Coyote Gulch |

Hole In The Rock

Hiking Coyote Gulch - Hole In The Rock Hiking Coyote Gulch
Hole In The Rock

Overview | Getting There | Route | Photos | Maps | Comments

Overview

RATING: Moderate/Strenuous Hike/Backpack
LENGTH: 1+ days
MAPS: KING MESA, UT; STEVENS CANYON SOUTH, UT

Fri

50 | 33

Sat

45 | 29

Sun

49 | 30

Mon

50 | 33

Tue

44 | 25

View Full Weather Details
SEASON: Spring, Summer, Fall (Hot in summer)
GEAR: Standard Hiking/Backpacking Gear - 50 m rope for Jacob Hamblin Entrance/Exit
WATER: Filterable in Coyote Gulch proper.
NOTES: Reaching the trailhead requires a long dirt road that is often quite rough. Low clearance vehicles are often driven to the trailhead, but I would recommend high clearance. The washboard sections will be very slow in a low clearance vehicle. Reaching the Crack In The Wall trailhead will require 4-wheel drive, but can be walked if needed.

Packable human waste bags (WAG Bags) are required in Coyote Gulch.

Fri

50 | 33

Sat

45 | 29

Sun

49 | 30

Mon

50 | 33

Tue

44 | 25

View Full Weather Details
Looking down on the fin that contains Coyote Natural Bridge from above.

Looking down on the fin that contains Coyote Natural Bridge from above.

Coyote Gulch is one of, if not thee, premier canyon in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The canyon, emblematic of the beauty of the Escalante region, is often near the top of desert hikers and backpackers bucket lists. This is a canyon that has astounding beauty and charm, with seemingly each bend of the canyon revealing a scene to marvel at. Arches, waterfalls, cavernous alcoves, rock art, and a plethora of color make this an amazing journey.

Because of its iconic status, the canyon sees many visitors and is not necessarily the best place to visit if looking for solitude or an adventure off the beaten path.

There are many ways to do Coyote Gulch. I’ll discuss what I think are the two best options here:

Backpacking
Backpacking is the way to see all of Coyote Gulch and get a more deep sense of the canyon. If backpacking, many come in from Hurricane Wash, Red Well, or Chimney Rock trailhead and out Crack in the Wall trailhead. Most will want 1-2 nights (2-3 days) for the trip. These options require a car shuttle. Since I rarely have a car shuttle, the description below goes from Crack In The Wall Trailhead, cross-country to Hurricane Wash, then down Coyote Gulch and out Crack In The Wall. This route is about 20 miles and sees all of Coyote Gulch with no backtracking, and moderate route finding.

Day Hike
More and more, visitors are visiting Coyote Gulch via the steep access ridge just east of Jacob Hamblin Arch. This is a quick way into Coyote Gulch, about 2 miles from the trailhead to the bottom of the gulch. Though a short access route, it should be emphasized that the ridge descent is very steep. MOST WILL WANT A ROPE. If doing this “shortcut” route in, be sure to bring a 50 m ( 165 ft. ) rope and have the skills to safely descend/ascend the rope. Also, keep in mind going up or down is more challenging with a heavy pack. Often you will find a rope in place. The NPS does not maintain these, be sure to inspect carefully before deciding to trust them. The anchor at the top is a small arch/solution pocket that should be rigged with care to avoid any unnecessary rubbing.

Some do the day hike via the shortcut route into the canyon, then exiting Crack In The Wall (or vice-versa). This is an excellent, though strenuous, loop.

A few more notes I think are important to keep in mind regardless if how you visit:

  • Coyote Gulch can be visited in the spring, summer, or fall. It sees more visitors in the summer than I would have expected. On a 95 degree summer trip, I saw a few dozen people in the canyon. If visiting in hot times of the year, be sure to have plenty of water for the approach and exit and plan them for cooler times of the day. The route out Crack In The Wall is strenuous and brutal on a hot day. Spring brings more crowds, while fall has amazing colors.
  • The Crack In The Wall exit is exactly that, a crack in the cliff wall. It is quite narrow. If you have a large pack, bring a 15 m ( 50 ft. ) rope that can be used to hoist the pack up (outside of the crack) after ascending it. I had to turn sideways to fit up the crack. With a 42-inch chest, it was not a tight fight. If, however, you are a larger hiker/backpacker, the crack may be a squeeze. Probably not fun if you are claustrophobic.
  • Bring a trash bag and pickup and trash you find in the canyon. There was a disappointingly large amount on my trip that I packed out.
  • Be sure to have a good filter.
  • Before heading out, check with the National Park Service for current regulations. They are available on their Coyote Gulch page. As of 2022, backpacking in Coyote Gulch requires a free backpacking permit that is available at the trailhead. Given the popularity of the area, rules and regulations are likely to change.
Stunning deep alcove near Jacob Hamblin Arch

Stunning deep alcove near Jacob Hamblin Arch

Getting There

Head east out of the town of Escalante about 5 miles on highway 12 until the well signed Hole in the Rock road on the south side of highway 12. Reset the odometer as you turn onto this road.

