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Ok, here is an off the beaten path adventure in Utah you don’t want to miss.
Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Canyons in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is a hidden secret and well worth the hour drive down a gravel washboard Hole-in-the-Rock road.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is 1.9 million acres of canyons, cliffs and rugged landscapes in Southern Utah.
From hiking, off-roading, camping, and scenic drives, there are endless opportunities for outdoor fun here. The famous scenic byway Highway 12 runs through here and is spectacular.
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.
Well traveled friends of our friends, Mike and Anne labelled it as their favorite hike in Utah. We held out hope as we bounced around in the car.
Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Canyon is noted in a tourist brochure as being moderate to strenuous hike, but I felt completely beat up after it, and I am an experienced hiker and pretty fit.
Although, one important thing to note, I was hungover on this walk. Not a smart idea at all.
Mike and Anne Howard from Honeytrek fame were passing by and spent the night before with us at our boondocking spot on Hole in the Road. Of course we were going to have a few too many wines and excellent conversations.
As much of the hike involves short explosive movements to climb up rocks my heart, lungs and stomach were in bits trying to cope!!
Dry Fork Canyon Trail
The trail head starts from the parking lot and already you know you’re in for a treat. The views are spectacular and in keeping with Utah being the most colorful place in the world.
You hike down into the valley and for as short moment walk under the shade of a rock overhang and pretty trees
It gets confusing as you pop out here. The cairns mark the spot for two different direction with no instructions as to what path goes where.
We went left and ended up in a quiet canyon that went form a wide sandy path to a narrow slot canyon.
We did a bit of spider walking on the walls over some water to explore further in until we reached a stop. We thought this was a fun adventure, but we hadn’t even made to Peek-a-Boo and Spooky yet.
This was just some unnamed and probably ignored slot canyon. We only passed one couple on the way in who told us what it was and to keep walking as it was pretty cool.
If you are short on time you can skip this as it’s nowhere near adventurous as the other ones. Or, if you want a more sedate slot canyon hiking experience, this would be the one for you. So turn left.
Otherwise turn right to go to the start of the Peek-a-Boo loop trail.
Peek-a-boo was the canyon that had a lot of the high rock scrambling.
We needed the help of everyone in our group to push and pull each other up and over walls and water hole barriers.
It started with a steep climb up a rock face and into the canyon. Thankfully, some steps were carved into the rock face to help, but it was slick rock so slippery and it required a large leg span and burst of energy from deep within to get up.
I knew as soon as I was up there was no way I was going back down that way.
Even though a lady told us how narrow Spooky Canyon was on the loop walk out, I knew I’d rather take on the 12 inch narrow space than try to get back down that if we chickened out of Spooky and turned around to return the same way we came.
After we finished with several of the rock scrambles we came to a narrow section, which we thought at the time must have been the 12 inch part!
Clearly our measurement skills were out as the really 12 inch narrow part was still to come. This was claustrophobic and tiring enough.
Thankfully, we came to a section separating the two canyons that opened up to a wide open spaces and spectacular scenery.
Spooky Slot Canyon
The path began to get narrower again as we found Spooky Canyon.
To be honest, I don’t even know where the Peek-A-Boo Canyon finished and Spooky began. But, we think it was about this point.
Just when we thought the tight canyons were done with our short Spooky Canyon we came upon another section of the canyon. Now we had reached the true spooky part.
A crowd of people gathered around what looked like boulders to scramble over. Except the boulders were coveting a drop down into the canyon. You could either drop down or climb up to spider walk between the canyon openings.
That just wasn’t an option for us so we waited for the crew of people coming the other way to climb up and push their dogs up and then we got to work to crawl on down
Craig went first to help the kids. How he got down on his own without help, I don’t know.
He picked the hardest part to go down. While I was helping get Kalyra down and Craig caught her and pulled her down the others worked out a passage down that was better as it had a ledge halfway down you could step on down.
It was too late for me, I had already started the slide down, Anne was wondering if my way was better, until I shouted out,
“Don’t come this way Anne. I’m currently sitting on Craig’s head trying to get down.”
We finally all made it down and entered the most narrow part of the canyon. This must be the spooky part. It was bums and boobs in to sneak our way through. We were twisting our bodies, climbing down into tight spaces, and then, the worst happened – two people came from the other direction.
There’s no way they can pass us. Except on their end, there was no way they could pass us.
It gets deeper and tighter from here on end, they told us. And you have about another 1/4 mile to go.
I felt the already tight walls closing in on me. The fear of going deeper into tighter spaces and having little air to breathe churned my stomach and I felt I was going to throw up in the narrow little canyon at one stage.,
The kids bravely whispered that they too felt scared. But, we all pulled together with deep breaths, and
“We’ve got this! We’ve come this far. Turning back will be worse. Let’s push on.”
