Follow The Pioneers Down Hole-In-The Rock At Lake Powell

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Hole in the Rock on Lake Powell is an adventurous scrambling hike and a major part of the Mormon settlement history of the region, but it’s not an actual hole in a rock.

You can get to Hole in the Rock from Lake Powell or from Hole in the Rock Road in Grand Staircase Escalante.

I’ve boated past this quite a few times but never actually stopped to make the scramble to the top.

It intrigued me but also looks very intimidating from the lake and I had no idea how difficult of a scramble it really is.

The amount of trail and beach at the bottom will depend on the current lake level but it’s been quite low the last few year (2020-2023 at least) so there will likely be more beach and trail outside of the scramble.

National Park Goodies

Photo by Deborah Lee Soltesz Flickr – view looking out from Hole in the Rock

What is Hole-In-The Rock on Lake Powell?

Hole in the Rock Road is a trail that Mormon Pioneers followed in the fall of 1879 to move from south-central Utah to their proposed destination in southeast Utah.

All was going well until they came to the rim of Glen Canyon. They had to find a way to get to the other side and since they couldn’t find one, they made one.

They found Hole in the Rock and blasted a bigger space for their wagons to pass through to the bottom of the canyon 1200 feet below.

After months of work, blasting a wider space in the rock at the top and hand chiseling anchor points into the rock along the way.

Ten, on January 26, 1880, the 250 person, 83 full-sized wagon, and 1000+ livestock expedition began their trek into the canyon.

The wagons were heavily roped while groups of men and oxen were used to lower the wagons through the narrow area at the top which has slopes near 45 degrees.

There was a wooden track further down along the sandstone slope. Holes drilled into the rock held poles that supported horizontal beams which helped the wagons pass.

That’s right. They took their wagons down this! You can still see marks from them on the sides of the trail as you’re hiking today.

Once they Made it to the bottom they faced an even more treacherous journey up the other side before finally settling in what is now Bluff, Utah.

They used this route for about a year to move supplies before switching to an easier route through what is now Hall’s Crossing.

Photo by Ken Lund Flickr – Hole in the Rock Road, Escalante, Utah

Is Hole in the Rock an actual hole in a rock?

Nope! It’s just an area blasted out of the canyon wall where Mormon pioneer wagons could squeeze through. No holes here.

That said, there is a hole in the rock gas station in Hanksville that is built into the rock and another one outside of Moab but that one is super creepy.

Photo by Ken Lund Flickr

Where is Hole-In-The Rock on Lake Powell?

Hole in the Rock is at Buoy 66 on Lake Powell and does have a marker pointing it out.

It’s 30 miles south of Bullfrog and 60ish from Wahweap and Antelope Point, so if you’re plan is to boat there and see other things too, I’d start from Bullfrog.

If you’re driving there, the Hole in the Rock Trail is at the end of Hole in the Rock Road in Grand Staircase Escalante, between the towns of Escalante and Boulder.

Devils garden escalante utah flickr
Photo by Matthew Dillon Flickr

How to get to Hole-In-The Rock on Lake Powell

You have two options for getting to Hole in the Rock: driving a car or driving a boat. If you or someone in your group is comfortable driving a boat, I’d pick that.

How to get to Hole in the Rock by boat: You can go from Wahweap Marina by Page Arizona at the south end of the Lake or Bullfrog Marina at the north end. Both have boat rentals available.

I would personally pick Bullfrog because it’s closer and with Dangling Rope gone, it may be pushing it gas-wise from Wahweap.

From Bullfrog Bay, turn right in the main channel and head south. You’ll see numbered buoy mile markers and will find Hole in the Rock at 66 with it’s own marker.

You should be able to find a spot to beach or tie up at the base of the Hole in the Rock trail but where exactly will depend on the water level.

How to get to Hole in the Rock by car: Getting to Hole in the Rock is a feat and not just any car will get you there. You’ll need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle for the whole thing.

Five miles from Escalante and 22 from Boulder is the turnoff for Hole in the Rock Road where you’ll find all the Escalante slot canyons, Coyote Gulch, Golden Cathedral, Hole in the Rock, and more.

