- Length: 10-25 miles
- Difficulty: 5/10, 1B VI
- Season: Year round, spring and fall are recommended
- Type: Point-to-point
- Terrain: Exposed desert and narrow, wet canyons
- Trail Condition: Mostly obvious, faint in some areas
Located in a remote section of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Coyote Gulch is one of the most loved hiking destinations in southern Utah. It’s natural beauty draws backpackers in and make it worthy of its famed status. The beautiful Navajo Sandstone canyon walls, the sparkling streams, two arches, a natural bridge, Fremont Indian pictographs and several waterfalls will make this hike a favorite. It is easy to understand why this inspiring canyon is by far the most popular hiking destination of all the canyons of the Escalante. But because of this, plan on encountering a number of other hikers in Coyote Gulch during the spring and fall months. Although some experience the canyon as a day-hike, most choose to spend 2-4 nights backpacking in Coyote Gulch to take in the full experience the canyon has to offer.
Coyote Gulch Trailhead Directions
To reach the trailheads for Coyote Gulch, drive on State Highway 12 until you reach the Hole-in-the-Rock Road (officially the Glen Canyon Recreation Area Road) and the “40 Mile Bench turnoff sign where the road makes a large U curve. This is about 5 miles southeast of Escalante, Utah and 41 miles east of the Bryce Canyon turnoff. At the bottom of the U, exit the highway to the south on a large, maintained dirt road. Escalante is the nearest city with your last available services. Be aware that these dirt roads may be washed out or have stretches of soft sand, so a four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended.
Red Well Trailhead
Follow the Hole-in-the-Rock road 30 miles to the signed junction, then drive 1.5 miles to the trailhead and hiker registration box. This trailhead provides access to upper Coyote Gulch.
Hurricane Wash Trailhead
Travel on Hole-in-the-Rock Road for 33 miles. Directly off the road on your left you will see a turnout that leads to a livestock corral. Immediately after this there will be another turnout to your right. This is trailhead and the dry Hurricane Wash. Begin hiking east into Coyote Gulch. The hiker registration box is located 0.2 mile down the wash.
Fortymile Ridge Trailhead
Drive on Hole-in-the-Rock Road for 36 miles. On the left there will be a signed turnoff. Turn and travel northeast for 7 miles (or 2.6 miles past the Jacob Hamblin Arch Trailhead) to the Fortymile Ridge Trailhead. The last 2 miles of this road is through deep sand and is not suitable for low-clearance vehicles. The trail is on the north side of the parking lot and splits left and right.
Jacob Hamblin Arch Trailhead
This trailhead is located only 2.6 miles before the Fortymile Ridge Trailhead. Driving on Hole-in-the-Rock Road for 36 miles, take a left (northeast) at the signed turnoff. Travel for 4.3 miles until you reach another very small, short side road on the left leading to a water tank, corral and the Jacob Hamblin Arch Trailhead. The trail starts heading north.
Coyote Gulch Trail Guide
View the Coyote Gulch Trails in a in a larger map or a full map
|Mileage between key points of Coyote Gulch|
|Red Well TH to Escalante River||14 miles|
|Hurricane Wash TH to Escalante River||13 miles|
|Confluence to Escalante River||7.5 miles|
|Confluence to Jacob Hamblin Arch||1.5 miles|
|Fortymile Ridge TH to Jacob Hamblin Arch||2.5 miles|
|Fortymile Ridge TH to Crack-in-the-Wall||2 miles|
|Escalante River to Crack-in-the-Wall||1 mile|
|Jacob Hamblin Arch TH to J.H.A.||2 miles|
The 3 most commonly used trailheads for hiking Coyote Gulch is via Red Well, Hurricane Wash, or Fortymile Ridge. Although less common, you can also start at the Jacob Hamblin Arch Trailhead. With these different trailheads come many different possible backpacking routes. A loop hike is possible via Fortymile Ridge. With Red Well and Hurricane Wash, the typical route is an out-and-back trip, although a shuttle car may be used in order to end at a different trailhead. Jacob Hamblin Arch Trail is also an option although it is much more cross-country route finding.
Jacob Hamblin Arch, the most popular feature in Coyote Gulch, stands 1.5 miles beneath the Coyote Gulch and Hurricane Wash confluence. Although not a very large arch, only about 150 feet wide and 100 feet tall, it is a demeaning sight to see in this narrow canyon. 1.7 miles past Jacob Hamblin Arch lies the magnificent Coyote Natural Bridge. This 50-foot span of sandstone arcs directly above as the stream and trail cross underneath. Keep an eye out here for several Native American remnants. On the upstream side of the natural bridge, the north canyon wall houses a Fremont Indian dwelling. 0.7 mile further downstream, Fremont Indian pictographs can be seen on top of a sandy area on the north side of the gulch. Just west of this panel, a few small artifacts can be found. Only a minute’s walk past the pictograph panel, a small canyon intersects with Coyote Gulch on the north. A short, primitive trail leads to the 30-foot-wide Black Lagoon.
As the Coyote Gulch Trail travels in or along the canyon streambed, the hike stays relatively easy with the exception of two places. The first is located a bit downstream at the second waterfall below Cliff Arch (also known as Jug Handle Arch). Here, follow the ledge along the south wall to a place about 100 feet downstream where it’s possible to scramble down off the ledges. The second obstacle, an impenetrable boulder jam, is about 0.4 mile up Coyote Gulch from the Escalante River. To bypass this, follow the trail on the right-hand side of the stream across the lower portion of a sand slide. Traverse the fairly steep slope as you stay low and near the edge. The slick rock slope ends at a ledge about 5.5 feet high against which lean several small logs to assist hikers in climbing back up.
