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A Hike To Upper Calf Creek Falls, Escalante Wilderness

A Hike to Upper Calf Creek Falls, Escalante Wilderness

If you have a few hours and you’re in the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument area of southwestern Utah – between the towns of Escalante and Boulder, then plan to do the 1 – 2 hour hike to Upper Calf Creek Falls. It should definitely be on your to do list as it’s a beauty from start to finish. And it’s easy.

It’s easy to combine the Upper Calf Creek Falls hike with the hike to the very beautiful Lower Calf Creek Falls. Just be sure to have plenty of water with you as this can be hot hiking. 

Infinity pools above Upper Calf Creek Falls
Infinity pools above Upper Calf Creek Falls

Once you’ve managed to find the trailhead – which is actually easier than it sounds (see description below) – begin the hike by walking steeply down a huge slickrock of white to golden coloured Navajo sandstone.

Lovely walking on slickrock
Lovely walking on slickrock with an initial steep descent

It’s a friction walk initially; plant your feet solidly and you’ll be amazed at how steep a slope you can hike down. On the descent you’ll see black, volcanic boulders transported via glacial meltwater from Boulder Mountain about 10,000 years ago though they look like they’ve been recently strewn around.

The initial steep descent on Navajo sandstone
The initial descent on Navajo sandstone is hot on a fall afternoon
Large cairns make the trail easy to follow
Large cairns make the trail easy to follow
Black, volcanic boulders strewn over the sandstone
Black, volcanic boulders strewn over the sandstone

There is no signage but the trail is easy to follow

The trail isn’t signed or marked but it’s evident from the occasional cairn and in places the path is lined by rocks. After descending steeply for roughly five minutes you end up on a sandy trail with a gentle gradient. Then it’s a mixture of walking on sand, more slickrock and even sandstone steps. Roughly 30 minutes into the hike gets you to a trail intersection close to the bottom of the canyon.

If you go right, you’ll get to small falls and pools. Head left if you want to visit the bottom of the falls.

A stark but beautiful landscape
A stark but beautiful landscape

As you near the canyon the blue of the pools off to your right will likely catch your eye. You’ll probably hear the falls too.

The first view of Upper Calf Creek Falls
The first view of Upper Calf Creek Falls

From here it’s only a few minutes’ walk to reach the pools. When we were there some kids had just come out of the small pools screaming from the cold temperatures.

Do exercise extreme caution around the edges because there is algae and it’s slippery. Chances are you wouldn’t survive a fall over the waterfalls.

Looking over the edge at Upper Calf Creek Falls
Looking over the edge at Upper Calf Creek Falls
"Small pools above the falls"
Small pools above the falls
John admiring the view from above Upper Calf Creek Falls
John admiring the view from above Upper Calf Creek Falls

Just a few minutes above the first pool is a larger pool and small waterfall. From here if you’ve got the time and the inclination you could roam the slickrock for hours.

Otherwise retrace your steps and climb 200 metres (650 feet) back to the parking lot. All told it’s a 3.5 kilometre (2.2 mile) round trip hike.

Pool at the top of Upper Calf Creek Falls
Pool at the top of Upper Calf Creek Falls
A pretty nice place to hang out and enjoy the view
A pretty nice place to hang out and enjoy the view
Another view of the pool from above
Another view of the pool from above

Getting to the trailhead for the Upper Calf Creek Falls Hike

The trail is accessible from Highway 12 between the towns of Boulder and Escalante. The turnoff is between mile marker 80 and 81. There is a dirt road heading west marked by a boulder with a white stripe on it.

Turn down this dirt road and follow it for just 1/10th of a mile to the trailhead register. There is plenty of parking. (There is only one other possibility on this section of road so chances are you’ll have no problems finding it.)

For more information on the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, visit their website.

Further reading on things to do in southwest Utah

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A hike to Upper Calf Creek Falls in Utah's Grand Staircase - Escalante Wilderness

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 13 Comments
  1. I’m not so sure how I feel about you using the words “easy hike” and “probably won’t survive” in the same post. Sounds like it may be a trap. At least it’ll be a beautiful trap to look at while I plummet to my death.

  2. @Sophie I don’t think it’s even very well known in North America. And yet it’s so fabulous. The Germans though have found the place. They know great wild outdoors places when they see them.

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