By Darryl Alder
Apr 21, 2014

Coyote Gulch—An Adventure to remember

crack-in-the-wall-view_edited (1) 2

By the way, we didn’t take our cameras on our trip, so these pictures are all borrowed from other adventurers who have gone there too. Let that be a lesson: never leave the camera behind!

A few years back, while living in Richfield UT, our Varsity Scouts and Venturers (back then called Explorers), hatched an idea that grew into one of the greatest outdoor adventures of my life. The idea was to hike through Hurricane Wash into Coyote Gulch and then on to Lake Powell for a few days of fun in the deep water. This was an idea too good too keep quiet; immediately the Young Women’s leaders wanted in. That decision opened the door for Sue, my wife, and I to both chaperone the trek.

The drive itself seemed to be a trek and with so many youth it was not one bit faster. First to the town of Escalante, Utah in Garfield County, where we were able to flush (if you know what I mean) for the last time. (If you take this trek, Escalante is the last location with services.) About five miles out of town we left Highway 12 and turned onto the “Hole-in-the-Rock” Road—let me tell you that was no highway and barely qualified as a road. Two hours later and 3


Hurricane Wash Trail Head

miles deep into the Grand Staircase we arrived at a post in the ground stating it was Hurricane Wash. I wasn’t so sure.

We pulled on our packs and began to trudge down the trail. (If you take this trip, be sure to record your plans at the hiker registration box .2 miles into the Wash). I don’t recall many trees as we plodded long in this wide drainage and I was surprised by the heat


The Adventure Begins

and intense sunshine. However, it didn’t take long for the wide, sandy wash to transform into a narrow canyon with towering walls that had a welcome cooling effect.

A couple of miles in and  we were deep over our heads in the wash, which was getting narrower and deeper; water started to flow only a couple miles after that. About five and a half miles from the Hurricane Wash Trailhead, we reached the confluence of Coyote Gulch with its perennial stream. The cooling effect of running water was wonderful, not to mention the foliage and trees that began to fill the canyon.  

jacob hamblin arch

Jacob Hamblin Arch

It was only another mile and a half to the Jacob Hamblin Arch were we would make our camp. This was an incredible place; an alcove 100 feet high and about that wide. The arch is the most popular feature in Coyote Gulch; it is a humbling sight to stand in this narrow canyon and more so when you camp under it.

The boys made camp upstream and the girls were downstream from the arch. Sue and I camped in “no-mans” land between them both. Here there was so much beauty it felt like Shangri-La. The sheer walls were adorned with desert varnish and with deep undercut amphitheater was indescrible. One of the canyon walls was covered with something like water cress and the seeps in this wall gave us cool, fresh water.

Since no fires are allowed in the canyon, so we made our backpacker meal on a trail stove. It wasn’t great , but finished it off with an instant cherry cheesecake (to me the extra weight was well worth it). coyote-gulch-streambedThen we settled back to rest. However, to our amazement and surprise an nearly full moon appeared in the eye of the arch. What could make this scene more fantastic, we did not know!

Coyote Natural Bridge

Coyote Natural Bridge

But it was about to become clearer to us as we started down stream the next morning. We hiked in the water and were glad for our wading shoes. In just a few short miles we came to the magnificent Coyote Natural Bridge. The 50-foot span of sandstone arcs directly above as the stream and trail cross underneath. Though we didn’t find them, there are several Fremont Indian wall houses and pictographs on top of a sandy area on the north side of the gulch. 

Jug Handle Arch

Jug Handle Arch


Waterfall in Coyote Gulch

As the trail meandered along the canyon stream bed, the hike was relatively easy. We were taking it all a bit casually, so when we came to the first waterfall below Cliff Arch (also known as Jug Handle Arch) we just had to get in.

This turned out to be a very bad idea. After drying off a thin sandy film remained on our skin. Nothing we did removed it, so as we walked the sand left our arm pits and between our legs raw and sore.

After the second waterfall (which we skipped bathing in) we followed the ledge along the south wall to a place about 100 feet downstream where it was possible to scramble down the ledges–which frankly I didn’t much like. I prefer ropes, but on a trip like this they just weren’t practical.

But there was another obstacle about 0.4 mile up Coyote Gulch from the Escalante River–a boulder jam of sorts. To bypass this, we followed the trail on the right-hand side of the stream across the lower portion of a sand slide. To traverse the fairly steep slope we stayed low, nearly sitting on the rock. The slick rock slope ended at a ledge about 5.5 feet high against which several small logs were leaning  to assist us in the decent. Again I wanted a rope (at least to lower the back packs).


Stevens Arch

Not long after we came to the confluence of Coyote Gulch and the Escalante River. Less than 500 feet upstream from the confluence, up the Escalante River, we got a great view of the impressive Stevens Arch, but with this group it was getting pretty hard to get excited about another arch.

GALLERY Escalante River Hike

Escalante River Hike

Once we were in the Escalante, the real work began. With each step we got deeper into the stream. A few if us were sure we were in quick sand, as we lost our shoes. Finally, I took my pack off and put it on my head to cross the river to the other side–I lost both shoes in the mud!

Once on shore we navigated to gooseneck to deeper water and there were our boats waiting to whisk us away to that night’s campsite. We stayed on a sandy beach near hole in the rock. We were most happy for the the support team’s support. That night there was fresh food around a blazing campfire and a good night’s rest before making it back to the marina and the trip home.

That night lying on the sandy beach with my wife, I wondered if I would ever have believed this adventure unless I had lived it! I fell a sleep to a million stars over head and sheer exhaustion.

Get more details on this adventure at Trail guide and High Adventure Planner .

Darryl Alder Director of Support Services


Author: Darryl Alder | Director of Support Services, Utah National Parks Council, BSA




Author: Darryl Alder | Director of Support Services, Utah National Parks Council, BSA

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2 thoughts on “Coyote Gulch—An Adventure to remember

  1. AvatarLeah

    Wow! I loved this article! The pictures, the details of trails and arches, lost shoes? I hope you had another pair in your backpack! It would be amazing to see the stars in a place like that.

  2. Pingback: twilight. | SouthwestDesertLover

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