Red Well and Hurricane Wash trails
Both Red Well and Hurricane trailheads begin in wide, sandy washes before transforming into narrow canyons with towering walls. Although the first section can be hot and dry, water begins to flow only a couple miles into the hike as you continue to follow the wash downstream. Roughly 7 miles from the Red Well Trailhead and 5.5 miles from the Hurricane Wash Trailhead, you will reach the confluence of Coyote Gulch (Red Well Trail) and Hurricane Wash. From here it is about 1.5 miles to Jacob Hamblin Arch (a possible exit point via Jacob Hamblin Arch Trail or Fortymile Ridge Trail) and 7.5 miles to the Escalante River (Crack-in-the-Wall via Fortymile Ridge Trail is another possible exit point). The confluence of the Escalante River and Coyote Gulch is a stunning place with a great view of Steven’s Arch (below), located about 1.4 miles above the confluence.
Fortymile Ridge Trail
Another option is to begin at the Fortymile Ridge Trailhead and either hike northwest to Jacob Hamblin Arch or northeast to Crack-in-the-Wall and the Escalante River. Keep an eye out for rock cairns, as both routes (especially to Jacob Hamblin Arch) may be faint and hard to follow. If planning to converge with Middle Coyote Gulch at Jacob Hamblin Arch, begin heading west as you hike for roughly 2.5 miles. Slowly begin hiking northwest until you reach until a steep hill that drops into the Coyote Gulch. This is the most challenging part of this route, but it is climbable without ropes (although some choose to bring ropes regardless). The climb involves scrambling down a 100-foot pitch of slick rock that ascends from the canyon floor at nearly a 45 degree angle. Once you’ve made it into the gulch, you may either hike upstream around the bend to Jacob Hamblin Arch and beyond or downstream roughly 6 miles to the Escalante River. To make a loop hike, you may choose to hike up and out of the gulch at Crack-in-the-Wall and back to Fortymile Ridge Trailhead. To reach Crack-in-the-Wall, take a short walk back from the Escalante River and Coyote Gulch confluence and turn left (south) toward the large sand hill. Hike on this trail for a little under a mile and you will come to Crack-in-the-Wall. With an elevation difference of 700 feet from the rim to the canyon floor, the famed Crack-in-the-Wall can be difficult to climb down (and even harder to get up). A narrow route has peeled away from the cliff face on huge rock slabs. The crack is about 18 inches wide, forcing hikers to walk sideways, and 50 feet long.
Alternatively, you may hike 2 miles from Fortymile Ridge Trailhead to Crack-in-the-Wall and another 1 mile to the Escalante River. This route can also be hard to follow; however, the trail is nearly a straight line and the destination is easier to find. From the trailhead parking lot you can see the confluence of Coyote Gulch and the Escalante River. You may want to mark this compass bearing before heading out as the view will disappear as you begin to lose elevation. And you traverse the dry desert plain, you will soon come upon a fantastic view of Steven’s Arch and a cairn marking Crack-in-the-Wall. After scrambling down through this crack (described above), a trail leads down a sand dune to Lower Coyote Gulch and the Escalante River. To make a loop hike, you may choose to hike up and out of the gulch near Jacob Hamblin Arch and back to Fortymile Ridge Trailhead.
Jacob Hamblin Arch Trail
Although the path is much harder to find, this trail gives backpackers or day-hikers quick access to the popular Jacob Hamblin Arch. From the Jacob Hamblin Arch Trailhead, the hike is nearly straight heading almost north for 2 miles. Here you will reach the same 100-foot slick rock slope as described in the Fortymile Ridge Trail description. From here you may either hike upstream around the bend to Jacob Hamblin Arch and beyond (using Red Well or Hurricane Wash as possible exit points) or hike downstream roughly 6 miles to the Escalante River (using Crack-in-the-Wall via the Fortymile Ridge Trail as an exit point).
Other Coyote Gulch Trail Information
Coyote Gulch resides in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Use of this area is free, but you must still obtain a backcountry permit. These can be acquired at the trailheads of Red Well, Hurricane Wash and Fortymile Ridge or at the Visitor Center in Escalante. Please contact the Escalante Interagency Visitor Information Center (435-826-5499) if you plan on backpacking with an organized group. Maximum group size is 12.
Although you can camp anywhere in the canyon, the best spots can be found in the middle section of Coyote Gulch. Between Jacob Hamblin Arch and the Natural Bridge are the most popular.
Safety and Regulations
Campfires are not allowed in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and are discouraged on BLM lands. Also, dogs are not allowed in the canyon. Water is easily accessible throughout the entire canyon almost year-round, but it will need to be purified.
The best seasons for backpacking Coyote Gulch are spring (March to mid-June) and fall (September to October). During the winter, temperatures can drop below freezing and even receive snow. Summer carries extreme heat, flash floods and deer flies. For current conditions call the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center (435-826-5499).
- YouTube – Video Slideshow of Coyote Gulch
- BLM – Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
- Red Rock Adventure – Coyote Gulch Trail Report
- NOAA – Current Coyote Gulch Weather Conditions