Hole in the Rock is easy to find as it’s just at the end of the 62ish-mile-loong Hole in the Rock Road. It’s a rough, rocky, pot-holey road that will take a few hours to drive. This will be an all day thing.

Hole in the rock road Utah josh
Photo by Josh Milliken – view looking out over the top of the Hole in the Rock trail

Climbing Hole-In-The Rock in Escalante

The Hole in the Rock hike to Lake Powell (or from it) is an adventurous thing to do and a cool way to get a great view of Lake Powell.

You can do this hike either way, but for this section I’m talking about it hiking up from Lake Powell.

You’ll be facing a 300+ foot scramble (not actual rock climbing) up to the top of the cliff on an unmaintained trail. AllTrails says it’s got 629 feet of elevation gain but some reviews say it’s more. I would expect 800+.

Like the trail length, elevation gain will vary with the water level but it will be steep either way so be prepared for that and don’t be afraid to turn around if you need to.

It also sounds like there are some high boulders you may need a boost over if you’re short, also kids would need help.

There are some stairs carved into the path and a rough trail to follow. I haven’t climbed it yet but I think it looks a lot more intimidating than it actually is.

If you do decide to hike up Hole in the Rock, make sure you’re at least wearing good shoes (not flip flops or Jesus sandals) and bring plenty of water.

Is climbing Hole In The Rock on Lake Powell hard?

I’ve seen that it’s both challenging and easy so.. maybe? I think this will depend on how comfortable you are with rock and boulder scrambling. Reviews on AllTrails tend to say it’s more moderate-hard though.

How long is the Hole in the Rock hike?

It seems the Hole in the Rock trail is 1-2 miles round-trip but it will vary slightly depending on the lake level. If it’s low, the hike will be a bit longer.

Hole in the rock road Utah josh
Photo by Josh Milliken – camping near Hole in the Rock

Camping on Hole-In-The Rock Road

Dispersed (free!) camping is allowed anywhere along Hole in the Rock Road as long as you’re not parked in the actual road.

This means you can choose one of the pulloffs or somewhere on a side road which there are plenty of. There are, however, no bathrooms or camping facilities so bring everything you need and leave no trace.

You’ll want to look for places people have camped before, which are usually easy to spot. It’ll be flat open areas that look like a tent has been set up at before and may have a fire ring.

Just avoid setting up on or walking on the dark brown cryptobiotic soil. This goes for any camping or hiking in the desert, not just here.

Permits aren’t necessary for dispersed camping on Hole in the Rock Road but are recommended (for safety).

upper calf creek falls escalante utah flickr
Photo by Phliar Flickr

What is Hole-In-The Rock near?

The actual Hole in the Rock in Glen Canyon isn’t near a whole lot, at least on land, but Hole in the Rock Road itself has quite a few trails.

As for what it’s near on the lake, you can’t go wrong going into any canyon just to see what’s there but I listed a few things below.

escalante petrified forest state park utah

Grand Staircase Escalante (Land)

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is home to Hole in the Rock Road, Lower Calf Creek Falls, 100 Hands Pictographs, the Escalante River, and so much more.

There are tons of things to do in Escalante and some of the most popular are the slot canyons on Hole in the Rock Road.

On the other side of the town of Escalante you can visit Escalante Petrified Forest State Park and Willis Creek Slot Canyon.

Hells backbone drive boulder mountain
View from Hell’s Backbbone Bridge

Boulder (Land)

Boulder is the town to the east of Hole in the Rock Road and where Burr Trail Road ends. Or starts, I suppose.

You can visit the Anasazi State Park Museum, do some hiking in the Dixie National Forest, or drive Hell’s Backbone Road.

Be sure to have a delicious meal at Burr Trail Grill or Hell’s Backbone Grill. You can’t go wrong with either but Hell’s Backbone is pretty expensive.

Both are worth it. We would drive from Bullfrog just to eat at Burr Trail Grill sometimes.

cathedral in the desert lake powell utah

Escalante River (Lake Powell)

The Escalante River Arm is one of the best areas of Lake Powell, if not the best. It’s very long and you won’t be able to see all of it.

