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Hiking the Stunning Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail in Escalante

After visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, we continued our Utah Mighty Five Southwest road trip with a stop at the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail in Escalante, Utah. Here, we hiked to Lower Calf Creek Falls, one of the few active waterfalls in the southern Utah desert, and were blown away by its beauty.

This post focuses on how to hike the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail, where it’s located, how much it costs, the best time to visit, where to stay, and more. Let’s dive in!

the beautiful waterfall at the end of the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail
Table of Contents

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    Where is Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail Located?

    Sara & Tim admiring the incredible Lower Calf Creek Falls

    Lower Calf Creek Falls is located in the Staircase-Escalante National Monument off of the Utah Scenic Byway 12 between Escalante and Boulder, Utah. The GPS coordinates for Calf Creek Campground and the Lower Calf Creek Falls trailhead are (37.793186, -111.413820).

    How Much Does Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail Cost?

    Sara on the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail in Escalante, Utah

    There’s a $5 per vehicle fee for the Lower Calf Creek Falls day-use parking lot. Hiking the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail is free.

    What’s the Best Time to Hike Lower Calf Creek Falls?

    the fall is one of the best times to visit Lower Calf Creek Falls and to hike Lower Calf Creek Falls trail

    Most people hike the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail between March and June and in September and October. We hiked the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail in late October. In our opinion, this is the best time to visit Escalante and to hike the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail. There were no crowds during our visit, and we loved all of the fall foliage this time of year!

    The weather at Lower Calf Creek Falls varies drastically by season. Temperatures can reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more in the summer and drop below freezing in the winter. Spring and fall offer milder temperatures and more pleasant hiking conditions.

    When we hiked the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail, temperatures were in the 50s, since we arrived late in the day. This was great for hiking, but we were cold near the waterfall and didn’t do any swimming.

    The Lower Calf Creek Falls trail is a popular hike, especially in summer months. If you’re visiting during this time of year, consider hiking during the week to avoid the crowds.

    Lower Calf Creek Falls Map

    Bryce Canyon National Park to Capitol Reef National Park with Lower Calf Creek Falls map

    If you’re doing a Southwest road trip to the Utah Mighty Five, you’ll likely pass the Escalante area on your way from Bryce Canyon National Park to Capitol Reef National Park (or vice versa). There are several ways to get from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef. To pass through Escalante, you’ll want to take the route along UT-12 E.

    Calf Creek is a stream located in the Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and there are two waterfalls, upper and lower falls. The Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail is right off the Utah Scenic Byway 12 and is easily accessible, making it the most popular of the two.

    Where to Stay Near Lower Calf Creek Falls?

    the Broken Spur Inn & Steakhouse near Capitol Reef National Park

    Lower Calf Creek Falls camping is available onsite at the Calf Creek Campground for $10 and is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Dogs are allowed in the camping area but must be kept on a leash at all times.

    We stayed at the Red Ledges Inn (near Bryce Canyon National Park) the night before and the Broken Spur Inn & Steakhouse (near Capitol Reef National Park) the evening after our hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls. We used hotels.com to book both stays and paid less than $60 for the Red Ledges Inn and just under $120 for the Broken Spur Inn.

    Are Dogs Allowed on Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail?

    Lower Calf Creek Falls trail

    Dogs are permitted at the campground and on the trails, as long as they’re leashed. We actually saw lots of folks walking their dogs here!

    Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail Guide

    Lower Calf Creek Falls trailhead sign

    To find the Lower Calf Creek Falls trailhead, start at the day-use parking area and follow the road through the campground for 0.2 miles. There are signs pointing in the direction of the Lower Calf Creek Falls trailhead and a prominent sign where it begins.

    The Lower Calf Creek Falls trail is around 6 miles out-and-back and is relatively flat. It can become challenging at times, since much of the hike is over slick red rock and through sand. Note to self: hiking through sand is not particularly fun in hiking boots!

