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Hiking the Stunning Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail in Escalante

After visiting Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, we continued on our Southwest road trip to Capitol Reef National Park. On the way from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef, we explored the Escalante area, and we’re happy we did!

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.

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

    Where is Lower Calf Creek Falls Located?

    Lower Calf Creek Falls is located in the Staircase-Escalante National Monument off of the Utah Scenic Byway 12 between Escalante and Boulder.

    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 Cost?

    There’s a $5 per vehicle fee to be paid at the day-use parking lot.

    When’s the Best Time to Visit Escalante?

    Most people visit between March and June and in September and October; we visited during the tail end of that range in late October. In our opinion, this is the best time to visit Escalante, as well as the surrounding area. There were no crowds during our visit, and we loved all of the fall foliage this time of year!

    The Lower Calf Creek Falls trail is a popular hike, especially in summer months; if you’re visiting then, you may want to go during the week to avoid the crowds.

    The weather varies drastically by season. Temperatures can reach 90 degrees or more in the summer and drop below freezing in the winter; spring and fall offer milder temperatures.

    Temperatures were in the 50s when we visited, since we were there late in the day. This was great for hiking, but we were a bit chilly near the waterfall and definitely didn’t do any swimming.

    How to Get to Lower Calf Creek Falls

    If you’re road tripping to Utah’s Mighty Five, you’ll likely be visiting the Escalante area on your way from Bryce Canyon National Park to Capitol Reef National Park or vice versa.

    There are multiple 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 Escalante or Boulder

    Camping is available onsite at the Calf Creek Campground for $10; it’s offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Thus, you’ll want to arrive early in the day if you plan to get a campsite. Dogs are allowed in the camping area, but they must be kept on a leash at all times.

    We stayed at Red Ledges Inn the night before (near Bryce Canyon National Park) and at Broken Spur Inn & Steakhouse (near Capitol Reef National Park) the evening of our hike.

    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.

    A Broad Recommendation: I love booking stays on hotels.com and have used them throughout Asia and the United States. They offer great deals and give you 1 free night for every 10 nights you complete. Who doesn’t love free stuff? I also use Rakuten at the time of my purchase to get cash back – how neat!

    Are Dogs Allowed on the 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!

    How to Hike the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail

    To find the 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 trailhead and then a prominent sign where it begins.

    The trail is around 6 miles round trip (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 National Park that morning, and it was already late afternoon, but we sure are happy we didn’t; the waterfall view at the end was so worth it!

    Along the way, 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 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 the 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: You’ll be hiking for several hours. 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.

    You should plan to spend around 3 hours hiking here; 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.

    Note: there are no facilities along the trail, so you’ll want to make sure to use the restroom at the parking lot before beginning this hike. Remember to always pack out all trash and pick up after your pet.

    Other Hikes in the Escalante Area

    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, you’ll want to make sure to download Google offline maps and to pack extra water, snacks and warm clothes in case of an emergency.

    We loved our quick visit to the Escalante area! And, we would highly recommend a visit on your way from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef or vice versa.

    Pin this post for later, and follow along with us on our Southwest U.S. road trip with How to Spend One Day in Capitol Reef National Park.

    XOXO Travel A-Broads

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    Josy A
    6 months 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
    9 months 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
    Cristina
    9 months 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
    10 months ago

    Another amazing find. I would love to hike this

    Renee
    Renee
    10 months 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
    10 months 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
    10 months 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
    10 months 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
    10 months ago

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

    Krista
    10 months ago

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

    Jacqueline Le
    10 months 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
    10 months 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
    10 months ago

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

    Melinda
    10 months 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
    10 months ago

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

    Brittany
    10 months 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
    10 months 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
    10 months 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
    10 months 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
    10 months 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
    10 months 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
    10 months 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
    10 months 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
    10 months 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
    10 months 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!

    Tanya T
    Tanya T
    10 months ago

    The views from your hike are gorgeous. I’ve only hiked once in Utah. These photos make me want to explore Calf Creek Falls!

    Bea
    Bea
    10 months ago

    Your photos look stunning and they make me want to hike Lower Calf Creek Falls trail right now! A new one for my bucket list. Thank you!

    Shafinah
    Shafinah
    10 months ago

    loving those dynamic poses in front of the falls – definitely a vibe!

    Ildi
    10 months ago

    This place seems to be off the beaten track, however looks stunning and intriguing. Hehe I love your yoga pose (handstand/scorpio ?) in front of the waterfall.

    Sarah Wilson
    10 months ago

    Wow, this hike looks gorgeous. keep planning to visit Utah – just postponed trip to next year now. Saving this post because I hadn’t heard of this particular walk before.

    Lenore
    10 months ago

    Hiking here looks absolutely amazing. Your scenic pictures are breathtaking. Great tips on what to carry during the hike as well as the duration. I’m hoping to take another hiking trip this year so I will save your post!

    Sue
    Sue
    10 months ago

    What a beautiful hike and the waterfall is stunning!

    Natalie
    10 months ago

    This hike looks stunning! I am definitely saving this for when I make it to Utah someday. I’m obsessed with the waterfall series photos, so cute!

    Linnea
    Linnea
    10 months ago

    Wow! The waterfalls are gorgeous! I’ve never heard of this area and I need to go!