Hiking slot canyons in Escalante Grand Staircase

Our first order of business, after breakfast at our B&B, was to go to the National Monument visitor center and get directions to several of the popular slot canyons, including Peekaboo, Spooky, and Zebra. Peekaboo and Spooky were on my to do list. Web research before the trip had turned up these two canyons as very interesting locations, and I wanted to visit them, even though some of the rock scrambling required might have been more than we can do. However, having seen the photos of Zebra the night before, and since we would come to its trailhead first, I decided we’d start with it.

The trailhead was a little over 8 miles south of Highway 12 on Hole in the Rock Road. It’s easy to find the trailhead—it’s at the third cattle guard. The trail is fairly obvious until it reaches Harris Wash, but even in the wash it’s not too hard to find. We found Zebra canyon easily enough, but heard voices that indicated there were quite a few people back in the slot, and we met a young couple leaving who said they were going to wait for them to leave and were going to Tunnel first. We decided the same but didn’t have a good idea of where Tunnel was. After running into the couple again up a dead end, we found out he had lat/lon coordinates, but no GPS. So I loaded his coordinates into my GPS and got us both situated and going in the right direction. I’m glad we bumped into them—not sure I would have found Tunnel otherwise.

Most of the hiking at this point was in sandy washes, and it was a bit of a slog. We found Tunnel—an extremely narrow crack at the top that eroded a tunnel out below—and explored it. Then we headed back to Zebra.

Zebra Canyon, Escalante Grand Staircase

Zebra is fascinating, with smooth curves in the walls and interesting bands of color. We got in as far as the first vertical climb, shimmying sideways in a couple of places. This kind of climbing is not as easy as it used to be. Perhaps if I had shed the daypack and camera I could have scrambled up, and then maybe hauled Karen up, but we chose to go no farther. This also made it clear that we would have had problems at Peekaboo and Spooky.

Finding our way back out of Harris Wash was easy enough, and I did have the GPS track as backup. By this time it was well after noon, and on the warmish side. Back at the trailhead, we had logged about 8.5 miles, and we were clearly done hiking for the day (tuckered out). We did drive on farther on Hole in the Rock Road to Devils Garden, where I made a quick pass taking some photos of the rock formations while Karen sat reading in the shade of a tree. Driving on a little further we got to a dinosaur footprint site, but it would have required a bit of a hike (and route finding) to see the footprints, so we passed.

Back in Escalante, we had the dilemma of finding a place to eat on Sunday (the little restaurant closest to our B&B was closed) and Mother’s Day (the locals were out in droves). We tried the Cowboy Blues, which was crowded with locals, and had just run out of their prime rib. There were no windows, and it was noisy. So, we went back to Escalante Outfitters for pizza. We sat on the patio enjoying the fresh air and the view, and the pizza was delicious. Frankly, it was a much better choice than the prime rib dinner place.

Zebra Canyon 2009 photo gallery

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