Backpacking in Utah’s Grand Staircase – Escalante’s Canyons

An airplane is great for getting somewhere where it is hard to drive to.  Shelter Cove California is one example, and Escalante, Utah is another.  Escalante is a fantastic place with many majestic and uncrowded canyons to explore, yet it is a five hour drive from the closest big cities of Las Vegas and Salt Lake City so it doesn’t get a lot of visitors. With the airplane it is about a three hour flight, although the return flight was a bit longer – more on that later.

We went on Memorial day, and although we ran into some other parties, it was generally a wonderful hiking experience in a beautiful, deep canyon with lots of solitude. If you are used to alpine backpacking in California or Colorado, you really need to visit Utah for a muti-day canyon trip.   Hiking through the canyon and under the massive alcoves is awe inspiring.

Much of the hiking is in the stream bed, and our dogs, Bodie and Ande, loved it.  (You should bring dog booties for dry hot, sandy sections – although we didn’t need them this time).  We hiked down Harris Wash, made a base camp, then took a long day hike the rest of the way down Harris Wash, up the Escalante River a ways, then up Silver Creek Falls canyon to visit some Mormon wall carvings.  Actually, the guidebook said to go up to see the carvings, but the real treat was the canyon – it was massively walled with purple and red water streaks.

After two nights we hiked out and stayed at a B&B in Escalante.  We also paid them to run our shuttles to and from the trailhead.  We had hoped they would take pity on us and drive us to the airport in the morning, but it was too early for them, so we used our folding bikes to ride down Utah highway 12 at 4:00 am to get to our plane.  We left so early because my wife Betsy, a veterinarian, had appointments in California at 9:00 am.  Unfortunately there was weather to dodge and we ended up going WAY south below Mt. Whitney, down into the San Joaquin valley and then up valley under the clouds.  Betsy missed her first few appointments, which she never does so that was a frustrating end to a great trip.

Betsy, Bodie and Ande
Betsy, Bodie and Ande

green ledge_1440_1080

Typical views
Typical views
Lunch
Lunch
Fantastic purple streaks
Fantastic purple streaks
Hiking up canyon
Hiking up canyon
Canyon and Tree
Canyon and Tree
Early morning ride back to the plane
Early morning ride back to the plane

 

 

4 thoughts on “Backpacking in Utah’s Grand Staircase – Escalante’s Canyons

  1. So did you use the folding bikes to get from airport to shuttle? For me reading your stories is very inspiring but I need to figure out a way to get from airplane to the activity. My 182 does not have the same space for bikes yours does.

    1. Hi Antonio,

      They picked us up at the airport and took us directly to the trailhead. Then on the way back we dropped off stuff at the airport, got our bikes and were driven to the B&B. We used our bikes to go get dinner, but it wouldn’t be a long walk, plus you could stay right in town instead of a few blocks out like we did.

      There are professional shuttle operations (Escalante outfitters) that will shuttle for you. I just asked the B&B (Rainbow Inn B&B) if they would like to make some extra money and her husband turns out to have operated a tour company before so he was very willing.

      I just read they are building a shelter at the airport with water and electricity, so that is an option too to just stay right there.

      Warm regards, Ney

  2. Very nice. Sometimes finding a way from airport to adventure is the hardest part. Tomorrow I might fly out to Nehalem Bay and check out the camping there. 3s7.

  3. Hello, I read your blog like every week. Your story-telling style is witty, keep doing what you’re doing!

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