Utah Trails
Escalante River (Upper)
Length: 13 miles one way
Difficulty: Easy

Description: The Escalante River in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has been described as the “crookedest river in the world”, and has awed humans for hundreds if not thousands of years as they explored its depths. One of the main waterways in the south of Utah, the Escalante River has its roots way up in the desert country high above Lake Powell, and heads south until it reaches the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, becoming one of the most beautiful canyons of Lake Powell. The Escalante River draws visitors year-round with its canyoneering potential. During dry months it is a fun river to hike and wade through. During wetter months it offers great tubing, and even kayaking, though the water can be fast and dangerous during periods of heavy rain.

This route explores the upper end of the river, from the town of Escalante, heading east to the Highway 12 bridge a few miles below Boulder, and requires that the hikers have a shuttle that will take them back to their vehicles in the town of Escalante—unless they are willing to turn around at the bridge and hiker 13 miles back upstream, or are only going a little way down the river.

Escalante River-Pine Creek Confluence
On the northeast side of the town of Escalante, Pine Creek drops in from the north, joining with the larger Escalante River in its eastward trek toward the bridge on Highway 12. Access to the river is available in many areas of town, as it was built on the river’s banks. Many people begin their hike close to the high school, though that makes for a little overland trek before actually getting into the river. Alternatively, the area around Pine Creek Lane has a few parking areas that are closer to the river itself.

Escalante Natural Arch
This arch sits high up on the south canyon wall, easily missed by those that are not observant. It is not a huge or spectacular arch, but is just one of the many intricate and amazing things that makes the Escalante River worth the time and energy put into the trip.

Escalante Natural Bridge
The largest such structure in the National Monument, Escalante Natural Bridge sits only a third of a mile farther to the east than Escalante Natural Arch, though is much more impressive.

Highway 12 Bridge
The bridge marks the end of the upper river, though hardy explorers with plenty of time on their hands will make a pilgrimage of sorts from the town of Escalante, all the way down Coyote Gulch and Lake Powell.