The Calf Creek Recreation Area in south central Utah offers one of the
American desert's premiere - and little known - gems, the (Lower) Calf Creek Falls.
While a year-round creek is relatively rare in the desert, a year-round 126 foot
waterfall is stunning. It is worth a visit in the summer to experience the
coolness of the fall's oasis.
Shown right is the entry to Calf Creek Recreation Area. The lower road heads into
a lush wooded area along Calf Creek in which a lovely (but very small) campground
is located. Upstream, the canyon reverts to desert until you reach the falls. The
upper road is the amazing "hogback" route to the town of Boulder (more below).
The area is located about two hours east of Bryce Canyon National Park between
the remote towns of Escalante and Boulder. This was once the most remote area
in the lower 48 states. Boulder is said to have been the last town in the United
States to have mail and supply delivery by mule train. A spectacular road was
completed over the "hogback" by the CCC in 1938. The route climbs and follows a
narrow ridge with huge dropoffs on either side.
Road improvements in recent years, including a good paved road over Boulder Mountain,
have made the route popular. Vacationers may easily proceed from Bryce Canyon to Capital
Reef National Park and the Canyonlands region. However you will still have to cross the
one lane bridge over the Escalante River, shown left. And not many people
know about the falls...
The Escalante River and its tributaries, including Calf Creek, drain a wilderness
of sandstone. Most of the area is protected as the Grand Staircase Escalante
National Monument. Magnificent vista points are available along the main road.
The 2 3/4 mile trail to the falls is a designated nature trail with a pamphlet
and numbered stops. Besides stupendous scenery (photo left) you will see Indian
ruins, rock art, and historic artifacts. The trail is sandy and somewhat uphill
but is suitable for physically fit folks of all ages. There are even benches along the way.
An oasis is always one of the great and pleasurable surprises of the desert.
Consider the photos of Calf Creek above.
Left, the trail follows the creek
through a sparse and open desert area.
Right, the creek takes on a jungle aspect just below the falls.
The Upper Falls, three miles further upstream, may be reached by a very tough
trail off the main highway.
If you are cruising the national parks in Utah, and are in shape, do not miss this!