Hike The Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail In Escalante

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One of the things I’ve wanted to do since I got to Bullfrog in 2016 was hike the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail in Escalante.  Well, it’s 2020 and I finally made it.  It’s probably the best/most popular thing to do in Escalante. And by probably I mean it is.

I won’t lie, I never knew that Upper and Lower Calf Creek Falls aren’t on the same trail.  I thought once you got to lower you could hike to the upper falls, but no.  Not at all.

I really liked the hike though and the falls themselves were like, twice as high as I was expecting them to be. 

We did the hike around sunset so it was almost dark as we were walking back out, but it was a great time to go.  There were only two other people at the falls with us that got there and left at the same time as us.

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AllTrails – This is my favorite hike tracking app.
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National Park Obsessed – This is the best national park planner.
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Our experience at Lower Calf Creek Falls

We went in early May 2020 so it wasn’t very busy. But it was also the last chance too go before it got dark which helped.

It was so cold at the falls because it was just not that warm outside yet but there was also a lot of wind by the water.  I was freezing!

The hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls is three miles each way but it’s pretty easy.  It’s not totally flat, but there aren’t any huge elevation gains either since any that there is is spread out so much. 

The hardest part is that a lot of it is deep sand. There were a couple of rocky sections but those aren’t difficult.

I do feel like we almost went the wrong way at one of them but quickly righted ourselves. If you’re worried about getting lost, AllTrails is great for downloading trail maps to follow and track your hikes.

The pictographs on the canyon wall.  Can you see them?

The trail is also a lot woodsier than I expected.  Yes, you’re in a canyon, but there is a lot of greenery along the way. 

At one point on the right there is a massive canyon wall with three human figure pictographs right in the middle above the trees. 

They’re far enough away that they’re kind of hard to see, but also close enough that they’re pretty easy to spot.  If you want to see some other rock art up close in Escalante, check out the 100 hands pictograph.

The Lower Calf Creek Falls trail is pretty straightforward and easy to follow. It’s up and down (not huge hills or anything) on an obvious sandy trail.

The actual trail is fairly unremarkable. The canyon you’re hiking through is cool but it’s really Lower Calf Creek Falls at the end that makes it. Otherwise it would be a disappointing trail (I think).

Overall, I would definitely say this is worth the hike and a must-do on a Utah road trip or visit to Escalante.  While it’s not the shortest hike there at six mile round-trip, it’s definitely worth it and a favorite for a lot of people for a reason.


Where is the Lower Calf Creek Falls trailhead?

The trailhead for Lower Calf Creek Falls is at the Calf Creek Campground.  It’s just about halfway between Boulder and Escalante on Scenic Byway 12.

And when I say just about halfway, I mean it! It’s 23 minutes from Boulder and 24 from Escalante. It’s 18 minutes from the turnoff for Hole-in-the-Rock Road.

And even weirder, it’s 1 hour 19 minutes from Bryce Canyon and 1 hour 21 minutes from Capitol Reef!

How long is the hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls?

The Lower Calf Creek Falls hike is about six miles round-trip, so it’s not short but not terribly long either.


Is the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike hard?

It has 530 feet of elevation gain but that’s spread out the whole way there and back so it’s not that bad.

The hardest part is that you’re mostly walking in deep sand. My hips hurt so bad by the time we were done but other than that it’s not bad.

How long do you need for the hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls?

We probably spent about three hours out there in total.  I would plan for an hour each way plus whatever time you want at the falls. 

It could take a little more than an hour to get there and back, it will just depend on how much you stop and how fast you walk. 

We were walking pretty fast to make sure we got there with the right light.  Four hours total would be a good estimate. It’s the perfect half-day activity on a weekend trip to Escalante.


When is the best time to hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls?

There isn’t really a bad time to go.  As for time of day, it will be busier in the middle of the day than in the evening or first thing in the morning. 

As for time of year, spring and fall will be best just because summer is so hot, though the falls would be quite refreshing in the heat. 

The trail is fairly shaded but I still don’t even want to think about walking that far in July.  Winter is probably good too but it will be cold.  It could be snowy, too.

Is the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail busy?

