Looking for a waterfall hike in southwest Utah? Look no further than the easy hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls. The hike in the Escalante Wilderness in southwest Utah offers a bit of everything – a 38 metre (126 foot) waterfall in the middle of the desert, a plunge pool at the end of the hike, a beautiful canyon, petroglyphs (rock art) and granaries.
The hike on the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail is a popular one. It’s famous because of the waterfalls – and perfect for people of all ages because it gains less than a hundred feet of elevation over the round trip distance of six miles.
Chances are you’ll have company when you hike so it’s definitely not a wilderness experience – but don’t let that put you off.
Where the hike starts
The hike starts at the Calf Creek Recreation Area, accessible via Highway 12. It’s easy to find with the highway signage in place. The turnoff is 15 miles from Escalante and 11 miles from Boulder. Bring cash. There’s an entrance fee of $5.00 per vehicle.
Before you start hiking pick up the brochure where you deposit your money. It describes the numbered stops along the hike.
Some are corny and more than a little obvious; for example the creek is the life force within the canyon. But it does point out the granaries up in the cliffs and there’s a stop across from the petroglyphs. Without the brochure you’d probably miss these sights.
Get going early to avoid the heat
Start the hike early in the day – before it warms up. The trail begins just before the road drops down to the creek. It’s signed and hard to miss.
Walk up the canyon – on a sandy path at times – and in the fall marvel at the display of the gambrel oaks. The whole hike is a thing of beauty in the fall.
Reach Lower Calf Creek Falls in about an hour if you’re fit and you haven’t stopped too often to take photos. For slower hikers plan on 90 minutes of hiking one way.
The falls are a fantastic reward for your efforts. The location in a shaded amphitheater makes a nice respite from the sun. Brave hikers might elect to go for a quick dip; others can sit back and contemplate the beauty in the world. But don’t forget to look up. You’ll see maidenhair ferns growing out of the seepage cracks.
Look for petroglyphs on the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail
When you’ve had enough of the falls retrace your steps to return to the parking lot. We found that the light had changed dramatically in a few short hours and it was now much easier to see the petroglyphs with the sun on the cliff face.
Camping in the Calf Creek Recreation Area
There is camping in the Calf Creek Campground, a desert oasis located 15 miles east of Escalante on Highway 12, within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. There are 13 campsites along with a day-use picnic area. The small campsites are located along Calf Creek and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Further reading on hikes in Utah
- A Hike to Upper Calf Creek Falls in the Escalante Wilderness
- Hiking the Escalante Wilderness in Utah: The Deer Creek Trail
- Bryce Canyon Hikes: The Fairyland Loop
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