Photo: Russ Nordstrand

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Escalante River Backpack

Highlights

  • One of Southern Utah's most beautiful rivers
  • Hidden side canyon exploration
  • Swimming holes, hanging gardens & deep alcoves
  • Beach camping near the Escalante River
  • Natural bridges and ancient rock art
  • Water and shade - real treats in the desert!
  • Amazing natural & cultural history

Description

The Escalante River has been described as ‘the crookedest river in the world". Our backcountry trek along one of Southern Utah’s most enchanting waterways takes us under towering sandstone cliffs, past groves of Cottonwood trees, and across white sand beaches begging us to kick off our shoes and soak the Canyon Country in. We'll explore side canyons to find swimming holes, hanging gardens and deep sandstone alcoves. We'll hike well, eat well, and sleep well on this fantastic 3- or 4-day adventure!
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is one of the most beautiful regions in Utah with it’s unique, undulating terrain and brilliant sandstone features. The route takes us from the historic town of Escalante to the famous Highway 12 Bridge, one of the most dramatic entry points to the National Monument. Along the way we’ll pass two major tributary canyons, Death Hollow and Sand Creek, as well as dripping springs, natural bridges, and rock art and ruins left by the pre-Columbian Fremont People. Being next to the river for our entire hike, we’ll have an excellent chance of seeing wildlife as they come down to get a drink.

Exploring up Death Hollow (especially on our 4-day itinerary) we’ll have the opportunity to search out hidden swimming holes and deep, shaded sandstone alcoves. Bring your water shoes, as we’ll be hiking in the ankle to knee-deep Escalante River for some portions of this trip - a real treat in the Southern Utah desert!
Please note: the public agencies that oversee this region require that everyone hiking in the Escalante River corridor pack out all solid waste, including human waste. We provide resources and training on how to accomplish this.
Click here to have a detailed PDF information packet emailed to you, or request a reservation today. You can also call us at 800-715-HIKE.

 

Photos of this Trip

Photos: Russ Nordstrand

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Shuttle to the trailhead: 3.5 hour drive from St. George, Utah
Hiking Mileage: 5 miles
Elevation Loss: Minimal

This Utah backpacking trip departs St. George, Utah early the first morning for the remote town of Escalante which is truly the heart of Utah’s canyon country. After reaching our trailhead outside of town we will have lunch and prepare for our cross country hike. As we begin to make our way down the Escalante River, massive walls of pink and red Navajo and Wingate Sandstone will rise around us. We’ll have multiple chances to cool off by splashing in the river today. We pass pictographs from the Fremont people hidden in a deep alcove before settling in for a hearty dinner and relaxing camp on a sandy beach next to the river.


Day 2

Hiking Mileage: 5 miles
Elevation Loss: Minimal


Today we enjoy a relaxed morning and a delicious breakfast before resuming our downstream journey. The flow of the river is beginning to increase as springs and small side canyons add their flow to the rivers, so break out those water shoes! We pass Death Hollow, one of the biggest and most beautiful tributaries to the upper Escalante River. We’ll take time to explore upstream in Death Hollow, searching out swimming holes and mini-waterfalls cascading over carved slickrock. Side canyons like this are gems of Canyon Country and will be a highlight of your trip! We’ll camp on another sandy beach a little ways downstream of Death Hollow and enjoy the ‘river of stars’ overhead while we settle down for another hearty backcountry dinner.


Day 3

Hiking Mileage: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: minimal
Shuttle to St. George: 3.5 hours


This morning we’ll wake with the sun and enjoy morning coffee before continuing on our way. Downstream of Death Hollow the Escalante River is now knee deep in places, perfect for cooling off while hiking. The river banks get even more lush and shaded in this part of our trek as deciduous trees take advantage of the rich riverbank soils. As the canyon begins to open up, we’ll pass Escalante Natural Bridge, an incredible 130 foot high arch located in a short side canyon. Just past the bridge we pass a well-preserved Fremont dwelling located high in a cliff of pink sandstone. Finally, we emerge back into civilization at the famous Highway 12 trailhead, just in time for lunch and our shuttle back to St. George.


