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A Superb Hike On The Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Utah

A Superb Hike on the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Utah

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.

The start of the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike
The start of the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail

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.

"John climbing through an interesting rock formation"

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.

Interesting weathering and rock shapes
Interesting weathering and rock shapes
Do the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike in fall for glorious colours
Do the hike in fall for glorious colours
Entrance into the box canyon on the way to Lower Calf Creek Falls
Entrance into the box canyon
Stand out scenery on the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike
Stand out scenery on the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike
On the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike past this box canyon - probably used as a natural corral
Hike past this box canyon – probably used as a natural corral
Loads of horsetail as you approach Lower Calf Creek Falls
Loads of horsetail as you approach Lower Calf Creek Falls
Looking up at the weathered cliff faces
Looking up at the mineral streaked cliffs of Navajo sandstone
A mouthful of rock teeth
A mouthful of rock teeth
Upper Calf Creek Falls is at the end of the canyon
Lower Calf Creek Falls is at the end of the canyon

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.

Humans dwarfed by Lower Calf Creek Falls
Humans dwarfed by Lower Calf Creek Falls
A different view of the falls
A different view of Lower Calf Creek Falls
Woman lost in thought at the pool's edge of Lower Calf Creek Falls
Woman lost in thought at the pool’s edge of Lower Calf Creek Falls

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.

Beautiful fall scene in the canyon valley
Beautiful fall scene in the canyon valley
Petroglyphs on the cliff face
Petroglyphs on the cliff face
Gorgeous tree decked out for fall
Gorgeous tree decked out for fall

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.

Small but pretty campsite
Small but pretty campsite

Further reading on hikes in Utah

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The beautiful Lower Calf Creek Falls hike to a waterfall in Utah

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 16 Comments
  1. Thanks for a great overview of this hike. We are planning to visit that area on our next big trip to the USA, so i will add this post to the list for future reference.

  2. Your post brings back such good memories! I did this hike when I was in Utah and loved it. We weren’t alone when we did it either, but it was so beautiful that I didn’t care.

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