Glen Canyon National Recreation Area & The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
If you are looking for a place to escape on a new adventure, you’ll want to add Hole-in-the-Rock road to the list. This 62-mile road is a tremendous one. Hole-in-the-Rock road connects Escalante, Utah to the western shores of Lake Powell, and is host to some of the most unique landscapes in Utah. Almost all of the road sits within the Grand Staircase-Ecalante National Monument, but the last ~5 miles are within Glen Canyon NRA.
Let me say this, BE PREPARED FOR A DRIVE. Even with modern SUVs, the 62-mile road demands a bit of preparation. The first ~40 miles are pretty doable for a handy driver even without a high-clearance vehicle, but toward the end a proper 4×4 is advised.
*We were able to tackle the road in a Toyota Highlander without 4×4 clearance and only 2-wheel drive, but I had a small panic attack for about 10-15 miles. Also, don’t try to take on the Hole-in-the-Rock road if you foresee any rain. Once the road is muddy, it becomes completely impassable.
With all of that being said, please don’t let this stop you from having your own adventure! You should definitely do your research, be prepared, plan to have plenty of water, and maybe a spare tire, but the road really isn’t as bad as you will read. We saw all types of vehicles including some cars and a Prius. Also, there are plenty of people driving up and down the road that would hopefully help you out if something were to happen. Just remember, whatever your journey is… you’ll definitely remember that time you went down Hole-in-the-Rock road.
Now for what you came for. Here are my top 5 most picturesque spots off Hole-in-the-Rock road.
Capture the iconic Reflection Canyon
There are two ways to access Reflection Canyon, on water or by foot. However, if you want to get the iconic Reflection Canyon landscape, the only way to reach the top of the canyon is by braving the 18.7mile round trip hike. Most photographers plan to do Reflection Canyon as a backpacking trip so they can reach the viewpoint before sunset and slay the sunrise before heading back out. There are plenty of camping spots that hug the canyons of Lake Powell, and since you’ll most likely be the only people there, you’ll have many options for setting up camp.
Good to Know: You will not have access to any water during this hike. That includes filtering water from an outside source. Pack smart and make sure to carry enough water to beat the sun and keep hydrated.
Glide down the Dry Fork Narrows
You can access the Dry Fork, Spooky and Peekaboo slots by taking a short detour off of the Hole-in-the-Rock main stretch. This hike has seemingly endless slot canyons, golden narrows, and some amazing bouldering for the whole crew. Get ready for tight squeezes! This is definitely a trail for adventurous travelers. The route difficulty varies depending on your level of experience and preparations.
Climb like an Animal through the Zebra Slots
There are many slot canyons in the Grand-Staircase/Glen Canyon region, but some of the most accessible are the Zebra and Tunnel Slots. Today is the day you find out how much of your butt is blubber and how much is bones. The Zebra slots are TIGHT. So tight that in some places you will need to use a mixture of squeezing, climbing, and ninja holds…especially when the water is knee deep. You need to go in at least a couple hundred feet to slot to see the stripes on the wall, but reaching the inner slot is well worth it.
Pro tip: If there is water in the slots, leave your backpack, equipment and hiking poles outside of the Zebra slot entrance so that you have your arms accessible to help you climb.
Capture Jacob Hamblin’s Arch from Below and Above
The Jacob Hamblin’s Arch is one of the most iconic natural arches hidden within the walls of the Escalante. You can access the arch from a few connecting trails, but if you want to see it from below and above, you need to take either the Coyote Gulch Loop or the Coyote Natural Bridge via Coyote Gulch. Both trails will lead you to climbing in/out of a mountain wall near the Arch entrance. Be aware that this is roughly a class 5 climb. There is a rope that you can use to assist you in the climb, but it was not installed by the Park Services so please use caution. Most people choose to not use the rope and just practice smart footing.
ProTip: If you are preparing to climb the mountain wall, make sure you have shoes with proper grip. It is also smart to carry water shoes with you to trek through the river water. If you have a pair of approach shoes accessible, you’ll be golden.
Another option, if you don’t want to take on the climb or you’d rather have a more relaxed trip, the Coyote Gulch has some of the most incredible camping spots in Escalante. Pack up that backpack and sleep under the stars either next to the Escalante River or under the Hamblin’s Arch itself. Get there early to get the best spot!
Peek through the Hole at the Actual Hole In The Rock
Dying to get your toes into the blue waters of Lake Powell? At the end of the Hole-in-the-Rock road, you’ll find access to Lake Powell through the Hole-In-The-Rock trail. (You can tell that someone put a lot of thought into naming the trials here.) You’ll find a lot more than a hole, but access to amazing views of the lake with red walls towering all around. As you hike down, the lake gets more and more clear until you’re exactly where you need to be. This hike is a bit strenuous and does require some climbing and smart footing.
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