north (left). Hike up the wide wash a short distance to where the canyon narrows quickly to become a deep and skinny slot canyon. Hike upstream as far as you wish, but use caution, at least one hiker has become wedged in Brimstone and had to be rescued. The secret to success is not to force your way into any extremely tight constriction. Once you are done exploring Brimstone hike back up Dry Fork and return to the trailhead.

Trapped Hiker:
          In 1996 a Tucson, AZ, photographer was stranded for eight days in Brimstone Canyon of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. He survived on a swallow of water per day while awaiting rescue. He was found by a search dog when the dog tracked him to the edge of the crevasse. When rescued, he was taken to the hospital, treated for dehydration and released after a couple days' rest.

Spooky Canyon - Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Brimstone Canyon - Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

          Enjoy a short video of hiking Peek-a-boo and Spooky Canyons. Video courtesy of Dan Burt.

          The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was declared in September 1996 at the height of the 1996 presidential election campaign by President Bill Clinton, and was controversial from the moment of creation. The declaration ceremony was held at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, and not in the state of Utah. The Utah congressional delegation and state governor were notified only 24 hours in advance. This was seen by many as a transparent political ploy to gain votes in the contested state of Arizona. That November, Clinton won Arizona by a margin of 2.2%. Local officials and Utah Congressman objected to the designation of the Monument, questioning whether the Antiquities Act allowed such vast amounts of land to be designated a monument.

          Environmental groups had long sought wilderness designation for the lands inside the monument. While designation of the monument is not legally the same as wilderness designation, for most practical purposes it is very similar. Bill Clinton significantly improved his standing with environmentalists by designating the monument.

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