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    Upper and Lower Calf Creek Falls: Guide to scenic waterfalls trails along UT-12

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    Joel Fulleda

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    When the water rushes into a natural pool, in the middle of a canyon surrounded by a desert setting, certainly generates a great charm. And if this enchanting view presents itself to your eyes after a few hours of walking under the scorching sun, you will hardly resist the desire to dive into the pool of clear water.

    If you are planning to insert the UT-12 in the itinerary of your road trip to discover Utah or perhaps various states of the American Southwest, you could consider dedicating a few hours to a trek to reach some really nice waterfalls generated by the Calf Creek, one of the tributaries of the Escalante River.


    • How to reach us
    • Trail to Lower Calf Creek Falls
    • Trail to Upper Calf Creek Falls
    • Upper or Lower? Which waterfalls to choose?
    • Where to sleep nearby

    How to reach us

    The paths that allow you to reach the waterfalls, both the Lower and the Upper, branch off from UT-12, the scenic route that crosses the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Specifically, they are located in the section of the UT-12 that goes from the village of Escalante to that of Boulder.

    The entrances of the two paths they are not very well marked, so I suggest you refer to the following links on Google Maps:

    • parking to access the lower falls (note: in this case the parking is the same as the campsite and costs $ 5 per vehicle);
    • parking to access the upper falls.

    Trail to Lower Calf Creek Falls

    • Length: 9,6 km round trip
    • Difference: 158 meters

    Le Lower Calf Creek Falls they are one of the best known attractions of the vast Grand Staircase Escalante area, or at least one of the most beaten by visitors interested in day trekking excursions. Over 38 meters high, the main waterfall of Calf Creek plunges into a natural pool, at the suggestive point where the canyon suddenly plunges. In the summer months, when the heat is felt, it is common practice for those who arrive here after a few hours of walking to undress to take a dip in the cool water under the waterfall.

    The trail is a little less than 5 kilometers (about 9,6 km there and back) and it is generally good to consider between 3 and 4 hours to go and return. The trail itself is fairly straightforward, but in some parts the sand can make walking difficult and is also one of the reasons why it is better to wear hiking shoes and not just sneakers, which fill up more easily with sand. In general, however, consider that it is a journey suitable for everyone, even for children, always taking into account the climatic conditions of the period in which you will go here (walking for hours under the sun in the height of summer is not the best).

    The path follows the course of the stream at the bottom of the canyon, but the waterfall that you will find at the end of the route is not the only reason for this trek. Along the way you will find a large one niche carved into the rock: it is a form of granary of over 800 years ago, used by the primitive peoples who inhabited these canyons to store their food reserves. Another proof that the area was already inhabited many centuries ago is the rock painting representing three human figures.

    Prehistoric “granary” along the path
    Rock painting along the path

    To make this path interesting is also the wildlife that you can spot. Many different species of birds fly between these sloping rocks: if you are lucky you will be able to see a magnificent specimen of peregrine falcon, otherwise you can be satisfied with robins or other small birds. While observing the stream, it will not be difficult to spot some beaver building their own dam, while a mule deer might appear along the path at any moment.

    If you want to download the pdf of the official brochure del Blm, which is very detailed and well done, you can find it at this link.

    Trail to Upper Calf Creek Falls

    • Length: 3,5 km round trip
    • Difference: 184 meters

    If you are an expert hiker, maybe you prefer a more challenging trail, but one that guarantees you won't find many other people along the way and will enjoy more a series of waterfalls which, although less high than those mentioned above, still provide a beautiful view and an area in which to swim .

    Le Upper Calf Creek Falls are a series of waterfalls that are more varied, albeit less high, than the Lower Calf Creek Falls. The largest waterfall is 27 meters high, but the water flow is quite small. Not far away, however, there is a series of minor waterfalls that flow into natural pools where it is pleasant to swim and easy to dive from the surrounding rocks.

    Natural pool that precedes the waterfall
    Dive into the natural pool

    The path to reach them is shorter, but much more impervious of what comes to the lower falls. For this reason you will not find the same number of visitors who hike the previous trail in the high season. Despite being less than 3,5 kilometers there and back, the path that descends from the road into the canyon is quite steep. You may find it difficult in some places, both downhill and uphill, because the rocks are steep and slippery.

    Upper or Lower? Which waterfalls to choose?

    UT-12 is by itself one of the most beautiful scenic drives in Utah: precisely for this reason I recommend that you dedicate the time necessary to discover all the beauties to which it gives access. If you love trekking, you will certainly not disdain to dedicate half a day to an excursion to reach one of the waterfalls of the stream bordered by the state road.

    Doubt arises spontaneously: is it better to go to the lower or upper falls? In part, the answer comes from your hiking experience. Le Lower falls they foresee a long path, but passable without major technical difficulties. For this reason they are the most popular with visitors. If you have enough time and don't want to venture into too demanding trails, choose the lower falls. Le Upper falls, on the other hand, they can be reached via a shorter but much more demanding route. This trek is recommended for more experienced hikers, who are not afraid of having to cling to the rocks somewhere and venture into steep and rugged stretches of path.

    If, on the other hand, you don't have the time or the desire to walk, certainly during the journey you can park the car for a few minutes at the Calf Creek Viewpoint, which will allow you at least to take a nice photo of the canyon seen from above (but you will not see the falls).

    Where to sleep nearby

    We are talking about an area within the Grand Staircase Escalante, so don't expect to find the variety of accommodation of a large city in the surrounding area. However, considering that you will most likely stop here on an itinerary that also includes other destinations along the UT-12, I suggest you read our advice on where to stay overnight along the UT-12, where you will also find accommodations closest to Calf Creek Falls.

    Our tips for sleeping near Calf Creek Falls

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