Backpacking Coyote Canyon

Took our nephew Joseph on his first backpacking trip to Coyote- one of the most beautiful canyons in the Escalante region. We planned a four day hike starting at the Dry Fork- near the famous slots of Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulch.


Peek-a-boo Gulch


Peek-a-boo, Spooky, and Brimstone are tributaries of Coyote Dry Fork. You can drop your pack at the entrance and explore them as a side hike. The entrance to Peek-a-boo is a tricky little 15′ climb. Hand and foot holds have been pecked out of the rock to aid in climbing but they are worn now. We tied a rope around the waist as a simple belay. You can climb out of the gulch where it pinches at the end, no down-climb or rappel necessary.



Upper Peek-a-boo

2    Spooky Gulch. We were told by a local guide that it needs to rain directly above these slots in order for them to flash flood. Still, it was an unnerving thought.

Side note: I always use tennis shoes on my hikes and packrafting trips. They drain water well, are comfortable, and easy to scramble in. The desert has been the one place where I’ve developed blisters due to the sand. This time we tried wearing ziplock bags on our feet then the sock on top. That idea kinda worked. It kept the sand off our feet but didn’t stop the sand from building up in our shoes. We were constantly pulling them off and dumping the sand out. I didn’t develop blisters but I’ve come to the conclusion that the desert may be the one place where I will need to wear traditional hiking boots with gaitors. I will still need the tennis shoes though when hiking in water. Bummer. I’m a lightweight backpacker and hate bringing multiple pairs of footwear. I don’t even bring camp shoes. Anyone have a better way of getting through the desert when encountering sand AND water?

IMG_4921IMG_4952Spooky Gulch

IMG_4939It can be pretty dark down there.

IMG_4996Nice sand dune near the entrance to Brimstone Gulch. Visiting Brimstone slot is a long, sandy hike down Coyote Dry Fork and fewer people put the effort in to see it. Maybe it’s the name- it certainly isn’t as cool as Peek-a-boo or Spooky. But in my opinion, Brimstone is the best of all three.


Megga face plant while running down the dune! Ha! Sand everywhere but he was a good sport!


Backpacks on, headed down Coyote Dry fork. As you can see, the canyon is very narrow at times. There isn’t any water for the first 11 miles and not very many people visit this area. We had to carry a gallon of water each for this section.


Tumbleweed blocks the way. “Careful, could be snakes in there.”


We found evidence that cows like this slot too. These tight spots aren’t as fun with backpack on.


Lowered packs with rope.


Reminds me of a scene from Indiana Jones.


The canyon opens and the walls rise.

IMG 5046

Huge sandstone cave!


Just kidding.


Prickly Pear Cactus in bloom


Looking forward to water!


Nice camp spot. Joseph tried making friction-fire with bow drill he made from wood found along hike. Lots of smoke but no cigar.


About to find water near Sleepy Hollow.



Coyote Canyon proper. Now our tennis shoes and neoprene socks come in handy! You can walk in the water barefoot, which is nice, but the trail always cuts through the brush and there is a couple different species of poison ivy which can be hard to identify. We saw people in shorts and short sleeve shirts- including children. I have made this mistake myself and had to get epinephrine shots to counter the effects of this poisonous plant. Do yourself and your kids a favor and wear pants, long sleeve shirts, and gloves.





Anasazi cliff dwellings


Coyote Natural Bridge




Cliff Arch




The scramble up Crack-in-the-wall. It actually is a crack in the wall- go figure. Backpacks won’t fit through the slot.


A 50′ rope is used to haul the packs up. The sandstone is very abrasive and can wear or cut your rope- have something thicker than string.


The last little climb at the very top. Try to plan your ascent early in the morning or late at night to avoid the blistering heat.


At the top of Crack-in-the-wall. I’ve drawn in red the two routes down into the canyon. The one on the left is the prominent trail into Coyote Canyon. The steep route on the right has quicker access to/from the Escalante River but their is some scrambling involved and some groups may feel more comfortable with a rope.


The long hike back to the car on 40 Mile Bench.

Coyote is one of the more beautiful canyons in the Escalante but the secret is out. Fortunately, the long arduous hike holds back most the hordes. Its a great introduction for first time desert backpackers. A little route finding and rope work but nothing intimidating.