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Coyote Gulch Backpacking Trip

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Our Coyote Gulch Backpacking trip was one for the books. 7 adults, 4 kids, and lots of desert seclusion, as so good for the soul. To say this trip was memorable would be an understatement.  The kids are still talking about it and we’re planning our return trip for later this year. Here we’ll outline everything you need to know to plan your own incredible trip to Coyote Gulch Utah for a fantastic backpacking trip of your own.

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Coyote Gulch Hike Details

Distance: 6-26 miles depending on your route
Time Necessary: 1-3 days
Difficulty: Moderate

The hike to and through Coyote Gulch Utah is one of the most incredible hikes in Uath, and one of the best Southern Utah backpacking trips. The most difficult aspects of hiking Coyote Gulch are route finding through the desert as well as getting into and out of the canyon. A GPS with waypoints downloaded is absolutely necessary here. The hike through the gulch are quite easy once you’re in.

The trail takes hikers through a deep, narrow canyon carved by the Coyote Creek, with towering cliffs on either side. Along the way, hikers will encounter several natural features, including waterfalls, natural bridges, and arches. The scenery is breathtaking and unique, with red sandstone formations, lush vegetation, and crystal-clear streams.

Do I Need A Permit To Hike Coyote Gulch?

Yes, you do need a permit to visit Coyote Gulch, which is located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. The permit is required to help manage the number of visitors and protect the fragile desert environment.

You can obtain a permit for Coyote Gulch from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Permits can be obtained online or in person at the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center in the town of Escalante or at one of the entry trailheads. Day use does not require a backcountry permit, but they do ask that all trail users sign the trail register.

Getting To The Coyote Gulch Trailhead at Hurrican Wash

The most popular trailhead for hiking Coyote Gulch is the Hurricane Wash trailhead. To get to the Coyote Gulch trailhead at Hurricane Wash, you will need to drive to the town of Escalante in southern Utah. Escalante is located on Utah State Route 12, which connects to both US Highway 89 to the west and US Highway 24 to the east. Once you arrive in Escalante, follow these directions to get to the Coyote Gulch trailhead:

  • From the center of Escalante, head east on Utah State Route 12 for approximately 5.5 miles.
  • Turn left onto the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, which is a dirt road that is generally passable by most vehicles. The turnoff is well marked, and there is a large sign indicating the direction to the trailhead.
  • Follow the Hole-in-the-Rock Road for approximately 26 miles until you reach the Dry Fork Coyote Gulch trailhead, which is marked by a small sign on the right-hand side of the road.
  • The last few miles of the Hole-in-the-Rock Road can be rough and rocky, and a high-clearance vehicle is recommended, as well as a good degree of comfort on rough roads.

How Much Time Do I Need For Backpacking Coyote Gulch?

The amount of time needed to backpack Coyote Gulch can vary depending on your pace, fitness level, and the route you choose to take. While some people hike Coyote Gulch in just one day, I think that a 3-day and 2 night trip is ideal here. Here are some general things to consider when deciding how long to spend in Coyote Gulch:

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The shortest route to backpack Coyote Gulch is to go in and out at Hurricane Wash. This requires the least amount of hiking and is the shortest distance. This option is 11 miles of required hiking (not considering any hiking you do in the canyon. You do have to be very comfortable with scrambling up and down the steep hill to enter the canyon. We took this route on our last trip and brought a rope and harness to help the kids out of the canyon safely.

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The classic route through Coyote Gulch is a 13-mile round trip hike, starting at the Hurricane Wash Trailhead and ending at the Crack-in-the-Wall exit. This route can typically be completed in 2-3 days. The Crack and The Wall exit and entrance is the easiest way to get into Coyote Gulch, but you do have to do quite a bit of hiking to get to the beauty of Jacob Hamblin arch.

Another popular option is to start at the Red Well Trailhead and hike down Coyote Gulch to the Escalante River. This route is approximately 17 miles and can take 3-4 days to complete.

If you have more time and want to explore the area further, you can consider adding on additional hikes or side trips, such as visiting Stevens Arch or Jacob Hamblin Arch.

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What is Jacob Hamblin Arch

Jacob Hamblin Arch is a natural sandstone arch located in Coyote Gulch, and is one of the areas most recognizable landmarks. It was named after Jacob Hamblin, a Mormon pioneer and explorer who lived in the area in the 19th century. He is known for his work as a peacemaker and mediator between the Native American tribes of the region and the white settlers.