Davis Gulch, Cathedral in the Desert, and Fiftymile Creek are three great things to see here but you really can’t go wrong anywhere.

lake powell utah
Not the Rincon.

The Rincon (Lake Powell)

The Rincon is a geological formation at mile marker 77. There should be some camping spots here and you can hike all the way around the butte in the middle.

cathedral in the desert lake powell utah

Cathedral in the Desert (Lake Powell)

This is technically in the Escalante River Arm but it gets its own spot because it’s that good.

Cathedral in the Desert is at the back of Clear Creek Canyon and what it looks like will highly depend on the lake level.

It will be easier to get all the way back there with a kayak, paddle board, or jet ski than a boat.

rainbow bridge lake powell utah

Rainbow Bridge (Lake Powell)

Rainbow Bridge (Rainbow Bridge National Monument) is a natural bridge in Forbidding Canyon at mile marker 49 on Lake Powell.

It’s pretty much right in the middle of Bullfrog and Wahweap and about 15 miles south of Hole in the Rock.

As long as you have enough gas (check with boat rentals from either place you rent), you could see both hole in the Rock and Rainbow Bridge but not much else.

And I wouldn’t push it too much because a tow can be very expensive and adds up fast.

lake powell utah

Is Hole in the Rock worth seeing?

I’m not sure I would make the trek all the way down Hole in the Rock Road from Escalante just to see this but if I was already planning to go a good way down the road I might.

I also wouldn’t go way out of my way on Lake Powell to see Hole in the Rock but if you’re planning on visiting Rainbow Bridge or the Escalante River Arm from Bullfrog it’s worth a stop, even if you don’t climb it.

What to bring on Lake Powell

Sunscreen – You definitely need to wear sunscreen out on the lake.  Trust me.  I’ve seen plenty of bad burns come through the lobby.

Water – Drink a ton of water, especially if you’re out in the sun a lot or hiking.  You don’t want to be the one flying out because of dehydration.

Snacks – My preferred boat snack is Doritos.  It’s really almost the only time I eat them.  Beef jerky and trail mix might be healthier and more energizing.

Hat – Gotta keep the sun out of your eyes and off your face.  Make sure you get something that you can keep on your head, like a baseball style hat.  Or something adjustable like this hat.

Sunglasses – It’s bright an will help with the wind in your face.

Chums – These will keep your glasses from falling off into the lake.

Boaters Guide to Lake Powell – This is a great guide if you’ll be spending a lot of time on the lake and want to get a better idea of what you can do.  The print is small and close together but it is very helpful.

Lake Powell map – This is a must for any Lake Powell trip.

Final thoughts on Hole in the Rock

Whether you’re visiting Hole in the Rock from Escalante or Lake Powell in Utah, it’s a cool thing to see if you’re in the area. And it’s one of the best views of Lake Powell from the top, for sure.

Have you been to Hole in the Rock on Lake Powell? Did you climb it? How was it? Do you want to see it?

4 thoughts on “Follow The Pioneers Down Hole-In-The Rock At Lake Powell

  1. We’ve been on Hole-in-the-Rock Road, but not to the actual hole. We stopped to do the popular Spooky / Peek-a-boo slot canyons. The road itself is an adventure, especially if your vehicle is not fully off-road capable. My trip:

    I do want to go further down the road to see other things, especially Buckskin Gulch. I might spring for an outfitting company to have them do the driving, and to enable a point-to-point hike. I didn’t realize you could get to Rainbow Bridge from there.

    1. I would love too drive the whole thing, I’ve only been a couple miles in in my Smart Car which I’m surprised didn’t rattle apart haha. I haven’t been to any of the slot canyons there yet!

      You can only get to Rainbow Bridge from the lake, not Hole in the Rock Road, unfortunately.

      And Buckskin Gulch (the bit I’ve seen) is so cool! That’s down House Rock Valley Road though between Page and Kanab. Worth the visit though!

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