Backpacking Coyote Gulch
The main goal of Alex's and my trip to Escalante was to tackle a backpacking route we’ve been wanting to do for awhile: Coyote Gulch. The gulch is 25 miles long and drains into the Escalante River which in turn drains into the Colorado River. Coyote Gulch is located in central, southern Utah so it had some similarities to the Paria Canyon hike but it was also different enough that it didn't feel repetitive.
Deciding how to get into Coyote Gulch was a little bit of a challenge itself because there are multiple entrances. We chose Hurricane Wash, which is known as the long and least scenic route but it’s also the route that doesn’t require squeezing through cracks in the walls or scaling steep rocks with a fully loaded backpack; aka it’s the safe route and we like safe even if it’s “not scenic”.
The first four miles of hiking followed the Hurricane Wash and since there was no significant elevation gain or loss Alex and I cruised through this section. While there were no definite markers indicating that the wash has transitioned into Coyote Gulch I was following my AllTrails route so I knew we had. The further into Coyote Gulch we hiked the taller the canyon walls became, until they were so tall I had to hold my hat on my head to keep it from falling off as I craned my neck to get a peek at the walls' tops.
We made it to our destination for the night, Jacob Hamblin Arch, in a little under three hours, which was not bad for seven miles with fully loaded backpacks and 5L of water each!
We quickly set up camp and then proceeded to have one of the laziest camp days ever. With all afternoon to kill we napped, read, and intermittently took photos as the light shifted on the canyon walls.
We made dinner and retreated to bed to recharge for another day of hiking!
On the second morning we woke at sunrise and slowly began the day. We cooked breakfast, drank coffee, and plotted our day’s route on the map I had brought. We planned to head down Coyote Gulch and try to get as close to its confluence with the Escalante River as possible. It would be about a 12 mile round trip hike and I knew we would be stopping often to take photos. Given our expected pace the chances were high we wouldn’t make it all the way to the river and we were both okay with that.
As we hiked the canyon scenes that unfolded before us were breathtaking: waterfalls, natural arches, and more impossibly tall walls than I could ever count. The canyon was a sensory overload in the best way possible. Birds sang, leaves rustled in the breeze, the river babbled as it flowed over rocks and cascaded into pools below, and the sun kept us warm even as we plunged our feet into the cold river water. We stopped every ten paces to take it all in and we hiked for three hours before we decided to turn around. My GPS indicated we were still a mile or so away from the confluence and the way-finding was getting increasingly more difficult.
We made it back to camp with a few hours to spare before dinner and again we spent that time lazing around. I finished the novel I brought and Alex napped and took a few time lapses.
With plans to capture the night sky through Jacob Hamblin Arch we left the tent at around midnight and began setting up our cameras. To our dismay some campers down the river decided this was also the best time to blast some music. For the next four hours they played music which, amplified by the canyon's acoustics, made it feel as if Alex and I were sitting front row at a rock concert. Needless to say we did not get a great night of sleep.
The next morning we woke early and although we were still exhausted from our sleepless night we packed up camp and headed out before 7am. We made it back in just 2.5 hours. We were hot, dirty and sleep deprived but so relieved to see the parking lot full of cars finally come into view.
We threw all our gear into the back of the car and headed back to Escalante as quickly as possible. We showered at Escalante Outfitters, bought some snacks. and repacked before making the long drive to Vegas.
Coyote Gulch certainly lived up to the hype. Canyons have such a mysterious beauty to them that is hard to put into words. I will definitely return to Escalante again to explore more of the area and experience more of its beauty!