The arch is a popular destination for hikers and backpackers who visit the remote wilderness area of Coyote Gulch. The arch itself is about 15 feet high and 30 feet wide, and it is located near the confluence of Coyote Gulch and Hurricane Wash. It is one of many natural arches found in the area, which is known for its stunning and unique geological formations.

How Difficult is Backpacking Coyote Gulch?

Backpacking Coyote Gulch can be a challenging but rewarding experience. The hike is considered a moderate hike, though it can get more difficult if yu choose a longer route, or to do it in a shorter amount of time. The most common route for backpacking Coyote Gulch is a 3-day, 2-night trip, covering approximately 11-14 miles, with several stream crossings and some scrambling over rocks and boulders. The trail can be sandy, and there are some steep sections, especially when climbing in and out of the canyon. That being said, we did hike Coyote Gulch with 4 young kids (2 in backpacks) so it’s not excessively difficult.

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In addition to the physical challenges, be prepared for the regular rigors of backpacking including carrying all necessary food, water, and gear.

What to Pack for Backpacking Coyote Gulch?

When planning a backpacking trip to Coyote Gulch, it’s important to pack carefully to ensure that you have everything you need for a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some essential items to consider including on your packing list:
Also make sure to check out our Southern Utah Packing List

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Backpack: Choose a sturdy backpack with plenty of room to carry all of your gear and supplies. Check out our review of the best family backpacking gear and the best kids backpacking packs.

Tent and sleeping bag: Bring a lightweight, durable tent and sleeping bag rated for the expected temperatures. Despite being in the desert, temperatures in the canyon get quite cool at night. Check out our reviews for the best kids sleeping bags, sleeping bags for toddlers, and sleeping pads to insulate and keep you comfortable.

Water filter or purification tablets: You’ll need to filter or purify water from the streams and springs along the trail. A filter or purification tablets are essential for safe drinking water.

Food and snacks: Bring lightweight, high-energy foods that are easy to prepare and store, such as trail mix, energy bars, and dehydrated meals. We love these dehydrated meals for backpacking!

Stove and cooking supplies: Bring a lightweight backpacking stove, fuel, and cooking supplies, such as a pot, pan, utensils, and matches or a lighter.

Clothing: Bring lightweight, breathable clothing that can be layered for changing weather conditions. A hat and sunglasses are also recommended, as well as a swimsuit for swimming holes.

Footwear: Choose sturdy, comfortable hiking boots or shoes with good traction for walking on sandstone rocks and crossing streams. You should also have a good pair of adventure sandals since once you’re in the canyon, you’ll be in and out of the water almost constantly.

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First aid kit: Pack a basic first aid kit with essentials such as bandages, gauze, antiseptic, and pain relievers.

Navigation tools: Bring a map and compass or GPS device to navigate the trail.

Personal hygiene items: Pack basic personal hygiene items such as hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and WAG bags for carrying out all your solid waste.

Remember to pack light and only bring the essentials to reduce the weight of your backpack and make the hike more enjoyable.

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What Are The Risks Of Hiking Coyote Gulch?

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As with any wilderness adventure, there are risks associated with hiking Coyote Gulch. Some of the main risks to be aware of include:

Flash floods in Coyote Gulch: During the rainy season, which typically runs from July to September, there is a risk of flash floods in the canyon. Hikers should always check the weather forecast before starting their hike and be prepared to seek higher ground if necessary.

Dehydration: The desert environment can be extremely hot and dry, especially in the summer months. Hikers should carry plenty of water and electrolyte-replacement drinks and drink regularly to avoid dehydration.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke: In addition to dehydration, the hot temperatures can also lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Hikers should wear lightweight, breathable clothing, a hat, and sunglasses, and take frequent breaks in the shade.

Getting lost hiking Coyote Gulch: The trail in Coyote Gulch can be difficult to follow in some areas, and there are many side canyons and washes that can lead hikers off course. Hikers should carry a map and compass or GPS device and know how to use them.

Rockfall and other hazards: The sandstone cliffs and formations in Coyote Gulch are prone to rockfall and other hazards. Hikers should be cautious when hiking near cliff edges or under overhangs and wear a helmet if desired.

Wildlife encounters: Coyote Gulch is home to a variety of wildlife, including snakes, spiders, scorpions, and other creatures. Hikers should be aware of their surroundings and avoid disturbing or approaching wildlife.

What Is The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument?

