About two weekends ago, some good friends and I had a chance to realize some long standing plans. After nearly 6 years of toying with the idea, we finally went backpacking in Coyote Gulch. If you haven’t heard of it, Coyote is one of the many riparian canyons in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument/Glen Canyon Recreation Area region. We had been down this way before, but our trek through this gulch may be out best visit yet.

The trip started with Skip, Todd and myself taking off around 5pm. The drive is 5+ hours, so we arrived at our campsite under cover of darkness around 11pm. The rest of the crew already had a fire going and drinks poured, and we all toasted the coming adventure. Everyone woke up a bit late the next day, but fully energized over the miles and sites to come. We pointed our vehicles south on Hole-in-the-Rock Road and arrived at the Chimney Rock Trailhead a half hour later. Packs were slung on shoulders and we hit the dusty trail. Here are some photos of what we saw during our two night stay in Coyote Gulch:

Coyote Gulch hike from Chimney
Jeff and Jackie make their way down the sandy trail towards Coyote Gulch

The trail in was mostly sand mixed with some slick rock. And a lot of cow pies. It was tough going under the hot noon sun, but we got into the good stuff before long.

coyote gulch no dogs allowed sig
No dogs allowed! Once we passed this cattle gate, Coyote Gulch became a site-a-minute stunner.

No dogs (or cows) are allowed in Coyote Gulch because of the massive amount of use it already sees from human visitors.

coyote gulch photo
Skip stops to capture some of the beauty in Coyote Gulch.

Coyote Gulch was alive and popping with color. Birds chirped, bees buzzed, and around every corner was another gorgeous view. The canyon walls rise high and have huge alcoves cut under them. The water was flowing strong in the perennial stream, and we splashed in and out of it as we made our way towards the confluence with Hurricane Wash.

coyote gulch hike
The light changes frequently with the high walls, and you never know what hour might provide and interesting photo.

Five miles later, we finally all agreed on a campsite. Ours was situated just off the trail in a small area of juniper trees. We made camp and relaxed after a tough hike in. We played in the stream, ate dinner, and drank some of the beers that we had schlepped in with us. Bringing beer is always a delicious luxury, and I enjoyed every sip! We turned in before midnight. The next day we planned to hike the entire gulch, all the way down to the confluence with the Escalante River.

jacob hamblin arch coyote gulch
The south side of Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch.
coyote gulch stream hike
Todd tries to free himself from the streamside quicksand.
coyote natural bridge in coyote gulch
Coyote Natural Bridge is just one of the many awesome sites in the gulch.

We passed all the classic sites: Jacob Hamblin Arch, Swiss Cheese Falls, Coyote Natural Bridge, and many others that we weren’t expecting. In Coyote Gulch it’s possible to see natural seeps with fresh water flowing out of them, rock art, ancient ruins, and numerous arches. It really is an amazing place. Oh, and don’t forget about the series of four waterfalls along the way; they are ideal for cooling off in when the gulch gets too toasty during midday.

cliff arch coyote gulch
Can you spot Cliff Arch jutting out from the side of the walls? Don’t blink or you’ll miss something amazing in Coyote Gulch.
natural seep coyote gulch
Natural seeps pour out of the rocks overhead. The water is so pure you don’t have to filter it.
waterfall coyote gulch
One of the big waterfalls in Coyote Gulch. This one was too good to resist; we all took a refreshing dip underneath it!

It took us over 5 hours, but we eventually ended up at the confluence. Here, the might Esaclante River was flowing stronger than I’ve ever seen it. We ate a nice lunch in the shade, stretched our legs, and soon began the trip back.

coyote gulch escalante river
The confluence of Coyote Gulch and the Esaclante River. Quite the view!

Back in camp, we reflected on our hike. I was very happy we decided to stay another night in the backcountry. As Todd and I slept under the stars, I listened to the crazed warbling of the many frogs that live in the gulch. I also couldn’t help gloating to myself a little bit: we finally did Coyote Gulch, and we damn sure did it right! The next day we hiked out, a little tired and beat up, but no worse for wear. Cold beers and tasty pizzas at Escalante Outfitters gave us the energy to make the long drive home. Another Escalante trip in the books, and now the only question is “where to next?”

flower coyote gulch
Deep in Coyote Gulch, a lone flower springs from the canyon wall.