Lower Calf Creek Falls: An Extraordinary Hike Not to Miss in Utah

I’m glad that I received the wrong information abut the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail before we did it.

If I had known it was 6 miles return with an elevation of 500 feet, we may not have reconsidered the Lower Calf Creek Falls with the kids. I read that it was mostly flat and only 5 miles return.

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Lower Calf Creek Falls trail

500 feet is not a great deal in elevation, but it’s enough when hiking with kids for 6 miles.

And since this adventure, those same 6 kids completed a 15 mile hike with an elevation of over 4,000 feet in North Cascades National Park!!! This was when the world of possibility began to open up for them.

So don’t let that 500m elevation gain turn you away.

Strap on your hiking shoes and pack your swimmers, this is one of the best hikes in Utah and 100% worth the effort. It’s on our list of places to see in Utah that no one tells you about.

Where is Upper Calf Creek Falls

The Upper and Lower Lower Calf Creek Falls is in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah between Escalante and Boulder.

Grand Escalante is 1.9 million acres of canyons, cliffs and rugged landscapes offering an abundance of adventures like hiking, off-roading, camping, and scenic drives.

It’s east of Bryce Canyon and southwest of Moab. We definitely recommend incorporating this region into your Utah road trip. It was one of our favorite places we visited in Utah. 

The famous scenic byway Highway 12 runs through here and is spectacular, which is where you will find the Calf Creek Falls trailhead for the Lower Calf Creek Falls, one of the best things to do in Grand Staircase Escalante.

There is a sign for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Calf Creek Recreation Area.

Lower and Upper Calf Creek Falls

Calf Creek flows from north to south through Grand Staircase Escalante, cascading over two waterfalls before joining the Escalante River.

The two falls, Upper Calf Creek Falls and Lower Calf Creek Falls, only a few miles from each other, but you can’t access both via the same trail.

Lower Calf Creek Falls is more popular, as it is easier to access and features a larger drop than the Upper Falls. We only visited the Lower Falls.

Calf Creek has carved a deep canyon into the Navajo Sandstone and Kayenta Formations, making the hike in just as beautiful as the 126-foot waterfall at the end.

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The Lower Calf Creek Falls trail is not your typical Utah hike.

For most of the journey it is.

You’ll follow the trail through the valley, which is enclosed by towering canyon walls of red, pink, orange and yellow – that is oh so typical of Utah, the most colorful place in the world.

Be sure to look down and see how the sand changes from deep red, to purple, magenta, orange and yellow and look up to the towering cliff faces.

There are several points of interest along the way. I think at marker number six you’ll see some ancient pictographs on the wall – three huge figurines that look like warriors guarding you as you walk.

The trail turns from hardened sand to soft beach sand as you walk, adding an extra layer of challenge to the walk. It’s not that bad, you probably won’t notice it on the way there, but you will on the way back once those legs start to tire at about mile 4.

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Pretty sandy trail

At times on the hike you’ll walk through shady low scrub forest beside the creek, which you don’t get too much of a view of until near the end of the walk as it comes closer to the trail.

The creek is shallow and narrow but has some of the clearest water you’ll ever seen.

It reminded me so much of Fraser Island, an island in Australia which is said to have the cleanest water in the world.

Apart from the small bamboo forest you walk through, the last part of this walk reminded me so much of Australia. It felt like I was walking down a beach track surrounded by bush greenery!

Lower Calf Creek Falls, Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah
Lower Calf Creek Falls

Then we walked into the gorgeous oasis at the end, surrounded by giant canyon walls where the Lower Calf Creek Falls plummets 126-foot down over the rock face into a pool of crystal clear water down below in an upside down Y formation.

A sandy beach framed it and the creek began off to the side with lovely green trees covering it giving it almost a tropical feel.

Allow yourself plenty of time for this walk so you can sit for awhile and soak up the tranquility of this cool green sandstone alcove, surrounded by giant canyon walls in the middle of the Utah desert.

We had to get back as our friends were coming to meet us at our boondocking spot for the evening. But I’d recommend allowing for time here to enjoy the base of the waterfall. Hikers should aim to make this an all day experience!

Lower Calf Creek Falls reminded me so much of Emma’s Gorge in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia. It too was reached by a long and interesting hike.

The water was equally freezing, but at Emma’s Gorge the outside temperatures baking enough to encourage us to get some relief.

There was a breeze blowing at Lower Calf Creek Falls and the absence of the sun made it so much colder than what we experienced walking in.

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Lower Calf Creek Falls

I was impressed with how well the kids handled the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike. They even spent most of the walk back chasing each other and wresting, their boundless energy inspiring.

I was wiped out but on cloud nine as it was such a pretty and inspirational walk and by far one of my favorite hikes in Utah, if not the USA.

The tired legs did not know what they were in for the day after this adventure, when we found ourselves in Spooky and Peek-a-Boo canyon, another hike and adventure in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Utah you don’t want to miss.

Calf Creek Campground

There is a 13-site campground here with minimal facilities in the Calf Creek Canyon. The campsite looks gorgeous an I’d love to stay here under the shade of the trees nestled along side Calf Creek.

Camping i available for $10 on a first-come first-served basis — it’s recommended that you arrive early on the day you want to camp

Park at the designated parking lot by the restrooms just before entering the campground. (there are also picnic sites here) Follow the signs to the trailhead. There is a $5 per vehicle fee.

Lower Calf Creek Falls was featured in our Best Waterfalls in the US list.

Video Lower Calf Creek Falls

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Where to stay in Grand Staircase-Escalante

The town of Escalante is nearby for most of your accommodation needs if you are not camping.

Boondocking

We camped for free at the beginning of the Hole-in-the-road. There was loads of space and beautiful scenery.

escalante boondocking

Escalante Hotel

Slot Canyons Inn Bed and Breakfast: Check here for current prices

Short term Rentals Escalante

From cowboy cabins, to wild west retreats and vacation homes, there are short term rentals available in Escalante. Check availability and prices here.

Car & RV Rental

If you don’t have your own car, check here for rental car options from various Utah locations

  • You may wish to rent your own RV, campervan or motorhome.  Check out RV share

Places to visit near Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

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