Yeah. It’s a popular trail which means it will be busy. To try and avoid some of that I would go first thing in the morning or in the evening.


What to bring on the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail

Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side.  They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.

Water bottle – It’ll be hot and you’ll need to stay hydrated.  Even if it’s not hot you need to stay hydrated.  A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.

Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen.  I like the Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch a lot AND it’s reef safe! If you’re sensitive to fragrance though, it’s not a good choice. I also like the same one but specifically for your face.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes, or a visor.  A baseball hat should be fine but I like my giant sun hat, too.

Sunglasses – This is a must no matter where you are.

Light Jacket – Because you just never know.  Weather can change quickly depending on where you are, time of day, and season.  I usually use my rain jacket for this.

Headlamp – I tend to carry my headlamp around all the time when we’re hiking, just in case. 


How tall is Lower Calf Creek Falls?

Lower Calf Creek Falls is a whopping 126 feet high!

Can you swim at Lower Calf Creek Falls?

Yup! I would only do this in the summer though but then it might be pretty busy.


Where to stay in Escalante (and Boulder)

Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch – This is in Boulder, actually just down Hell’s Backbone Road a bit, and has a lodge, cabins, and yurts that you can stay in! They also have a restaurant but it’s closed Sunday and Monday. I would love to stay here!

Canyon Country Lodge – We spent a few nights here in the spring of 202 and I really liked it. It’s newer so it’s nice, and its right along Scenic Byway 12.

Yonder Escalante – This is fairly new and right by Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. They have RV and campsites, cabins, Airstreams, and deluxe cabins. I would love to stay here too.

Camping at Calf Creek Falls Campground

If you want to stay as close to Lower Calf Creek Falls as possible, the Calf Creek Falls Campground is your best bet, if you can get a spot.

There are 13 sites at the campground that will run you $15 per night. It’s first come, first serve so get there early if you can. It does fill up most days. There are bathrooms and each site has a picnic table and fire ring.


What to bring camping in Escalante

Kammok hammock – I have a Roo single that I love. It’s the color of mac and cheese and pretty light weight. I don’t think as light as Eno if that matters though. But it’s perfect for just regular camping.

RTIC cooler – We have one of those giant coffin sized Yetis, which is great, but this 20 can soft RTIC cooler is a lot more convenient for small trips with easy access to a fridge and ice.

REI Passage 2 Tent – Our tent isn’t available anymore but this one is similar.  We’ve used it quite a few times and it’s been great.  It’s good for two people, but can be a little cramped if you move around too much.

NEMO Viola sleeping bag – Mine isn’t available anymore but this one is similar.  It’s very good in cold weather, not freezing, but in the 40s with leggings on, I was totally fine.  It has zipper vent things on the top that are supposed to help it cool down when it’s hot.  I don’t know if it really did that.  When we camped in south Florida, I was still pretty warm with them open and it was probably in the 60s. 

LuminAID lantern – I love this lantern.  It’s great for getting around your campsite in the dark, lighting up campground bathrooms at night, and even during power outages at home.  You can plug it in to charge it or just let the sun do the work. 

REI Ruckpack 18 – This is the daypack I have and it’s awesome.  It’s lightweight, has water bottle pockets that my 40-ounce Hydro Flask fits in, and it comes in nice colors. 

REI Camp Wrap – This is totally unnecessary, but I love it.  It’s basically a blanket poncho and it doubles as a good blanket for sleeping in warmer weather.  I used it two nights in south Florida and it was perfect for when my sleeping bag was too hot.

Puffy quilt – If you’re a really warm sleeper and visiting in the summer, a puffy quilt might be a better option.  I prefer this for hotter nights.  Check out the Rumpl camp quilts here.

Pillow – If you’re just driving, I’d just bring a regular pillow, but if you’re flying then renting a car, you might want a smaller pillow.  This is a good non-inflatible option.  Here is a good inflatable option.

Camp chairs – If you plan on doing a lot of camping outside of this trip, and backpacking especially, the REI Flexlite chairs are great choices.  Check out the camp chairs here.

Dramamine – this is a must if you get carsick.


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Have you hiked the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail?  What did you think of it?  Do you want to go?

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