Canyoneering – Peekaboo & Spooky Slot Canyons, Escalante Utah

lee hunter in peekaboo


We came canyoneering in the Grande Escalante region 3 years ago and had the misfortune of arriving days after a major flood, which washed out a number of the key access roads. Top of our list that trip was the Peekaboo / Spooky canyons, which are a set of family friendly canyons that run parallel to each other.

We stopped into the National Park Visitor Centre and chatted with the local guide shop to get the scoop on the roads and the trails. While the road was not in great shape, everyone said it was passable so we decided we had to at least try.

peekaboo spooky canyon vista

The canyons are located 26 miles down Hole in the Rock road, a gravel washboard road that takes about an hour to drive. You then travel 1.5 miles on a true sand side road with washouts and gulleys throughout. Four wheel drive and high clearance are 2 important features to have in a vehicle in Utah. We had left the trailer at the campground so just had “Fordo” who performed extremely well under Tim’s careful driving. We knock on wood on a daily basis as Fordo is running better than he has in years!

Peekaboo and Spooky are full length canyons of their own right. The family friendly route is a 5 mile loop that starts at the trailhead, goes down into the valley, up Peekaboo about 1/3 of the way then exits out of the top of the canyon and goes cross country until you drop into Spooky and go down the bottom 1/3 of that canyon and then back to the trailhead. The guidebooks and people we spoke with all agreed that it was about a 3 hour hike.

tim hunter entrance to peekaboo


We successfully made it down the trail into the valley (following the cairns) and found the entrance to the canyon (no signs anywhere out here…). In order to access Peekaboo canyon, you have to make it up the 20 foot wall at the entrance. As always, we sent Tim up first and then used a rope belt to support Hunter and I up for safety.

lee hunter peekaboo slots


Once you make it over the wall you are immediately in a series of bowls and slots that are perfectly kid sized!  Lots of over and under and wind our way through as we made our way up to the exit point. Nothing but giggles and smiles all around – this was exactly what we had been hoping for and it made the 1 hour washboard drive well worth it!

We attempted to follow the cairns and footsteps out of Peekaboo Canyon and through the sand and slickrock to the Peekaboo drop in point. We, and another set of hikers, ended up at the top of a sandy wash that led down into a canyon so we had fun running down the sand and made our way through the canyon brush to a salt flat area. We could see some canyons to our left so we chose to check them out and ended up in some portion of the Spooky Canyon…

tim hunter spooky slots


These were full length SLOTS from floor to ceiling with many places so narrow that you had to carry your backpack vs wear it. We meandered our way up for about 20 minutes as the slots wound their way up the canyon and started to get tighter and tighter. Eventually we hit an end where even Hunter had trouble getting through so we decided to turn back to the salt flat.

lee spooky slots


We hit the salt flat at around the 2 1/2 hour mark. Walking past the flats there was a washed out area that ran perpendicular and you could go left or right. We got out the map and the trail instructions and neither mentioned a turn or trail junction, just “exit down through the bottom of Spooky Canyon to the trailhead”… I ran ahead and checked out the right hand turn and found it entering into a slot canyon about 1/2 mile down the wash. This didn’t seem to match any information so we chose to go left and followed it for about 30 minutes until it ended up in another slot canyon full of sucky mud. We had been told that Brimstone Canyon was full of sucky mud so we figured we must have gone the wrong direction and turned back. Mid way back to the other canyon, we found what looked like a fairly heavily used trail off to the left.

At this point we were at about 3 1/2 hours and Hunter was fading. We had said that we would rather climb back up the sand hill and go down Peekaboo than go cross country in the desert BUT between the look of the short cut and the look of Hunter, we decided to go for it (yet another Parental mistake ala the EPIC bike trail).

Needless to say, this path did not pop us out nicely at the trailhead. As always happens when you are going cross country, you swear that the trail will turn the correct direction right around the next corner, and it rarely does! We opted to climb out of the river valley and up onto the mesa so we could get a better view. At this point we could orient ourselves to the mountain range that ran parallel to the Hole in the Rock road and off we went in that direction. We eventually reached a point where we thought we could see the truck and camper off in the distance AND we could see the access road. Tim ran for the truck and Hunter and I continued cross country towards the access road.

We ended the day at a total of 5 hours (approx 8 miles) – happy but weary and proud of ourselves for getting ourselves “found” safely 🙂  We treated ourselves to cold beer and yummy pizza at Escalante Outfitters after making it an hour back down the road and stopping to wash all the dust off the truck. Another successful adventure!

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One Comment

  1. That trail would not be good for any over weight people. Thanks for the pictures. You seem to have great weather with lots of sun. Then again that was what this trip is all about. Cloudy and rain here but my river is high and that makes for lots of canoe time. Love grandpa.

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