Looking for a waterfall hike in southwest Utah? Look no further than the easy hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls.

The hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls 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. It’s a popular hike, 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;  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 hike

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"

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.

"Very interesting rock shapes"

Interesting rock shape

"Fall colours are outstanding along this hike"

Fall colours are outstanding along this hike

"Box canyon"

Hike past this box canyon – probably used as a natural corral

"Loads of horsetail"

Loads of horsetail as you approach the falls

"Coloured cliff faces"

Looking up at the striped cliff faces

"Rocks that look like a mouthful of teeth"

A mouthful of rock teeth

"Upper Calf Creek Falls is at the end of the canyon"

Upper 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.

"First glimpse of Lower Calf Creek Falls"

First glimpse of Lower Calf Creek Falls

"Humans dwarfed by the falls"

Humans dwarfed by the falls

"A different view of the falls"

A different view of the falls

"Woman lost in thought at the pool's edge"

Woman lost in thought at the pool’s edge

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

Have you done a waterfall hike? Have you been to the popular Calf Creek Falls in southwest Utah?

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Leigh McAdam

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