The number one bucket list item Kenon and I have had since moving out to Utah is visiting some slot canyons in Grand Staircase – Escalante. It is like a right of passage in Utah. We get asked all the time, “Have you been through Peek-a-boo and Spooky in Escalante?” We have seen so many amazing places in Utah yet are treated like we have not entered some secret club when we answer, “No.” Well, that is all over now because we finally made it down to that mystical place.
We had two main objectives when going down to Grand Staircase – Escalante. The first was the technical Neon Canyon. This is an all day commitment in which ropes, harnesses, and other technical gear are necessary. The second was that famed Peek-A-Boo and Spooky, two neighboring slot canyons that do not require technical gear and are accessible to all ages.
To access both of these, and actually most of the main attractions in Escalante, Hole-in-the-rock Road is the place to go. Hole-In-The-Rock Road is the vein connecting adult kids to the vast playground that is Grand Staircase.
We got to Hole-In-The-Rock Road late on a Friday night, so late that I was napping by the time we were halfway down the road. I must have been really tired, though, because we went 25 miles down bouncy, bumpy, washboard gravel before finding a camping spot.
There is a ton of free camping along Hole-In-The-Rock Road since a lot of is BLM land. Kenon had kind of mapped out some spots using Google Maps and Google Earth but it is still a pretty literal shot in the dark when you are coming in after sunset.
Kenon, and our camping-extraordinaire friend Dan, worked together to find us a great camping spot, against all odds. They were trying to find a relatively flat area, with a parking space that did not trample any desert flora, free from the prickly cacti that spread everywhere. It took them a few tries but they succeeded!
We set up camp, prepped our gear for the morning, and went straight to sleep since we had to rise at four a.m. Find out about our Neon Canyon excursion by reading this blog post.
Since we arrived in the dark and left in the dark, we didn’t get a good look at our campsite until early evening of the next day. When we got back to our camp after a long day of canyoneering and hiking, we realized we had hit the jackpot of sites! Our tent was neatly shaded by a large brush tree. Since we were in dispersed camping, there was no bathroom nearby but there were plenty of large bushes that offered cover. It was incredibly windy but we had the perfect spot between our tent and a few trees that blocked the wind just enough to start a fire. And it was the only spot nearby with reliable cell phone coverage.
We spent our second, and last full day in Escalante and Peek-a-Boo and Spooky slot canyons. All the guides we read recommended a vehicle with high clearance because the road is so terrible. The roads to get there are not actually all that bad right now because they have been redone. I would still recommend a four wheel drive vehicle with some clearance but we did see some vehicles go done the road that did not have very good clearance.
Some people worry about getting claustrophobic in the canyons because the walls get so narrow. For these two in particular, there are plenty of wide spots. to spread out and breath. The sky is also continually visible above the canyon, which can help it feel very open.
The other friend we were with, Isaac, had been through the slot canyons before. He recommended hiking Spooky first, from the bottom up, and then hiking Peek-a-Boo second, top down. I loved doing it like this! Hiking Spooky from the bottom up was so much fun. I really enjoyed scrambling up the obstacles instead of down.
Either way, it does take a little bit of strength and guts to get through the few obstacles that Spooky has to offer. One of them requires some serious stemming, or what I imagine to be dropping if you are starting at the top.
Peek-a-Boo is the more mellow of the two canyons. The slots are wider and the obstacles are hardly obstacles at all. It does have some fun over, under, or around moments that keep the canyon interesting.
Both canyons are well worth the visit!