On a recent trip to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (May 2013), I hiked again one of the first hikes that drew me to the region: The slot canyons of the Dry Fork of the Coyote Gulch (Dry Fork Slots). Walking down the trail, I couldn’t believe I’d never written a post about them. Both the Peek-a-Boo Slot canyon and the Spooky Slot are amazing, accessible (as hikes in GSENM go), and unique. You can even make them into a loop if you don’t mind a bit of tricky scrambling. The loop (which I recommend if you can do it) is about 3.5 miles (5.5 km) RT – however, there are ways you can make it shorter if this is too long a hike for you.
In the early 2000s, when I first visited the park, the national park service heavily touted the Dry Fork Slots and it was the first suggestion out of the park ranger’s mouths. Today, however, it appears that the park service has reversed its ideas about the trail: instead of the smooth, graded road and large parking area, a rough, ungraded road and reduced-sized parking area meet visitors today. I’m not complaining (as the area really was becoming over-crowded), but be aware that the glowing report that may appear on some older webpages may not be quite right. Also, we’re virtually certain that the trail has been moved since the last time we visited (c. 2007)!
The trail to the Dry Fork Slots (officially, Dry Fork Slot, Peek-a-Boo Slot, Spooky Slot, and Brimstone Slot) begins next to the trail register. Follow the cairned trail as it winds its way through sand around some bushes, zigzags across the slick rock, and finally leads you down a sandy ravine to the bottom of a large wash. The trail itself is not hard to follow; but do keep your eyes open for cairns, especially on the slickrock. As you enter the bottom of the wash, there will be a sheer rock face on your right and the entrance to a canyon on your left. This is the entrance to Dry Fork Slot. I don’t particularly recommend it, unless you’re looking for a sandy canyon walk that may be slightly more deserted than the other slots – I hiked it once and found it so uninteresting that I never hiked it again. Actually, the most interesting part about the canyon was that we found three dead tarantula spiders – cool, but not really fun!
Turn right down the wash, following the rock face on your right. Not far down the wash (a few hundred feet (100 or so meters)), another canyon will open up on the left side of the wash. This is Peek-a-Boo Slot, the prettiest of the Dry Fork Slots (I’ll explain that in a minute). However, Peek-a-Boo may not be the easiest canyon to spot because it actually begins about 10 feet (3 m) up on the rock face. Also, the wash you are walking in goes around an island right in front of the entrance to Peek-a-Boo. Keep your eyes open, and you shouldn’t miss it. Moqui steps and ledges lead the way up the cliff face to the beginning of Peek-a-Boo Slot. Sometimes there is a puddle at the bottom; often, helpful hikers will place rocks or dead tree branches in the puddle so others can climb into the slot (I’ve only seen this once; the other 2-3 times I’ve done this hike it was dry). It is not a difficult climb, but it’s also not for those with an acute fear of heights. Children may also have a bit of trouble – long legs is an asset here!
As soon as you get up into Peek-a-Boo Slot, you can tell why I consider this the prettiest of the Dry Fork Slots. Right ahead of you is a double arch, gracefully spanning the slot canyon. Wow! Not much further along is a third arch. All three are spectacular and so incredible in such a small canyon. Because the canyon is pretty narrow – nothing compared to what you’ll see in Spooky, but there also isn’t a great amount of space (though you could still pass another group) – it’s difficult to get a good picture, but it’s still a very pretty place. Keep moving ahead. Just before you pass under the arches you will come to a pot hole that (in my experience, at least) usually has water in it. Helpful hikers have placed a stepping stone in the pot hole, but it is helpful to send a strong, rock-scramble-loving hiker in your group ahead so s/he can help to pull up the rest of the members of the group – the rock above the pothole is almost chest-high! The good news, though, is that if you can get past this section you should not have too much trouble with the rest of the canyon. There are still some narrow sections to come, but nothing with quite as large a scramble as this.
Keep going up-canyon, enjoying it as you go. The arches are also pretty from behind, and there are more pretty canyon walls ahead. The canyon will widen for a bit, then become exceedingly narrow (fun!) compared with the rest of Peek-a-Boo Slot. One member of my group is not as excited about small spaces as the rest of us, so she scrambled up and out of the slot in the wide section, then followed the top the rest of the way to the end of the slot. There are no other “easy” ways back into the slot until it ends several hundred feet (about 100 m) further up-canyon.