    Personally, I felt that the beginning of the hike was most strenuous, as it’s rocky and uphill. We even contemplated turning back at one point, since we were tired from all of the hiking we did at Bryce Canyon that morning, and it was already late afternoon. But, we sure are happy that we didn’t—the waterfall view at the end was so worth it!

    Along the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail, you’ll pass through wetlands, fields of rabbitbrush, groves of Gambel oak, and woodlands of junipers and pinyon pines. There’s an active population of beaver in the area, so you’ll likely see some beaver dams too.

    You’ll also come across several granaries built by the Freemont Culture, which inhabited Utah from AD 700 to AD 1300, and some pictograph panels showcasing Freemont-style rock art; how neat is that?!

    When you reach the end of the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail, you’ll walk through some dense greenery and arrive at a breathtaking waterfall. Lower Calf Creek Falls descends from a 126-foot-tall, mineral-streaked cliff of Navajo Sandstone into a deep pool, or swimming hole.

    In the summer, you’ll likely find kids, dogs and even some adults cooling off in the pool at the base of Lower Calf Creek Falls. In the late fall, you’ll find us playing around right in front of the pool taking pictures with our Fugetek selfie stick & tripod—haha.

    This is the perfect spot for a picnic or a quick rest before heading back the way you came.

    A Broad Recommendation: If you do stop here to picnic, remember to clean up after yourself and to pack out all trash. If you brought your dog along, remember to pick up after them as well.

    How Long Does it Take to Hike Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail?

    another view of the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail

    You should plan to spend around 3 hours hiking the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail. It took us around 2.5 hours, and we spent around 30 minutes admiring the waterfall and taking pictures.

    If you’re looking for something less crowded, Upper Calf Creek Falls also has hiking and swimming opportunities.

    A Broad Recommendation: Remember to pack lots of water, snacks, sunblock, and extra clothes to layer. Temperatures change throughout the day, and the area around the waterfall was much cooler than the rest of the trail. Also note that there are no facilities on the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail. Be sure to use the restroom at the parking lot before beginning your hike.

    Other Hikes Near Lower Calf Creek Falls

    Sara twirling around in front of the waterfall at the end of the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail

    The Escalante area offers lots of exciting hiking opportunities! Note that some of these trails require a vehicle that’s equipped for driving on bumpy, washboard dirt roads.

    • Upper Calf Creek Falls
    • Escalante Natural Bridge
    • Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
    • Devil’s Garden (more of a leisurely walk among sandstone rock formations)
    • Zebra Slot Canyon
    • Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyon
    • Coyote Gulch
    • Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch

    A Broad Recommendation: Due to the lack of cell service throughout this area, make sure to download Google offline maps and to pack extra water, snacks and warm clothes in case of an emergency.

    We really enjoyed our quick visit to the Escalante area and hiking to Lower Calf Creek Falls! We would highly recommend a stop here on your way from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef or vice versa.

    XOXO Sara at Travel A-Broads

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    PlacesofJuma
    2 months ago

    Thank you so much for this remarkable guide! I really love your pics too!

    cosette
    1 year ago

    We’ve been to Capitol Reef and to Bryce Canyon, but we missed the Escalante area. It looks really stunning!

    Josy A
    2 years ago

    Oh my, I looove the colours of Escalante in the autumn. The stipes of the rocks are really highlighted by the changing leaves. It’s beeeautiful. Lower Calf Creek Falls is (of course) stunning too. What a perfect hike.

    Francesca
    Francesca
    2 years ago

    The Escalante and Kanab area is on my list! These areas look like they have so many hidden gems like the Lower Calf Creek Falls. It looks gorgeous. The Peek-a-Boo slot canyon sounds cool too.

    Cristina
    2 years ago

    I haven’t had the chance to visit the national parks in the US. I would love to visit this area one day. The hiking trail looks quite impressive. Thank you for all the useful information!!

    Gloria
    Gloria
    2 years ago

    Another amazing find. I would love to hike this

    Renee
    2 years ago

    I can see why it’s a popular site to visit, especially in the summer. Great tip to go during the week. What a beautiful landscape offering some epic views.

    Chelsea Messina
    2 years ago

    The pictures of you guys at the waterfall are so cute! I’m bummed we missed this area on our Utah NP road trip! We plan on going back though so I’m pinning this for later!

    Hannah
    2 years ago

    What a beautiful trail! The falls look spectacular! The rock formations look amazing, it looks like there is something to see at every turn on this trail. I’d love to visit Lower Calf Creek Falls one day – thanks for the great guide!

    Vanessa Shields
    Vanessa Shields
    2 years ago

    Wow, Calf Creek Falls is stunning against the color of the rock face. This is a hike that I’d love to do especially as it’s so scenic. Going in the fall would be a plus to avoid the crowds, high temps and see some foliage!

    Denise
    2 years ago

    Beautiful! Looks like you had a lot of fun at Lower Calf Creek Falls. I think I need that selfie stick 🙂

    Krista
    2 years ago

    What a stunning hiking trail to go on! The landscape and rock formations in this park are incredible

    Jacqueline Le
    2 years ago

    Beautiful! Seems that you did right to visit at the end of the season, not only for less crowds but looks nice and not too hot. I always imagine hiking in this region to be hot, but this looks cool and comfortable. I would love to see a beaver too as I’ve never manage to spot o in the wild yet.

    Marianne
    Marianne
    2 years ago

    The lower calf creek falls trail looks absolutely stunning! Would love to visit for a family hike. Your photos are pretty awesome too!

    Tiffany Smith
    Tiffany Smith
    2 years ago

    Yay! A dog-friendly park with opportunities for them to splash around…love it!!!

    Melinda
    2 years ago

    I have never been to Utah but you are making me want to with these photos. Looks absolutely beautiful and all your advice and tips are really helpful.

    Margarita Stainhardt
    Margarita Stainhardt
    2 years ago

    A waterfall in the desert!? That sounds superb. And it looks absolutely gorgeous. What a great find!

    Brittany
    2 years ago

    What a great post! The hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls looks so beautiful! I also love that dogs are allowed on the trail since dogs aren’t allowed on so many of the hiking trails in Utah’s NPs. Maybe we’ll have to bring Sedona 🙂 Thanks for sharing this super helpful post!

    Ashlee Fechino
    2 years ago

    Great tips for hiking to Lower Calf Creek Falls in Escalante. We love this part of Utah. We’ll have to check it out sometime. Thank you!

    Susanna
    Susanna
    2 years ago

    Wow, what an amazing natural spot. I’ve been to Zion dozens of times but never heard of Escalante or the lower calf creek falls. The rock art is super cool as well! Looks like a great stop on an epic road trip through Utah.

    April Bielefeldt
    2 years ago

    Wow incredible spot and just about the perfect length of time for me- the suggestions are very helpful and the detailed tips= the waterfall is beautiful and the Park is not one that I have visited!

    Emma
    2 years ago

    What a beautiful spot. I’d love to visit Utah and this hike looks phenomenal, such a pretty waterfall too. Great recommendations, I think camping out here would be awesome

    Jenn
    2 years ago

    Wow, yet another beautiful place in Utah! I’m gonna need a couple weeks there at least to see it all! Thanks for sharing – your photos by the falls are so pretty and fun!

    Michelle
    2 years ago

    Liking is my favorite outdoor activity. I’d like to take this hike and check out the waterfalls. It would be a fun afternoon.

    Melissa
    2 years ago

    This looks like a lovely hike and well worth it to view that beautiful waterfall, like you said a rarity in the area. I am so upset that I missed this on my trip to Utah last year, but it will definitely be on the list for my next trip to the area.

    Lekha
    Lekha
    2 years ago

    The waterfall and surrounding area look beautiful, right out of a movie! I love how you have captured the beauty in the pictures. Would love to plan a trip soon.

    Maggie
    2 years ago

    This looks like a lovely hike! I’ve been to Bryce, but not Zion yet and I’d love to get back to Utah to check out more. I love your pictures with the waterfall, so cute!