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was established on September 18, 1996, by President Bill Clinton. The proclamation designating the monument stated that it was to “protect the scientific, historic, and cultural values of the area” and to “provide for the appropriate management and care of the objects of scientific and historic interest.” The establishment of the monument was controversial at the time, with some local residents and politicians opposing it as a federal overreach into state and private land use. However, the designation has been upheld and the monument continues to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Grand Staircase Escalante covers over 1.9 million acres of land. It is a stunning and remote area that is known for its colorful and unique geological formations, such as towering cliffs, narrow canyons, and arches.

The region is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including black bears, mountain lions, and elk. The area is also rich in cultural history and has been inhabited by various indigenous peoples for thousands of years, leaving behind an abundance of archaeological sites and artifacts.

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About Jessica Averett

Hi, I’m Jessica, a mom of 5 kids and married to my favorite adventure partner. I love to bike, ski, camp and hike. We've visited over 40 countries with our kids, but are equally happy on the road as we are exploring our home state of Utah.

14 thoughts on “Coyote Gulch Backpacking Trip”

  1. Great photos. It looks like you all had a great hike.

    We plan to hike it next month and have a few questions.

    What time of year did you go? And would you change that if you do it again?

    What route did you take? I’ve read a bunch about the hike and a bit concerned about the climb up out of the gulch by Jacob Hamblins arch. Did you take ropes for that part?

    Reply
    • I’ve been into Coyote
      Gulch quite a few times and love it. March would be good, although it may
      be cold in the evenings and there are a lot of times that you end up
      walking in the river, so if it is cold be prepared with good wool socks or
      other ways to keep your feet warm. It may take until the afternoon for the
      water to warm up enough to be enjoyable.

      I’ve been at many times through Spring, summer and fall, but far prefer
      either the spring or fall. Summer is great when you are down in the
      canyon, but going in and out can be a brutal desert hike in the heat.

      I’ve done the crack in the wall and Jacob Hamblin. Hurricane wash trailhead
      I’m familiar with and know many people who have done it that way. It makes
      it a lot longer and although I’ve hiked up from Jacob Hamblin Arch a few
      miles, all of the highlights are from Jacob Hamblin arch down and so we
      focus our time there. That said, for the easiest access, Hurricane Wash is
      the way to go. It will be a much longer trip, adding 5 – 6 miles each way,
      but if you are worried aobut the climb, or if you have the time, it can
      work.

      The crack in the wall is not too bad either, although if you are taking big
      packs, I’d suggest bringing ropes to drop your packs off of a roughly 50
      foot cliff because they won’t really fit through the crack. If you come
      out that way, it is a rough mile or more uphill in the sand, so depending
      on the time of day, that can be very exhausting.

      I almost always use the Jacob Hamblin entry/exit. I’ve taken my 50 year
      old mother, who doesn’t like heights, up and down it. I haven’t used ropes,
      but many people prefer that. there aren’t any anchors though. With the
      kids

      Realistically, if you are confident with your ability to smear, or stand on
      50 degree sandstone and trust your footing, you will be fine. I
      suggest zig zagging your way from ledge to ledge as you go down or up.
      Each section you go down, you can find a little easier spot one way or another.

      Reply
      • Could a 9 year old and an 11 year old do Jacob Hamblin’s exit? and could they climb down on the crack if we lowered our packs with a rope?

        Reply
  2. I see it was still warm. What dates did you go? Was it October? How cool were the nights? We’re planning a trip there early October.

    Reply
    • Yea, the water is cool early on in the morning, but it is that way even in the summer. We had jackets early on in the mornings as you may be in the shade for a few hours before the sun makes it down into the canyon, but then once it does, September/October is a great time.

      We were there from October 12 – 15 in 2011 and the weather was perfect. I’m guessing that the nights were around 50 – 55. I could imagine it might get a little colder if you had some stormy weather, but shouldn’t get too much lower until later in the year.

      Enjoy your trip when you go!

      Reply
  3. Thanks for the link! Coyote Gulch and the entire Escalante area is such a beautiful area – and a great place to bring the kids! I hope to bring my children here one day to help them appreciate what nature has to offer. Great photos and great post – thanks!

    Reply
  4. We are going next week and taking a 2 1/2 year old and a 1 year old. I have been a few times and have loved it! I was feeling really confident in our plan but have been getting a ton of slack from family mostly saying we are crazy for trying to do that hike with such small kids! We are planning on going in crack in the wall and coming out Redwell any advice for navigating crack in the wall with the babes?

    Reply
  5. Hi there… I have a 15 month old and a good Deuter carrier for him on my back. What route did you take in? Did you go down on the rope? Safe do you think to go slowly with a baby on my back? I’m a skilled hiker and would love to go but also want to keep my baby safe. Any advice? Thanks!

    Reply

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