When Jeb and I went on our trip to Arizona and drove through this region we heard about a place called Grand Staircase Escalante. And then when we went kayaking near the Hoover Dam our guide told us about a specific hike called Coyote Gulch. When we got back we looked up pictures of it, and it has been on our Bucket List ever since!
Earlier in July we actually drove all the way out (9 hours) to the trailhead to do the hike. Unfortunately I was still really sick (Jeb still says it is the sickest he has ever seen me in the entire time we have been together). We loaded up our packs and hiked half a mile in the 104 degree weather, and that was enough for both of us to realize it wasn’t happening that day, so we went back home.
So here in October we were finally back and ready to hike Coyote Gulch. We decided to go with a “lean and mean” lol strategy so our packs were “only” 23 pounds for mine, and 43 pounds for Jeb’s… Which is still really heavy when you hike 22 miles round trip! In a period of time just under 24 hours.
The Jacob Hamblin Arch is definitely the most iconic feature in Coyote Gulch. A lot of people just turn around here, especially if they are doing it as a day hike.
But there is actually so much more beauty to come after it. It was especially strange how sounds echoed and carried through the canyon and in the area around the arch. It was actually REALLY loud!
Unforunately we didn’t quite get the perfect picture of the arch. For one, because in the spot where people normally photograph it there were a bunch of tents where people were setup to sleep, so that didn’t make for a great picture. (I personally don’t think you should be allowed to camp in the arch…). And also it was so loud, crowded, and chaotic in the arch that we kind of quickly continued on. Plus lighting in canyons is always super tricky for taking pictures!
Despite that one area being crowded we still really enjoyed the hike. It reminded us a lot of the canyons of Zion. Plus there was the usual feeling of being surprised by how wet it was. There was a small stream going through the entire canyon. 1 mile into the hike my feet were soaked, I had wet shoes, socks, and feet for the next 21 miles!
Like most canyon hikes it was slow going because of the difficulty of the terrain. We used to think that non-mountainous flat hikes would be quicker…but we have learned that is not the case.
Deep sand is slow and tiring, and hiking through water and over slippery rocks and boulders is also not easy! You definitely have to want to be there and be looking forward to where you are going, because this kind of terrain can be kind of frustrating.
Our one selfie for the whole trip! We were fortunate with pretty pleasant weather this time. Last time the trailhead parking lot was empty. No one wanted to hike in 104 degrees! But this time it was very crowded. Temperatures in the mid 70s during the day and mid 40s at night brings for a lot more people! Since we were only spending one night out there we brought our summer sleeping bags to save on space and weight. We were definitely both a little chilly that night!
This was where we setup our camp. Unlike the Chicago Basin there were plenty of good places to camp. It was easy to find a spot since it was flat, soft and sandy, and there were not any restrictions on how close you could camp to the water. The canyon walls were really high all around us here in this spot! We have been in a lot of canyons like this, but this was our first time spending the night in one.
After we got to this spot, we set up camp and then decided to hike a few more hours past our camp into the canyon, and then come back to spend the night. Ideally if we had more time, or a second night even we would have continued all of the way to the confluence with the Escalante River. But we really didn’t want to get home after midnight on Sunday night like we did when we went out to the Zion Subway. I think we got close to the river, and it was a little bit of a bummer to not see it, but we still felt like we had seen a bunch of really awesome places.
The lighting during this time of day is really pretty because it makes the rocks really shiny and show how pink and red colored they are.
This area especially reminded us of the Zion subway with the curved shape and coloring of the canyon walls.
This waterfall was really pretty! I love the way the water cuts into the rock.
These last few hikes have really made us appreciate why “slickrock” is called this. It sure is slippery!!
Jeb with the day pack that comes with his huge pack. He sure is happier when he is done carrying the 43 pound pack. For now I always carry a lighter pack, but it definitely scares me to think of the fact that by next summer, for Rainier, I will need to be able to carry a pack as heavy as he does 🙁
Part of what makes these canyons so pretty in my opinion is how much green there actually is as well. Hiking in these canyons in the fall is also an added color bonus!
Every time we go here Jeb and I end up talking about how we can’t believe Grand Staircase Escalante is not a national park. We have decided we kind of like it this way. Making it a national park would make it more crowded, harder to get permits and camp in, and bring a different sort of crowd. I just hope that with its National Monument status it can be protected enough. Because it would be a shame to see this place messed up!
Neat rock formation.
Another neat little waterfall.
Jeb and I have only backpacked a total of 4 times now for real. (Petrified forest national park, Saguaro national park, the Chicago Basin, and now this hike). But I think we are finally starting to get more comfortable with it. This was probably the most enjoyment we have gotten out of a backpacking trip during it. As opposed to just looking back on it positively after it is over haha.
I love the way the sun makes the water shine. Now if only I could have just cut out that really bright spot on the rocks somehow…
Another narrow section of the canyon. It was getting closer to sunset here, and I definitely thought this was the prettiest time of the day.
This was our absolute favorite spot of the hike. We loved the shape of the natural bridge, the yellow trees through the opening, the lighting on the rocks and water, AND no one else was here the entire time Jeb and I stopped to take pictures.
We were definitely glad we continued on beyond our campsite to see this area.
Me walking through, under the bridge.
Jeb standing under it gives some perspective to how tall it was!
We found this area where some people had put a lot of work into making seats. They had used flat rocks and sand to actually make a seat. When you go backpacking (if you don’t take the weight of bringing chairs) then the entire time you are there, for days, you only ever stand up or lay down. You get to the point where you really miss sitting! It may not look like it, but this chair was heaven! It was wide enough we could both sit on it, and we really didn’t want to get up after it!
Jeb and I had a fantastic time exploring Coyote Gulch! There are so many more canyons in Grand Staircase Escalante that we want to come back to. Every time we are here we are making more plans for the next time we are back. That and talking about food. At least 50% of our conversations when we backpack are about food 🙂 So it was only appropriate that we stopped in Glenwood Springs on our way back and had a feast at The Lost Cajun. That place is delicious, and it was the perfect end to a fun weekend!