Just 5 miles east of Escalante in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are two short slot canyons that are a great introduction to canyoneering for children (This was my first slot canyon experience and it did NOT disappoint) and fun, too. Because of the ease and beauty of Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Canyons, they are popular. But do not let that deter you. Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Canyons are accessed from a rough, washboard, rutted 26-mile dirt road, but you do not need a 4-wheel, high clearance vehicle - our minivan made it. Although the drive is long, the hike is most definitely worth it!
The trail head for the canyons is at the top of a dry wash. Most guides recommend hiking down into the wash and the climbing UP into Peek-a-boo Canyon and making the loop around to Spooky Canyon. However, we felt that with our 5 young children (one of them a baby), it’d be easier to do the loop in reverse, so we would be climbing DOWN (note: easier) out of Peek-a-boo Canyon. Another benefit of doing the loop “backwards” was we didn’t have to compete with other visitors - rock on!
Once you hike down from the parking lot trail head, you enter the river bed with soft sand and little sun cover. My children thought it was cool to walk on a dry river and to see/chase the many, many lizards along the way.
There are a few spots with adequate shade to take a break to drink.
Soon you come to the “entrance” of Peek-a-Boo Canyon, but don’t stop there, continue on about another 5 minutes and you will come to the entrance of Spooky Canyon. My children thought it was the coolest thing ever!
There are some tight spots in Spooky Canyon - we had to take off the backpacks and let our 2 year old walk through it on his own and we carried the packs (I even had to take off the Baby Bjorn and pass my baby down low to squeeze through some spots - it was CRAZY fun!).
Spooky Canyon is definitely a bit tight at times, but the smiles and the thrill are really cool. Even our baby liked it (for the most part…he wasn’t a fan of being passed low through the tightest walls). Look at those smiles! It was fun to capture the hike from a different perspective and our big girls hiked much faster through those narrow walls!
After exiting the top of Spooky Canyon, follow the trail to Peek-a-Boo Canyon. It can’t be missed as it is pretty well worn and you literally drop right on top of it. It is the larger, roomier (we were able to keep our packs/babies on us throughout) canyon and the views are world class!
Once we walked through the canyon (sometimes scrambling on the walls as there was some mud from rain earlier that week) and we had to get out, I was thankful we did it backwards as the drop out would have been difficult going up with small ones:
The return walk to our car went rather quickly since we all couldn’t stop talking about how stinkin’ cool the slot canyons are. We cannot wait to explore more and perhaps some technical ones this year!
HOW TO GET THERE:
- Go east out of Escalante about 5 miles on highway 12 until the well marked “Hole-in-the-Rock-Road” sign.
- Turn onto the Hole-in-the-rock-Road and reset your odometer.
- Go down the dirt road for 26.5 miles to the sign “Dry Fork Trailhead” on the left
- Follow this road .7 miles to a junction (we parked here as the last .5 miles is deeply rutted and our mini-van was not going to make it - we hitched a ride in the back of a truck) and turn left there and drive to the trail head parking lot
- Bring at least 50 oz of water per person and a snack or two - happy bellies = happy hikers
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Wear sunscreen
- 20’ webbing comes in handy
- Bring all ages - it is so fun!
- Stop at the local gas station in Escalante for a coke!