I love hiking. It’s great to get out and stretch your legs, and it’s so rewarding to see a beautiful vista or interesting sight at the end of the trail. However, there are times when it’s nice not to hike, as well. To be able to just walk on the trail or off the trail with no real destination in mind, just enjoying the scenery in the area. That’s the way I feel about Devil’s Garden in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. There is no established trail, so you can simply walk around the rock formations, enjoying them or even climbing on them (within reason—you don’t want to fall and break you neck!). The area has become popular in recent years, but there is still room to just spend some time wondering instead of hiking with a destination in mind. The formations themselves are quite interesting, from balanced rocks to monoliths to arches. One arch is even named—Metate Arch. Children really like this area, because they can run and climb and enjoy themselves instead of hiking to a destination. It’s also a photographer’s paradise, especially at sunrise or sunset when the radiance of the sun sets off the deep red and yellow hues of the rock formations.
To get to the Garden’s parking area, from the town of Escalante take US 12 5 miles east to the Hole-in-the-Rock Road. A sign will mark this junction pointing towards the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, but it can be easy to miss. The road is dirt/gravel but is well-used and easily passible by low-clearance vehicles to the Garden, as long as it hasn’t rained recently. Check at the visitor center on the opposite side of the town of Escalante for current road conditions. Drive 12.7 miles down Hole-in-the-Rock Road to a marked road on your right that will take you to Devil’s Garden. This access road is also dirt and is 0.3 miles in length. On a side note, although dispersed camping is allowed throughout the national monument, there are signs requesting you not to camp in the Devil’s Garden parking lot.
When we first visited the garden in 2001, there was nothing more here than a dirt parking area. The parking area is still there, but now there’s also a primitive restroom, signboard, and picnic tables. That’s right, picnic tables and grills. It’s one of the few places in Escalante (and the only place on the Hole-in-the-Rock Road) that has picnic tables, so you might want to plan your trip here around a meal time. We like to fix supper here because while we’re fixing, the younger children can play on and around the rocks (with supervision!) The picnic tables are mostly isolated from each other and are shaded by scrub trees. This is a very nice area to have a picnic lunch or supper. Another change from 2001 is the number of people who visit. Apparently, the Garden is a favorite place for the park service to send families and people who are new to Escalante, so the number of people who come here is amazing. Most walk around the rocks and then leave, so it’s never been really “crowded” when I’ve been there, although there have been plenty of movement in the parking lot. Keep a close eye on children when you’re in the parking area or picnic area.
From the parking area there is any number of ways you could go. On the side away from the road leading in, there is a huge orange and gold monolith. I recall eating lunch on it before there was a picnic area, but it’s not great for climbing. On this side of the parking area there is also the beginning of a trail. Take this for the moment as it leads you around the monolith. As soon as you get around, you will be in a maze of rock formations. It’s really hard to know exactly where you are in the labyrinth, so I’ll let you trust your judgment of exactly where you want to go. If you ever get lost and can’t find your way back, head west (towards the mountains) and you will fairly quickly walk out of the Garden. You can then walk right (north) back around the Garden to the parking area.
From the side of the monolith, the trail winds its way around the outside of the Garden, occasionally going in and around some of the formations. I’ve never actually taken it all the way, but I’ve seen it on both sides of the Garden, so I know it will loop back to the parking area eventually. I usually start wondering around the formations instead of following the trail, which gets more defined each time I visit, watching the younger children to make sure they don’t get lost, and climbing with them around formations. This is definitely an area where going in twos is a good idea! If you can get up on top of some of the rocks, you can get a bird’s eye view of the area, which is fun, too.
There are four specific formations I’d like to point out. The first two are arches. One arch I’ve already mentioned; Metate Arch. This is the coolest of the two arches; with a tiny little bridge of rock gracefully sweeping from one large boulder to a rock tower. It’s really nice, and a very popular photography point for visitors. It’s located in the middle of the garden. You want your back to the west to photograph it (You can’t really see it if you’re facing west—it has some boulders behind it). There is another arch close by. This one is much bigger and has brush underneath it, but it’s definitely an arch. It’s not as shapely as Metate, but if you can find it it’s still worth seeking out. The third formation is two hoodoo-type rocks that stick up right next to each other, but with a graceful sweep of rock between them. This sweep almost hits the ground, but not quite. The fourth formation is similar to the two hoodoos but there are several rock spires right next to each other, looking almost like the statures on Easter Island. Both of these formations are on the west side of the Garden; if you follow the trail, you’ll pass fairly close to these formations. Actually, there are many such hoodoos and rock spires throughout the Garden; it seems like there’s another around almost every turn. I especially like the ones that stand like sentinels, and those that have larger rocks seeming to balance on top of delicate spires. It’s not like Bryce or Bisti, where the hoodoos of softer clay have rocks balanced on top of them; this is all rock. It really makes for some neat formations and cool pictures.
Speaking of photography, we visited one day in May a couple hours before sunset. The sun was shining brightly on the formations, but not so strongly that the colors washed out. Instead, the afternoon sun brought out the brilliant colors of the rocks. I’d recommend to any photographer, armature or professional, that this would be a great hour of the day to visit and take pictures.
As I said above, this isn’t someplace to spend more than an hour or few, but it’s definitely worth a stop if you’re driving down the Hole-in-the-Rock Road or if you’re visiting Escalante.
Round Trip Trail Length: 0 miles to as long as you want to make it!
Facilities: Picnic tables, primitive restrooms
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
This Week’s Featured Product!
A great hat for wearing in the desert! The sun can get pretty intense while hiking in the southern US. This hat has been made to protect not only your head and face, but also to shade your neck and the sides of your face.
Wed Dec 13
Partly cloudy. Lows overnight in the low 30s.
Thu Dec 14
A mainly sunny sky. High 52F. NNE winds shifting to ESE at 15 to 25 mph.
Fri Dec 15
Sunny. High near 50F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph.
Sat Dec 16
Mostly cloudy skies early will become partly cloudy later in the day. High 48F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph.
Sun Dec 17
Sunny. High 42F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph.