Let’s put it this way… does any of this interest you:
Gorgeous landscapes, unusual rock formations, challenging hikes, breathtaking overlooks, fun rock scrambling, terrifying rappelling, and gigantic sandstone spires. Sounds terrible, right?
Southern Utah is basically the most fabulous, interesting, and mind-boggling PLAYGROUND FOR ADULTS.
Forget the FIVE spectacular national parks that Utah hosts- those deserve their own blog post- but there are so many fascinating sights to see in the rest of Southern Utah that you could keep hiking that area for 30 years and never see it all!
Here are some of our favorite Non-National-Park-Southern-Utah-HIKES!
ESCALANTE: Peek-A-Boo/Spooky Gulch Slot Canyons
Guys. Seriously. If you do nothing else in Southern Utah- you must go do this hike. It is a loop hike, you go up through one slot canyon, across a wash, and back through the other slot. We took the route where we entered Peek-A-Boo first, and ended coming back through Spooky.
When you get to the beginning of Peek-A-Boo, you are greeted by this giant wall that you aren’t sure how to scale. There are a few foot holds, but Brad and I really helped boost each other up. Once you get up there, the FIRST thing you see is two overlapping arches INSIDE the slot canyon. I can not tell you enough about the wonder and amazement when you first come across these two arches and going into the slot. It is truly phenomenal.
As you continue along, you better not be claustrophobic, cause it gets super narrow! But the narrowness of the canyon is the pure beauty of the slots, they are these insanely beautiful ribbons of color and waves of cracks through the rock. In 3 years we have hiked through a lot of slot canyons and this hike still blows my mind.
EXCURSIONS OF ESCALANTE: Go find them!
While you are in Southern Utah, passing through the small, cute town of Escalante, make sure to find a tour group called “Excursions of Escalante.” They have a choice of about 10 different slot canyons that are not publicized that they take tours through. No one but the guides knows that these canyons exist, so you never run into a crowd!
We did a rock climbing and rappelling tour with these guys. It was 9 hours, it was hot and difficult and probably one of our favorite experiences of all time. They are calm and safe and guide you down giant walls and through tiny, beautiful cracks in the rock. There was only 3 people in our group (Brad, myself, and one other lady) plus the guide, so we got to go down 6 different rappels and countless amounts of climbing, body bridging, and scrambling. They are an amazing group that took us to places we would have never been able to see otherwise, and gave us the skills and confidence needed to excel in this challenging terrain. I can’t say enough great things about them.
Check out these images from our rappelling trip:
THE “SAN RAFAEL SWELL”
The “Swell” area has some amazing draws that make us want to encourage people to go check it out.
First of all, everything down in this area of Southern Utah is BLM Land – This basically means you can camp anywhere you want. There are no campgrounds and no facilities, so you are all on your own, but there are little pull offs that you can visually notice and indicate that “hey this is a good place to camp!” The cool thing about camping down here is that you see lots of other vehicles and campers, but when at your camp site, you feel completely alone. We could see redrock for miles and not another tent in sight- but if there was some sort of emergency where you needed help, you could easily find other families nearby.
Most amazing about camping in the swell is of course all the hiking nearby! There are 7 slot canyons to hike right in this area!
The most popular, for good reason, is called “Little Wild Horse Canyon.” Little Wild Horse loops around with Bell Canyon and makes a fantastic day hike. At about 8 miles total, you can hike around this area doing lots of rock scrambling and even climbing into the swiss cheese looking walls 🙂 (I don’t know this rock formations official name, but we call them cheese walls.) In addition to this hike, we definitely recommend hiking through Crack Canyon and Chute Canyon- but honestly- you can’t go wrong with any of the slot canyons in the San Rafael Swell area. It’s a great place to go hike! This area is even DOG FRIENDLY! It is so hard to find places in Utah where dogs are allowed to hike with you, but our little Millie LOVED running through the slots just as much as we did. Here are some of the amazing shots from Little Wild Horse/Bell: