Photos and words by Dylan H. Brown
There are few places in the world where children and adults rejoice together in unadulterated excitement. The only thing that might compare to the Peek-a-boo and Spooky slot canyons is a theme park. But excitement in the high Utah desert beats out the high found in large cities.
Located in the heart of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Peek-a-boo and Spooky slot canyons are known as the best slot canyons in the entire Monument. These non-technical, fun slot canyons can be enjoyed by the entire family (no dogs allowed). Beware, it’s not for the claustrophobic, as both canyons have sections where the explorer must turn sideways to squeeze through 12-inch wide sections. Extremely large people might have difficulty in Spooky.
From the trailhead parking lot follow the well-marked trail down the mesa to the open wash below. This is Dry Fork. From here follow it downstream, passing one canyon to the left. The second canyon is Peek-a-boo. The initial climb into the canyon is by far the most difficult, but there is usually a log to help assist. Once in the canyon, the cavernous and overarching walls make the visitor feel as if they have stumbled into a new planet. The first hundred feet consists of multiple archways, where light bounces off the walls to create a cathedral-esque glow. The canyon eventually widens and the walls’ angles subside, allowing an easy scramble out to the south (right).
To create a loop out of the canyon system, head south from Peek-a-boo across the sand dunes to the next drainage. If you come to a deep slot canyon, follow it back upstream (east) until the canyon widens considerably. The beginning of Spooky is a very wide wash, so don’t be alarmed if you think you have missed the canyon; just head downstream and it will quickly tighten up. This section of the loop requires moderate route finiding, so if you don’t feel comfortable crossing open desert dunes, there are guide services available: http://www.escalanteut.com/services/guides-outfitters/
Spooky is considerably different from Peek-a-boo. The walls are much straighter and the depth of the canyon is much deeper. Photographers: small tripods or flash may be required. There are several chockstones in the canyon, but none require ropes, only a little chimneying and scrambling. As the canyon descends, it becomes darker and more “Spooky.” There are a few sections where the width is only 12 inches.
The slot canyon ends in Dry Fork wash. Head upstream (right), pass the entrance to Peek-a-boo and retrace the route you took on the way in. This can also pose some problems for inexperienced route finders. Be sure to take note of your way in.
At only 3.5 miles for the entire loop, the hike is moderate in intensity. It does require some scrambling skills, but for the most part, an average athletic individual will have no problem climbing through the canyons. If the initial climb into Peek-a-boo is too difficult, the loop can be done in reverse, as downclimbing the 25-foot entrance seems to be easier for many people. There is no water, so be sure to carry at least two liters per person. Also, moderate route finding is required, so map and compass, and/or GPS is recommended.
From Escalante, head east on Highway 12 to the Hole-in-the-Rock Road. From there drive south for 26.5 miles to the turnoff for Dry Fork, which is clearly marked with a sign on the east side of the road (left). From the turnoff, drive 1.7 miles to the trailhead parking area. The beginning of the trail is clearly marked and should have cairns leading to the bottom of Dry Fork wash.
Hole-in-the-Rock road can be accessed with smaller cars, but later in the season washboards can become quite large. Bigger wheeled vehicles are recommended. The Dry Fork trailhead road can be accessed by car as well, but be aware there are a few rough spots. As always, check with the Escalante visitors center for the latest road and trail conditions.