Hole in the Rock Road

Drive an historic road in one of the newest national monuments to trailheads in the canyons of the Escalante river.

★★★

Wow factor

★★★

Overall rating

Difficulty

★★

Access

★★

Crowds

You could spend weeks here exploring the many trail opportunities so I’d recommend using the small town of Escalante as a base. Twenty years ago it was barely on the tourist map but since the Grand Staircase National Monument designation the tourist numbers are rising fast. It still doesn’t get the numbers of Canyonlands, Arches, Bryce and Zion though.

 

The 62-mile Hole in the Rock Road closely follows the route of Mormon trailblazers in 1879-80 who wanted to colonise south-eastern Utah by trying to establish a shortcut over the Colorado river. 250 people, 100 wagons and over 1000 head of livestock made the journey. It started so well but they eventually came to what appeared to be an impenetrable barrier at the cliffs of Glen Canyon. They discovered a crevice in the cliffs (the ‘hole in the rock’) where they blasted a wagon trail down the 45 degree slope to the Colorado river After 6 weeks of lowering their wagons they were down and continued on to found the town of Bluff. In the cemetery of that town you can see the well-marked gravestones of some of those pioneers.

 

I've not driven the entire route but if you have a 4WD vehicle you can drive the last few miles right up the 'hole' and scramble down to Lake Powell (formerly know as Glen Canyon). Apparently you can still see the marks left by the wagon wheels. This would be a long day roundtrip and many people don’t get this far. The rest of the road is graded and suitable for passenger cars in dry weather if driven with care.

 

Near the beginning of the trail is a small area of weird hoodoos known as Devils Garden. It’s a half-hour stop and kids love it. A little way further east is a turnoff for Dry Fork (of Coyote Gulch). At the end of this short road is the trailhead for the Peek-a-boo and Spooky slot canyons and Brimstone Gulch. You can hike all of these in a long day. Peek-a-boo and the incredibly-narrow Spooky are very popular these days. Note the dirt road turn offs can be sandy and may require high clearance/4WD.

 

Overall, the road is quite scenic as it follows the Kaiparowits plateau, but it’s in the canyons where the true beauty and adventure lies.

© 2015-2020 Bob Palmer.