Hiking Lower Calf Creek Falls
Hiking Lower Calf Creek Falls is almost a right of passage in Utah. Anyone can do it, so if you haven’t been to the falls or have skipped it on past trips to the Escalante area, now’s the time! A short but tough hike through an amazing riparian canyon leads to an impressive year-round waterfall. It’s a sight you’ve surely seen in a photograph, but nothing beats observing it firsthand.
Thanks to the popularity of the hike, the Calf Creek Recreation area is now a busy place with full amenities. There is a fee camping area that is often very busy from spring through fall. Large bathrooms and potable water can also be found in the parking lot. Sign in at the trail register and be sure to grab one of the BLM Trail Guides that are provided free of charge. The trail guide is full of excellent information about the Calf Creek trail, and signs along the hike correspond to points of interest listed in the guide.
The hike itself is rather easy, until you factor in the deep sand. This is only a 6 mile round trip hike, but can often feel much longer in the hot desert sun. Luckily, about half of the hike is shaded. There is an abundance of trees and other vegetation because of the namesake creek. This riparian canyon is a virtual oasis in an otherwise harsh landscape. Many animals call Calf Creek home: birds of prey, coyotes, mule deer and even the elusive mountain lion. Make your way over slickrock and through dense gambel oak as the trail winds towards the main spectacle: Lower Calf Creek Falls.
The 126′ high waterfall flows year round, though it can be particularly spectacular after a rain storm or during early summer runoff times. The falls sit at the head of a box canyon, and a delightfully cool, shady haven surrounds them. The water is often quite cold, but during summer months it is a welcome relief for those who have hiked under the midday sun. Feel free to take a dip- that’s sort of a right of passage, too. Enjoy the impressive scenery and return the way you came.
The hike covers a total of 6 miles and will take most hikers 3-4 hours to complete. It’s appropriate for hikers of any age and skill level, and there are often many families making the trek. You won’t find much solitude on this jaunt, but the falls are well worth braving the crowds to see. The BLM charges a $2 day use fee per vehicle, so don’t forget to pony up before you hit the trail.
Getting There: Calf Creek Recreation Area is located on Scenic Byway 12, about halfway between the towns of Boulder and Escalante. The interpretive trail to the falls begins just outside of the parking area.
Dogs: Dogs are welcome on the trail but should be leashed due to the large amount of people that hike here.