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Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Hiking and Camping In Grand Staircase-Escalante





Right now is the perfect time to explore southern Utah's desert country. I just returned from a camping/hiking trip in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and we had a great time. Daytime air temperatures were ideal for hiking the dry trails. Nights were crisp and it was very nice snuggling into the mummy bag.

We camped at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, on the edge of the town of Escalante. The campground is very nice, with heated restrooms and hot showers. We were in tents but most people in the campground were in RVs. Really roughin' it.

We were there during the middle of the week and the campground was almost completely full. I'm sure it is packed on weekends. Call ahead to make reservations if you want to camp there during the next few months. The campground makes a great base camp from which to explore the surrounding area.

We drove down the Hole-In-The-Rock Road and hiked the Peekaboo/Spooky Gulch loop. The loop is short but fairly intense, and it is a great adventure hike suitable for teens. It is one of those hikes where people have to help each other to get through - good scramblers can make it by themselves but most need a hand getting up and down rocks.

There were a couple dozen people hiking the canyon - more than I expected for a week day. I'm sure it will be crowded there on weekends for the next several weeks.

The Hole-In-The-Rock Road is in very good shape. Some year's it has deep sand and massive washboardy areas but we found it smooth enough to be driven in a family car. The spur over to the Dry Fork Trailhead (where we started hiking) was in poor shape and required a high clearance vehicle.

We stopped by the Visitor Information Center in Escalante and the people at the desk said the road it good all of the way to the rim above Glen Canyon, where Mormon pioneers winched covered wagons down the cliff as they forged a "shortcut" between Cedar City and the San Juan River at the present town of Bluff.

We enjoyed a great trip. Now I'm anxious to get back down for more adventure.

I think my next outing will be to Lake Powell. Fishing is really picking up there right now. Peak spring fishing for smallmouth bass and striped bass will probably occur in late April or early May. Fishing will be red hot then, and will continue very good through the summer.

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