Lower Calf Creek Falls

Grand Staircase National Monument / near Escalante / Garfield County, Utah, USA

Rating: 4     Difficulty: 3
Lower Calf Creek Falls
Lower Calf Creek Falls was one of those desert surprises that really made us wonder how such a harsh and arid environment could harbor such a lush and lovely oasis. It was a gorgeous and colorful 126ft waterfall sitting in a very peaceful cove at the head of Calf Creek Canyon nestled deep in the Grand Staircase National Monument. The green and yellow colors that lined the contours of the column of water came from algae growing on the sandstone that thrived on the falls' miraculous year-round flow.

In order to get to this waterfall, we had to earn it with a bit of a long and deceptively tiring sandy but mostly flat 5.5 miles round-trip hike. Given the harsh environment of the desert, I'd recommend getting a pretty early start. In fact, both times we were here, we started at around 7am or earlier to beat the desert heat. It also had the added benefit of hiking in relative solitude while being one of the first (if not the first) people at the falls. The morning sun was even shining right on the falls by the time we made it.

The gorgeous Calf Creek Canyon when it's wide open near the start After parking the car within the Calf Creek Recreation Area (see directions below), we then walked past the campground and onto the trail. I recalled we picked up a paper brochure that basically contained interpretive literature that was keyed to signposts throughout the trail. For example, I recalled near the start of the trail, there was an area of tall grass that was said to once be a watermelon patch.

Right off the bat, the trail started off sandy with a few stretches of sandstone or slickrock surfaces where we had to watch for rock cairns (stacks of rocks) to help us navigate through those sections where the trail wouldn't be as obvious. The sandy parts made it so that we wouldn't cover as much ground with each step when we pushed off the ground as when we'd walk on harder or more frictioned surfaces. Thus, we had to work a little harder step for step on the sand. Combining the sand with the hot desert heat (which we faced back on our first visit here in June 2001), we found ourselves drinking lots of water and getting a good workout.

The eye-shaped alcove containing Native American rock art As we proceeded along the trail, the interpretive numbered signposts spread out along the trail helped to keep our minds off the long sandy hike. Quite a few of the signs discussed various aspects of the ecosystem here such as the flora and fauna as well as Calf Creek itself. Somewhere near the latter half of the trail, I recalled seeing an impressively large alcove in a sandstone cliff that looked like an eye. Our paper brochure mentioned that there was Native American rock art attesting to the ancient heritage of the area.

Further adding to the experience was that the tall sandstone cliffs were closing in the further we went. The combination of surprisingly lush vegetation getting their moisture from Calf Creek with the tall sandstone walls flanking us was what really made us realize that we were hiking within a pretty special place in one of the last places to be explored in the lower 48 states.

Eventually, we'd reach the pretty Lower Calf Creek Falls, which sat right at the head of the canyon we were in. The oasis-like cove was a great place to wade in the very cold plunge pool to offset the desert heat. The colorful algae behind the falls combined with clear blue skies really made this waterfall photogenic. Indeed, this was one place where we could've lingered for quite a while longer.

When we returned to the car, roughly 3 or more hours had elapsed, which included all the rest and relaxation as well as picture taking that we did in addition to the hiking.

Finally, note that the name of this waterfall - Lower Calf Creek Falls - implied that there was another waterfall on Calf Creek. Indeed, there was one, but that would require starting from a separate trailhead and hike, which you can read about here. There was no official way to link the two trails that I'm aware of.




[Back to top]
PHOTO JOURNAL
Gorgeous look at tall sandstone cliffs closing in on the canyon as we were well into the hike to Lower Calf Creek FallsGorgeous look at tall sandstone cliffs closing in on the canyon as we were well into the hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls
The classic direct look at Lower Calf Creek FallsThe classic direct look at Lower Calf Creek Falls
Besides the Hole-in-the-Rock road, which leaves from the town of Escalante, there were impressive rock formations in the Devil's Garden like this natural arch I think is called Metate ArchBesides the Hole-in-the-Rock road, which leaves from the town of Escalante, there were impressive rock formations in the Devil's Garden like this natural arch I think is called Metate Arch
Deep into the Hole-in-the-Rock road, my Mom and I did a hike to the impressive Broken Bow Arch on the same day we hiked to Lower Calf Creek Falls.  That's Mom in the picture giving you a sense of scale of the large natural archDeep into the Hole-in-the-Rock road, my Mom and I did a hike to the impressive Broken Bow Arch on the same day we hiked to Lower Calf Creek Falls. That's Mom in the picture giving you a sense of scale
The cool thing about getting an early start is the chance to see a surreal sunrise as we drove from Escalante to the Calf Creek Recreation AreaThe cool thing about getting an early start is the chance to see a surreal sunrise as we drove from Escalante to the Calf Creek Recreation Area

Mom on the trail in the early morningMom on the trail in the shade of the morning to try to beat the desert sun

Hiking further along the trail at a brief spot where the trail climbedHiking further along the trail at a brief spot where the trail climbed

Checking out some sandstone cliffs just as the sun was moving higher on the horizonChecking out some standstone cliffs just as the sun was moving higher on the horizon

Mom hiking through a wide open but lush part of the trail before Calf Creek Canyon really started to close inMom hiking through a wide open but lush part of the trail before Calf Creek Canyon really started to close in

Mom hiking alongside some sandstone cliffsMom alongside some sandstone cliffs

Approaching Lower Calf Creek FallsApproaching Lower Calf Creek Falls

Almost right at Lower Calf Creek FallsAlmost right at the falls

Our first look at Lower Calf Creek Falls in gorgeous morning light back in June 2001Our first look at Lower Calf Creek Falls in gorgeous morning light back in June 2001. Note how it seemed not much has changed between our 2001 visit and our more recent 2006 visit.

Angled view of Lower Calf Creek FallsAngled view of Lower Calf Creek Falls (as seen back in 2001)

Starting to leave the desert oasis and embark on the hot hike back to the car parkStarting to leave the desert oasis and embark on the hot hike back to the car park

Our crew about to enter the hot sun as we were heading back to the car parkOur crew about to enter the hot sun as we were heading back to the car park


[Back to top]

VIDEOS OF THE FALLS

[Back to top]

DIRECTIONS
From the town of Escalante, drive some 15 miles east along Utah 12 as it passes through a wonderland of sandstone and slickrock formations (some of them very reminiscent of Jabba the Hut in the various Star Wars movies). When you see the well-signed turnoff for the Calf Creek Recreation Area, take it to its car park area down the hill and pay the day use fee to park.

If you're coming from Boulder, head south on Utah 12 for about 12 miles and the Calf Creek Recreation Area will be on your right.

Note that if you come later in the day (say late morning or later), we've seen the car park overfill onto Highway 12. I'd imagine that you'd have to find space on the shoulders of Hwy 12 then walk towards the Calf Creek Recreation Area and trail if you're faced with this situation.




[Back to top]

MAP OF THE FALLS

View Larger Map




[Back to top]

TRIP REPORTS
For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




[Back to top]

TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES



[Back to top]

NEARBY WATERFALLS


Have You Been To This Waterfall?

Share your experience!

Click here to see visitor comments for this waterfall

Click here to see visitor comments for other waterfalls that we've visited in this region

Click here to go to the Comments Main Page

Enter Your Title

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Favorite childhood spot 40 years ago (Lower Calf Creek Falls) 
My family often went camping in southern Utah when I was a kid in the '70s. At that time, few people knew about Lower Calf Creek Falls . We backpacked …

Click here to write your own.



[Back to top]

[Go to the Utah Waterfalls Page]

[Go to the American Southwest Page]


[Return from Lower Calf Creek Falls to the World of Waterfalls Home Page]





FOLLOW US ON:   Facebook   Twitter

Quick Navigation:


If you like this page,
you might also like...

A Utah Waterfall
Utah Waterfalls

A Top 10 US Waterfall
Top 10 US Waterfalls

Featured Visitor Stories
or Comments


Two New Falls replace Navajo Falls in Havasu Canyon
We hiked down into Havasu Canyon last week. You can see the travertine formations where Navajo Falls used to flow. You can also find other travertine formations...[more]


Havasu Falls, Arizona No Longer has Divided Flow
I'm not sure whether this is influenced by the water level or the flash flood in 2008. When we visited Havasu Falls last week...[more]


Mooney Falls, Arizona was our Favorite
We hiked to Havasu Canyon last week. The entire trip was full of stunning scenery, but Mooney Falls was our favorite. One has to...[more]


Unbelievably amazing and will never forget!
I went on this trip around 2003 or 2004, with my friend's dad who's been coming here 8 years in a row. Although the hike was pretty rigorous...[more]


Favorite childhood spot 40 years ago
My family often went camping in southern Utah when I was a kid in the '70s. At that time, few people knew about Lower Calf Creek Falls...[more]