4-day Variation

On the 4-day variation to this trip we’ll take more time to explore upstream in the breathtaking side canyon of Death Hollow. A full day's hike up this narrow canyon will take us past swimming holes carved into sculpted sandstone, hanging gardens of lush desert greenery, and for the adventurous few, past wall-to-wall pools that fill the very narrowest parts of Death Hollow!

Another option for the 4-day version is simply to reduce our daily hiking mileage and add more time at camp and along our way to relax, read, spend quality time with your loved ones, or simply soak up the red rock, blue sky, and gently flowing river. There’s no better place to slow down and recharge than in the wilderness, so why not add a day and take it easy!


Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary park restrictions, campsite availability, weather, road closures, guest ability/injury, and natural events like fires and flooding.

Trip Details

What's Included

  • Top-of-the-line tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and technical backpack
  • Use of trekking poles
  • All meals are included from breakfast the first day through lunch on the last day
  • A professional, knowledgeable, certified Utah hiking guide
  • Roundtrip transportation from your hotel in St. George, Utah to the trailhead and back
  • National park entrance fees
  • Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
  • You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!

What's Not Included

  • Clothes, raingear, and footwear
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)
See the Packing Lists page for more information.


Meals: What To Expect

All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.

For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables (fresh and dried). In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.


Gear We Provide

We provide all group gear which includes the following:
  • Deuter or Osprey backpacks
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware sleeping bags
  • Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
  • Leki or Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Cooking stoves and cookware
  • Company-issued first-aid kit
  • Satellite phone


What Gear To Bring

We ask that you supply a couple of gear items on your hiking tour. These items are two 1-liter water bottles per person and either a headlamp or flashlight per person. Basic items like sunscreen, bug repellent (where and when applicable), lip balm, and toiletries are also important. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.


What Clothes to Bring

Please refer to the trip packet for a recommended clothing list (we email you a detailed trip packet when you inquire and when you register). All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots (reliable brands include Montrail, Lowa, Merrell, Vasque, and Salomon), rain gear, and non-cotton and cotton clothing layers. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required, and we recommend Neoprene socks and water shoes for this trip. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.

NOTE: See the Packing Lists page for more detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your hiking tour. The trip packet you receive when you contact us will have the most accurate clothing and gear list for the tour you're interested in.

Trip Logistics

How do I Register?

Ready to hike? Simply click here and complete the form to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you're ready to register we'll email you a link to a registration profile. You'll have 48 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($500).

Feel free to call us for more info - we're here 7 days a week!


Where Do We Meet?

You will rendezvous with the guide and group in St. George, Utah for an orientation meeting at 5:00 PM the evening before the trip begins. Your guide will be in contact approximately 2 weeks before your trip starts to specify the orientation location, and we are more than happy to pick you up if the meeting if you are staying at one of our recommended hotels but the orientation is taking place elsewhere. The guide will then pick you up at your hotel the next morning for transport to the trailhead. For Private Utah Tours your guide can meet you at your hotel in St. George or Cedar City, Utah at an agreed upon time.

Check out our Travel Resources page for information on flights, shuttles, lodging and more.


Start/End Times

Your guide will inform you of the first day's pick-up time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will drop you off at your hotel on the final day no later than 7 PM.


Safety Considerations

Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT's, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We've developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.


Guides

Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.


Group Size and Age Restrictions

The standard group size on backpacking trips is 5 guests and 1 guide, with a maximum of 10 guests and 2 guides. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 800-715-HIKE (4453) and we'll answer all your questions.

Age restrictions are as follows:
  • 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
  • 5 and older to join private tours, with final approval and specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis


Weather in the Southern Utah

Weather in Southern Utah
Southern Utah is a high desert. The weather is very moderate: occasional dustings of snow in the winter that melt rapidly, and summer temperatures in the low 90s (°F) that often cool down with thunderstorms. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). The ideal time to be in the Canyon Country is Spring and Fall. Read below for average high and low temperatures in Utah's Canyon Country:

Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)
 
 
Month
High
Low
 
Dec-Feb
43°
18°
 
March
55°
27°
 
April
64°
33°
 
May
73°
40°
 
Jun-Aug
88°
55°
 
September
79°
45°
 
October
67°
35°
 
November
53°
25°