At last the canyon walls will drop and the canyon “ends” in a dry wash (you’ll know when you get there; it’s not hard to figure out). You now have a decision to make: you can continue up the wash (I’ve never done this since it didn’t look too interesting), you can go back through Peek-a-Boo Slot (again, I don’t believe I’ve done this because I don’t recall climbing back down the moqui steps at the beginning of the canyon), or you can go overland from here to the top of Spooky slot canyon, a very narrow, fun slot canyon that can also be accessed by walking from the moqui step-end of Peek-a-Boo Slot further down the Dry Fork Wash. I have always gone the overland route, and I’ve never found the trail difficult to follow. However, a large choke stone blocks the upper end of Spooky Slot, which means getting to the lower end is quite exciting – or impossible, depending on who you are! As this post is getting a bit long, I’ll finish the Peek-a-Boo/Spooky loop next week – I’ll detail more about the overland trail and the choke stone in that post!
Key GPS Coordinates for the Dry Fork Slots
Dry Fork Slots Parking Area: 37.47649N / -111.22031W (37N 28’ 35.3634” / -111W 13’ 13.1154”)
Dry Fork Slots Trailhead: 37.47675N / -111.22008W (37N 28’ 36.3” / -111W 13’ 12.2874”) Dry Fork Trail enters the wash: 37.48125N / -111.21768W (37N 28’ 52.5” / -111W 13’ 3.648”)
Peek-a-Boo Slot Entrance: 37.48175N / -111.21664W (37N 28’ 54.2994” / -111W 12’ 59.9034”)
Departure from Peek-a-Boo Slot (beginning of overland trail): 37.48548N / -111.21663W (37N 29’ 7.728” / -111W 12’ 59.8674”)
The gpx file from my hike can also be downloaded.
Download gpx File File size: 67.9 KB – Downloaded 232 times.
(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website. Thanks!)
Getting to the Dry Fork Slots
From the town of Escalante, drive about 5 miles (8 km) east on UT-12 to Hole in the Rock Road (this junction is well-marked; if you see signs for Calf Creek, you’ve gone too far). Turn right on Hole in the Rock Road and drive 26 miles (41.8 km) to a turn-off on your left. In previous times, this road was marked for the Dry Fork Slots; I believe it is now simply marked as “Dry Fork of the Coyote Gulch”, although it may have no marker. On some maps, this road is marked as #252. Drive this road for about half a mile (0.8 km); then turn left at the obvious fork. The road used to be well-graded and quite passible for passenger cars; today it is quite rough although passenger cars can still make it to the trailhead. Most cars park just before the trailhead, as a large bump leading into the parking area may require high clearance. Note: there are several potential camping spots along the right fork in the road; no camping is allowed at the trailhead. Also note that this area is best visited in the extreme early morning. I think we left about 7:30am on a weekday in mid-May and it wasn’t a moment too soon. The Dry Fork Slots are too small to hold many people unless everyone is moving in the same direction, which most people are not. We met at least 25 people as we were coming back around 10am, a few of which had to go backwards for a short ways to let us through…so…try to go when there are very few people in the area!
Round Trip Trail Length: The entire loop is about 3.5 miles RT (5.5 km)
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? Overall Rating:
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I love my hiking GPS! Waterproof, tough, and accurate, it was so much fun to use on our last hiking trip. I also find it nice for around town – how far have I bicycled, anyway? How much further should I hike if I want to go 5 miles today? Fairly easy to use and tote, I’ll be using this for a long time, I suspect!
Fri May 26
Sunny with gusty winds. High 77F. Winds SW at 20 to 30 mph.
Sat May 27
Mostly sunny skies. High 73F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph.
Sun May 28
A mainly sunny sky. High near 75F. Winds E at 10 to 15 mph.
Mon May 29
Sunny skies. High 79F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph.
Tue May 30
Generally sunny despite a few afternoon clouds. High near 80F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph.