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Coyote Gulch

10.6 Miles | Loop | 2-3 Days | Backpack | Moderate

Coyote Gulch is a great beginner's backpack that takes you into the heart of the desert. Beautiful creek crossings, sculpted sandstone, arches, and waterfalls make this trip a sight worth seeing for anyone willing to make the drive down hole-in-the-rock road.

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Getting There:

The trailhead Coyote Gulch is located about 40 miles down a dirt road just outside of Escalante, UT known as "Hole-In-The-Rock Road". 2WD will get you there but a vehicle with high clearance is recommended to navigate the long, wash-boarded road. To do the standard "loop" route, 4WD is recommended since you have to drive through deep sand on the last stretch to the trailhead.

The Route:

Options, options, options. Coyote Gulch can be done as a loop or an out-and-back hike. I'd highly recommend taking a good look at the map and making a decision based on your itinerary and where you'd like to camp. 

Overview:

Option 1: 18 miles out-and-back (not recommended); This route starts at the Water Tanks Trailhead and takes you down into the canyon just next to Jacob Hamblin Arch. I recommend going around the corner upstream to check this out, and then continuing down canyon. Once you get to the turn-off for crack in the wall, you can either go up and come back down, turn around and go back the way you came, or go up and out through the crack. Be warned: if you decide to make this a loop route it is a long, boring walk through the desert back to your car. If you had two cars and set up a shuttle this may be better as a point-point route.

 

Option 2: 11.2 mile loop (the standard route); 4WD Recommended. This route starts further down the sandy wash at the Coyote Gulch Access Point Trailhead. You have to drive through some deep sand in order to get there, so make sure you have a vehicle capable of doing so. You don't want to get your car stuck out here, because you are a long way from getting any help. This route can be done in either direction, but I'd recommend following the footprints down the slope towards the east. This trail will meander through the desert for a while before arriving at an abrupt drop off with an incredible view. Just below you is Crack in the Wall. From here, it is recommended that you bring a rope to lower your packs down to the bottom before proceeding through the crack. You can send one person down to untie the bags, and have another stay at the top to tie them on and lower them down. The crack is rather narrow and having rope to lower your bags makes this process much more efficient. Once your party is down through the crack, continue down the sandy slopes, aiming left of the massive desert monolith. Once you reach the creek, you'll continue upstream. At this point I'd recommend switching into shoes that you don't mind doing multiple creek crossings in for the next few miles. There are multiple campsites along the way, some in big, overhung alcoves, and others in large, flat embankments along the creek (I've marked the best ones on my map up above). Hike as far as you'd like for the day, and then set up camp. Just remember to leave no trace! The next day, continue hiking upstream passing cliff arch, coyote natural bridge, swiss cheese falls, and finally Jacob Hamblin Arch. (depending on where you camped the night before) I recommend spending some time here to relax and eat lunch or a snack before making the ascent out of the canyon. When you're ready to go, backtrack just around the corner before you saw the arch, and you'll see a steep sandstone slab that will take you up and out of the canyon. For most skill levels, it is recommended that you bring a rope here to use as a handline. You can send your best climber up the slab, and then have them belay or tie-off the rope for others to use on their way up. After that, you'll walk about 1.5miles back to the car. Make sure to orient yourself well and follow the cairns, it's easy to get turned around here.

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