  • Mile 0 - Hole-In-The-Rock Road Turnoff ( 12S 453167mE 4175716mN / N37° 43' 39" W111° 31' 53" )
  • 8.0 miles - Parking area after a cattle guard. This is the Zebra/Tunnel trailhead. ( 12S 460681mE 4165896mN / N37° 38' 22" W111° 26' 44" )
  • 12.3 miles - Devil's Garden turn off on the right. The trailhead is about 1/4 of a mile down this road. No camping, but a pit toilet. ( 12S 463808mE 4160175mN / N37° 35' 17" W111° 24' 36" )
  • 16.6 miles - Egypt road on the left. This access the Egypt and Neon trailheads ( 12S 468045mE 4154960mN / N37° 32' 28" W111° 21' 42" )
  • 24.8 miles - Upper Dry Fork Trailhead on the right (south). This has a large parking area and pit toilet. ( 12S 478657mE 4148035mN / N37° 28' 44" W111° 14' 29" )
  • 26.1 miles - Dry Fork Trailhead Road on the left (north). The trailhead is at the end of the road in about a mile. ( 12S 480198mE 4146661mN / N37° 27' 60" W111° 13' 26" )
  • 30.9 miles - Red Well side road on the left. Follow this 1 mile to its end for the Red Well Trailhead. ( 12S 485669mE 4141593mN / N37° 25' 16" W111° 09' 43" )
  • 33.1 miles - Chimney Rock side road on the left (north). ( 12S 487309mE 4138502mN / N37° 23' 36" W111° 08' 36" )
  • 34 miles - Hurricane Wash Trailhead on the left. ( 12S 488275mE 4137666mN / N37° 23' 08" W111° 07' 57" )
  • 36.3 miles - Fortymile Ridge side road on the left. This road goes to the Stock Tank and Crack In The Wall trailheads commonly used for Coyote Gulch. This is also the road to Sunset Arch trailhead. Turn left here. ( 12S 489827mE 4135057mN / N37° 21' 44" W111° 06' 54" )
  • Fortymile Ridge Side Road - Reset your odometer as you turn off the Hole-In-The-Rock road. This side road is generally passable by most to the Stock Tank trailhead. It requires 4wd to reach the Crack In The Wall Trailhead due to deep sand. A few side roads leave, stay on the main most used side road until junctions are described. ( 12S 489832mE 4135059mN / N37° 21' 44" W111° 06' 53" )
  • Fortymile Side Road - 4.4 miles - Junction. A steep road on the left climbs to the Water Tank Trailhead and small parking area used for the Jacob Hamblin Arch route into Coyote Gulch. This is also the parking spot for Sunrise/Sunset Arches which are south of the trailhead. ( 12S 495698mE 4138318mN / N37° 23' 30" W111° 02' 55" )
  • Fortymile Side Road - 5.2 miles - Side road on the right, stay left heading north east. The road gets more sandy from here. ( 12S 496930mE 4138145mN / N37° 23' 24" W111° 02' 05" )
  • Fortymile Side Road - 7 miles - End of the road at the Crack In The Wall Trailhead. ( 12S 499201mE 4139651mN / N37° 24' 13" W111° 00' 32" )
Pictograph in Coyote Gulch

Pictograph in Coyote Gulch

Route

Rock Art and Historic Site Etiquette
Rock art and historic sites are fragile, non-renewable cultural resources that, once damaged, can never be replaced. To ensure they are protected, please:
  • Avoid Touching the Petroglyphs: Look and observe, BUT DO NOT TOUCH!
  • Stay on the Trails: Stay on the most used trails when visiting sites, and don't create new trails or trample vegetation.
  • Photography and Sketching is Allowed: Do not introduce any foreign substance to enhance the carved and pecked images for photographic or drawing purposes. Altering, defacing, or damaging the petroglyphs is against the law -- even if the damage is unintentional.
  • Pets: Keep pets on a leash and clean up after them.
  • Artifacts: If you happen to come across sherds (broken pottery) or lithics (flakes of stone tools), leave them where you see them. Once they are moved or removed, a piece of the past is forever lost.

Day Hike
From the Water Tank trailhead, look north. The cairned trail goes to the left, west, of the large dome visible from the trailhead. The trail is well used, well cairned, and easy to follow. After passing the dome, the trail crosses the sandy plain for just a few minutes before reaching slickrock. Keep a sharp eye, the cairns are easy to find and follow, but could be missed if being unattentive. The cairns take you to the steep ridge that descends into Coyote Gulch. I recommend a rope for descent.

Upstream From the Jacob Hamblin Entrance
Once in the bottom of Coyote Gulch, going upstream reaches Jacob Hamblin Arch in just a few minutes at the next bend. It is about 1.7 miles one way from where you entered Coyote Gulch to Hurricane Wash upstream. This section is lovely, with deep overhangs and high navajo walls. I high recommend going as far as the confluence Hurricane Wash if possible. It is easily recognizable as the first side canyon coming in on the left.

Downstream From the Jacob Hamblin Entrance
From the bottom of the Jacob Hamblin Entrance, it is about 1.7 miles one way downstream to Coyote Natural Bridge. This section is lovely, though a bit more open than the area above Jacob Hamblin Arch. See the backpacking section below for specifics on this section.

--

Backpacking From the Crack In The Wall Trailhead
From Crack In The Wall Trailhead to Hurricane Wash (6.1 miles)
From the trailhead, start on the trail that heads towards Crack In The Wall, then almost immediately west on an old two-track road. This can be hard to spot, and if it has been windy recently, you may not see other footprints. Follow the two-track to its end in about 0.5 miles at the first patch of slickrock breaking up the sandy plain. Route finding is tricky from here, keep an eye on the map.

Continue west and a touch north, staying at about the same elevation. In just a few minutes you will reach slickrock and easier hiking. Once on slickrock, continue west, staying far enough from the rim of the slickrock that the path is easy, but not getting too far north. Views to the north of Coyote Gulch and the slickrock expanse north of it are excellent.

It is about 2.5 miles (60-75 minutes) from the Crack In The Wall trailhead to where you will intersect the Jacob Hamblin Arch shortcut route. Watch closely for cairns as you are heading west. The cairned shortcut trail was easy to find on my visit, but you have to be looking for cairns. Once you find the cairns, head south, following the shortcut trail until on the west side of the large dome.

From the west side of the large dome, Chimney Rock is visible to the west. Head straight to it, or just a little south of it. The route dips down into a shallow valley before climbing back up. Persist in heading west, the terrain becomes more slickrock with towers and small canyons. If you intersect a canyon, paralleling the route, stay to the north of it. The big dome to Hurricane Wash is about 2.7 miles. You should intersect Hurricane Wash right about where the side canyon mentioned above enters. Several easy routes lead to the bottom of Hurricane Wash.

Hurricane Wash to Coyote Gulch (2.7 miles)
During the drought of 2022, I didn’t find water in Hurricane Wash until about 1.6 miles down from where this route entered. There are good camping spots in the lower section. It is about 2.7 miles from where the route entered Hurricane Wash to Coyote Gulch.

Coyote Gulch (8 miles)
Heading down Coyote Gulch, the Navajo Sandstone walls rise and the iconic deep overhangs and curvaceous bends begin. Keep an eye on both sides of the canyon for Moki steps carved up the ridges by native peoples for entries/exits. There are said to be many. I marked one on the map below. They can be hard to spot unless you have a good eye.

It is about 1.7 miles from Hurricane Wash to Jacob Hamblin Arch. This section has the biggest overhangs of Coyote Gulch. Jacob Hamblin Arch is impressive, as is the bend in the stream that goes around it. The ridge on the south (right) side of Coyote Gulch just down stream from Jacob Hamblin Arch is the shortcut route that people climb in/out of. You are likely to encounter more people in this section here than the rest of the hike. There is good camping throughout Coyote, but I would recommend not camping very close to this entrance/exit as it tends to be busy and noisy at times.

From the bottom of the Jacob Hamblin Entrance, it is about 1.7 miles one way downstream to Coyote Natural Bridge. The canyon opens a bit here. Coyote Natural Bridge, at over 60 feet high, is quite the opening to pass through.

Note: On the upstream side of Coyote Natural Bridge, there is a social trail following the base of the cliff. There is a petroglyph panel here with a couple of desert sheep. There is also a bit of a pictograph, though I was unsure if it was more recent or not. From the panel, looking north, is an overhang. There is a ruin on the overhang that is slightly visible from below. Reaching the ruin in difficult and not recommended. A good camera zoom offers a view of it from below.

About 3/4 of a mile below Coyote Natural Bridge, right after a bend where you head north, is a large sand hill with a social trail heading up it. The top of the sand hill is an alcove of archeological finds and a pictograph panel.

NOTE: Do not pickup artifacts, or touch any of the rock art. This site sees an enormous amount of traffic and everyone needs to do their part to preserve it for future visitors.

From the panel alcove, the canyon continues to widen and change character as it transitions into the Kayenta sandstone layer. Small idyllic waterfalls become commonplace and the walls take on deep, rich colors.

About 1.7 miles down from the alcove panel, just past a small waterfall, Cliff Arch is on the left. It, originally, was known as Jug Handle Arch. A half mile beyond Cliff Arch is a waterfall that is passed on the right. There is a short trail on the left of these falls that goes to a spring that drips from above. If wanting to purify cleaner water than the stream, this is an excellent place to fill up.

The final 1.5 miles to the exit is full of cascades, waterfalls and vibrant colors. When the streambed becomes choked with large boulders, and there is a steep sand bank on the right with a trail, you have reached the exit.

Exit (2.7 miles)
Fill up on water before the exit, there won’t be any more sources available. If it is a hot day, consider waiting until the day cools. Or, do like I did, and lay in the stream to make sure everything is fully soaked before starting the big climb up in the sun.

The trail climbs steeply up the sand bank. The first part is the steepest, and once up a level, the cliff band that holds the Crack In The Wall is visible. To the northeast, the impressive Stevens Arch is also visible above the river. Large enough that stunt pilots are said to have flow through it.

From the river to the exit is a gain of about 700 vertical feet in soft sand. Social trails leave the main trail a time or two, but follow the most used trail up. From below, Crack In The Wall just looks like a low spot on the cliff band with a trail heading up to it.

Once the trail reaches the cliff band, the Crack In The Wall is clear. It is truly a crack. Squeeze up through the first section, with a small boulder to overcome near the top. The crack opens for a moment, then narrows again for the second section, that is wider and easier than the first. Pop out on top, triumphant! Rope groves below where you top out show the path people hoist packs up by.

From the top, follow cairns as they head southwest across the slickrock. Soon you will see the Crack In The Wall trailhead on top of the hill. Head toward it, either by trending west then south to stay on slickrock as much as possible, or taking the more direct path that follows an old sandy track.


Maps

Printable Maps:
Water Tank TH

12S 495688mE 4138416mN

N37° 23' 33" W111° 02' 55"

Crack In The Wall TH

12S 499201mE 4139652mN

N37° 24' 13" W111° 00' 32"

Fence

12S 497925mE 4140284mN

N37° 24' 34" W111° 01' 24"

Trail

12S 496128mE 4140730mN

N37° 24' 48" W111° 02' 38"

Overland - Leave Trail

12S 495795mE 4139435mN

N37° 24' 06" W111° 02' 51"

Hurricane Entrance

12S 492383mE 4139807mN

N37° 24' 18" W111° 05' 10"

Water

12S 493489mE 4141155mN

N37° 25' 02" W111° 04' 25"

Fence

12S 493517mE 4141208mN

N37° 25' 04" W111° 04' 24"

Hurricane-Coyote

12S 494845mE 4141540mN

N37° 25' 14" W111° 03' 30"

Moki south

12S 496001mE 4141413mN

N37° 25' 10" W111° 02' 43"

Jacob Hamblin Arch

12S 496166mE 4141358mN

N37° 25' 08" W111° 02' 36"

Jacob Hamblin Entrance

12S 496303mE 4141462mN

N37° 25' 12" W111° 02' 30"

Panel

12S 497507mE 4141121mN

N37° 25' 01" W111° 01' 41"

Coyote Bridge

12S 497529mE 4141069mN

N37° 24' 59" W111° 01' 41"

Panel Alcove

12S 498078mE 4140995mN

N37° 24' 57" W111° 01' 18"

Cliff Arch

12S 499345mE 4141442mN

N37° 25' 11" W111° 00' 27"

Spring - Left of Falls

12S 499739mE 4141617mN

N37° 25' 17" W111° 00' 11"

Sand Hill Exit

12S 501093mE 4142391mN

N37° 25' 42" W110° 59' 16"

Crack In The Wall

12S 501268mE 4141386mN

N37° 25' 09" W110° 59' 08"

Old Fortymile Road

12S 500505mE 4140653mN

N37° 24' 46" W110° 59' 39"

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