Monday, August 31, 2009
"(Lower) COYOTE GULCH"
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This hike in the Glen Canyon Nat'l Recreation Area offers views of 2 arches and Coyote Natural Bridge (the feature). There are also scattered remnants of ancient Puebloan society and archaeology. For a very remote area, the popularity is puzzling. Even if you are looking for a solitary experience, Coyote Gulch is worth the trip. You may be alone on any given day.
From the 4WD access parking (2WD access will add 2 fairly drab hours to the hike), follow the sandy track northeast. From the parking area look for the Escalante River/Coyote Gulch confluence. That is your direction. You are on the (1966 proposed) "Trans-Escalante Federal Parkway". This track eventually ends in about an hour and then (hopefully) cairns mark the way, continuing northeast on slickrock, to the edge of an escarpment. The landmark at the edge is a sandstone fin with a "U"-shaped gap facing to northeast. Locate "Crack-in-the-Wall" 100 yards to the left of this fin. Don't get frustrated, the crack is there. BEFORE LEAVING THE TOP, get a look at the path that you came down, as you will need to locate it later on this out-and-back hike. Some backpacks won't squeeze through the crack and will need to be roped down. As you descend from the crack north on a trail, down a huge sand hill, toward Coyote Gulch, Stevens Arch is a good-looker to the northeast. This is as close as it gets without fording the Escalante River. How easy could it be so far? Everything is northeast. Don't forget, this sand hill will take longer to hike on the way up.
*NOTE: After finding "Crack-in-the-Wall", you should be at Coyote Gulch within 1 1/2 to 2 hours (depending on your downhill knees) from the parking area, or you goofed.
Upon reaching the gulch, go left (or up-canyon). Although the hike is all-season, winter can be beautiful but demanding, with frozen waterfalls, for the first couple hours up the canyon to Cliff Arch. This is a cool "jug-handle" arch (pictured). Walking becomes easier, at this point, for the next hour to a spectacular, canyon-spanning Coyote Natural Bridge. This was our out-and-back turnaround. Between Cliff Arch and Coyote Natural Bridge there is a great pictograph panel on the north side (1.6 mi. W. from Cliff, .7 mi. E. from Coyote). If you miss the sand hill exit on the way back, you'll know it. If you intersect the Escalante River, you are 10 minutes too far.
So, from the parking area, we are looking at 1 1/2-2 hours (or 2 miles) to Coyote Gulch, then up canyon 1 1/2-2 hours (approx. 2 mi.) to Cliff Arch, then 1 hour (just over 2 miles) more up the canyon to Coyote Bridge. You can see that you are in for an 8 to 10 hour (approx. 12 miles) hike. Stay hydrated with a gallon of water per person (minimum). With driving time of 3 or 4 hours, this is a "leave very early" and "get back very late" endeavor.
Access for this hike is a pain. Take Hole-in-the-Rock Rd. (same as Glen Canyon Recreation Area Rd.), which is 5 miles east of Escalante, Utah, off of Rt. 12, south for 36 miles. Those 36 miles are no picnic, and washboard-y. Turn left (east) on Fortymile Ridge Rd. for 7 miles, staying left at the only junction, to the trailhead. 2WD vehicles will probably not make it the last 2 1/2 miles, making the hike too long for most day-hikers.
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