Calf Creek is a perennial stream located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. There are two waterfalls which you can visit, the upper falls and the lower falls. The lower falls is more accessible, an easier hike, a bigger drop, and much more popular. The six-mile out-and-back hike is relatively flat, and the trailhead is located just off of Highway 12, between Escalante and Boulder.
At the lower falls, a clear stream descends 126 feet into a pool, where happy folks take a swim. Mist from the falls and shade keep the haven cool even on the hottest of days. Aside from the falls, the trail offers several points of interest, all indicated with numbered posts along the trail and a handy guide that is picked up at the trailhead.
What Makes it Great
After picking up the trail map at the onset of the hike, you’ll note nearly a dozen points of interest along the way (as if a 126-foot waterfall wasn’t enough). Along the three miles to the falls, you’ll pass two granaries, beaver dams, and a mighty pictograph on the wall opposite the canyon, to name but a few points. Hike over red rock and through sand, and, if timed in accord with the seasons, see bountiful wildflowers flourishing along the trail.
The hike can be long and challenging at times due to deep sand. Because of the nature of the canyon, as you pass around corner after corner, you might get the “Are we there yet?”s, but fret not, the sites along the way, and the majesty of the desert-varnished Navajo sandstone cliff walls are plenty to tide you over until reaching Lower Calf Creek Falls.
The waterfall unto itself is a sight to behold. Streaming down more than 100 feet along mineral-stained sandstone, the water appears to radiate in its clarity. Mists from the long falls sprays revelers and not only helps to make the alcove a cool haven for people,but also for the densely-packed greenery.
There is a pool for swimming at the base of the waterfall. During summertime, especially on weekends, the area can resemble a waterpark with families jam-packed into the small space—so keep that in mind as you plan your trip.
After soaking in the water and cooling down, it’s easy to want to have a picnic or a snack and peer at the waterfall for awhile before returning back the way you came.
What You’ll Remember
The feeling of craning your neck to view the top of the 126-foot falls; how the cool mist refreshes you after the long, hot hike; your yelp as you dunk yourself into the cold, cold water; how you never wanted to hike back to the car.
Who is Going to Love It
Kids and dogs will love the swim the most, and you can often hear children giggling and yelling with joy as you approach the falls. But, really, who doesn’t love looking at a majestic waterfall? This is a trail for everyone.
GPS Coordinates, Parking, and Regulations
Calf Creek Campground and Trailhead
Park at the designated parking lot by the restrooms just before entering the campground. Follow the signs to the trailhead. There is is a $2 per vehicle fee. Camping is also available for $5 on a first-come first-serve basis. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on leash.
Note that this is an extremely popular hike. To avoid big crowds visit mid-week. Otherwise, the optimal time for a visit is spring through fall. While the hike to the falls in the summer can be quite hot, the cold water is most refreshing then.