Lower Calf Creek Falls

Location: Calf Creek Recreation Area, just off Hwy 12 between Escalante and Boulder, Utah
Maps: USGS 1:24K Calf Creek
Access: From Escalante, take Hwy 12 north for ~12 miles. 1 mile north of the Escalante River crossing, turn west into the Calf Creek Recreation Area and park. 
Trail: Well-marked, 2.5-mile route with little elevation change to the falls
Fees: There is a small fee to park at the TH, which is also a campground
Weather: Current and recent conditions   Local Forecast

Lower Calf Creek FallsApril 10, 2005
At Calf Creek campground, we stop to satisfy the hiking itch. We take water in the new Camel Back that Dave gave us at Christmas, and a tripod and camera. It is cool when we begin, but the hot desert sun warms us up such that by 15 minutes into the hike we shed our outer clothes and hike along in T-shirts. Seems a far cry from the snow that pelted us at bedtime last night. The hike hugs the western side of a 300í-wide canyon created by the smallish Calf Creek. Equisetum and Coyote Willow carpet the valley floor, with open rock, dotted by junipers and pinyon, on the slopes. Further north, we pass through thickets of white oak, still dormant, stands of box elder, leafing out with acid green leaves, and birch with reddish bark draped in catkins. Through a narrow stretch, a small rockslide on the cliff face pelts the trail fifty feet ahead with boot-sized sandstone chunks. We share a laugh over this with an elderly trio whom we catch up with seconds later. They are searching for trout in the tiny foot-deep creek, and from their accents we surmise they come from somewhere east of the Atlantic. Seconds later Andra and I see trout: tiny, six-inch specimens hovering in the current. 

In one hour, we reach the falls. They are much larger than I have imagined. I give it some thought, and estimate the water drops 75 feet, not that it much matters at all how far it drops when the effect is this stunning. The sun hits the wild cascade directly, causing it to shimmer, and the green pool at the base makes me aware of just how orange the sandstone really is. We sit in the shade of birches and watch the mesmerizing patterns of water glide down the sloping rock. I take photographs; I canít help myself. I move up to higher ground to take more. Since I canít take the waterfall home with me, a picture is almost the next best thing (Memory is the next best thing). Andra and I move to the side of the falls and examine the extensive hanging gardens of maidenhair fern lining a fault line thirty feet above our heads. I briefly wonder how long the water that now seeps out has been creeping through those sandstone layers above. A month? A year? A decade? At the base of the rock wall, capitalizing on the moisture, columbine and delphinium grow in abundance, not yet blooming. We watch a young man edge his way out over slime-slick rock towards the base of the falls, trying to achieve adequate proximity for a meaningful photograph, taken by his buddy. I fully expect to witness a demonstration of how deep the plunge pool is, but his shoes grip the rock adequately, and he escapes back to dry ground with a grin, unscathed. After several minutes in the sun, sitting in the soft sand, we move on. 

Andra on the Calf Creek Trail
The hike back takes about an hour, though we pass many whom we feel will not make the hike in near so short a time. One old couple in particular inquires how are they have to go, and we tell them about 30 minutes. The old man looks exhausted and flushed already, yet I hope he makes it. He is friendly, and that is reason enough to root for someone. I grimly imagine the time when my own old age renders a 2-mile hike a major challenge, or worse, an impossibility. Banishing the thought and enjoying youth, we snack on granola bars and polish off the water before completing the hike. In the picnic area, we eat hot dogs heated with the gas stove for lunch. We are nothing if not health-food junkies.
Lower Calf Creek Falls

Hiking Main Page

More pics of the beautiful western United States at:
Page created 5-10-08