We found a little nook where we could squish our bodies up against to give the guys space to slide through – hugs on the way past.
One had to climb over our friends ducked head just to make it through. This was a journey for sitting on people’s heads!
That was possibly the narrowest part of the canyon and didn’t last for too long. It widened a little and the light started to brighten as we made our way though.
It was a relief when we finally all made it out back into the light and wide open spaces of the wash. We counted our bruises and scrapes and gathered together for a group photo of victory.
What about that mad adventure! We survived Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Canyon
Things to Know About the Dry Fork Slot Canyons
- We don’t think it’s a good idea to take dogs on this trail. We saw quite a few dogs and all of them looked quite distressed. It’s not easy even for humans who can reason and evaluate what is happening and why.
- If you can get away with hiking without a backpack, it’s a good idea. These canyons are narrow and have no room for bags on your back. You’ll be carrying it by your side. We did it and it worked fine, but if you want one less stress this will help.
- Forget the AWESOME Kelty baby hiking carriers. We used these all the time with our girls and loved them. I don’t even know how you’d get that through the canyon. We saw a baby being carried in one as we were walking out of the trail. Oh boy. We knew their hike would be limited.
- It is best to start the canyon hike from the left hand side. It’s confusing when you first come out of the trail down to the canyon beginning. You can go immediate left to an unnamed canyon which is pretty cool. Or you can go right to the entrance to Peek-a-Boo. That’s the beginning of the loop trail which will come back out to the right of that. It’s best that you turn left and start at the beginning of Peek-a-Boo. It’s where you climb up. You’ll probably see people doing it. Do not go right. That takes you to the end of Spooky Canyon – the narrowest part and against the majority of traffic. There is a section that is impossible for people to pass one another,. I don’t know why they don’t have a sign directing everyone the one way.
- Keep an eye on the weather. Flash Flooding can occur and if it does say your prayers because you aren’t going anywhere but under.
- It’s lovely and cool in the canyons, but the hike in and out is exposed and it gets HOT. Take plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat. You can find our favorite hiking gear here
Hole in the Rock Scenic Byway Road
The 57 mile long Hole-in-the-Rock is a gravel and dirt road that follows the route taken by Mormon pioneers in 1879-80.
They were attempting to find a short cut across the Colorado River between community sin the center of the state of Utah and the Four Corners area.
It’s a popular drive for the scenery – it was beautiful on the way into the slot canyons – and the various points of interest.
Most notable are the Dance Hall Rock and the Hole-in-the-Rock at the end of the road in the Glen Canyon recreational area and by the Colorado River.
Devil’s Garden is also popular,which we intended to visit, but were too wiped out after the slot canyons.
The Dry Forks Trailhead is where you will find the Peek-a-Boo and Spooky canyon. It’s about 26 miles down Hole-in-the-Road.
The last mile of the road to the trailhead is recommended for 4WD high clearance. Our friends made it through with their 2WD van and we saw loads of other 2WD, and even an RV that made it through. Be sure to scope it out beforehand.
You can always walk that mile in if need be or hitch a ride. It will add quite a bit to the already 3.5 mile strenuous adventure.
Video: Spooky and Peek-a-Boo Canyon:
Map of Grand Staircase Escalante
Where to stay in Grand Staircase-Escalante
We camped for free at the beginning of the Hole-in-the-road. There was loads of space and beautiful scenery.
Slot Canyons Inn Bed and Breakfast: Check here for current prices
From cowboy cabins, to wild west retreats and vacation homeshere are 56 rentals available on Airbnb 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
Tours for Grand Staircase-Escalante Region
- 3 hour Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyon guided hike.
- G Adventures: Hiking Utah’s Big 5 includes Grand Escalante
- G Adventures: Hiking the best of the West’s National Park includes Grand Escalante
Places to Visit near Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
- 12 Don’t-Miss Things to Do in Capitol Reef National Park Utah
- Ultimate Guide – 14 Things To Do in Zion National Park (+ How To Plan a Visit
- Hike the Exciting Red Reef Trail St George (there’s a waterfall climb)
- 16 Brilliant Things to do in Moab, Utah (Adventure + Natural Beauty)
- Magical & Unique – Goblin Valley State Park, Utah Is Remote But Worth It
More tips on Utah & American Southwest
- 20 Incredible Places to Visit in Utah For Your Utah Road Trip
- Don’t Miss These 11 Amazing Things to do in Arches National Park Utah (for 1st time visitors)
- 14 Epic Adventures in the American Southwest Not To Miss On Your USA Travels!
- 8 Helpful Tips for Planning a Trip to the Grand Canyon With Kids
- 36 Hour Itinerary – What to Do in Tucson, Arizona (+ where to eat, drink, and stay!