All the routes we guide are cross-country dayhikes. Our intermediate routes are 4 to 6 hours. Our advanced routes are 6 to 8 hours. Some of our routes are water walks that entail hiking in creeks.
Scroll down to read about each route and see photos.
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Many of our routes are known only to us. You won’t find them indicated on maps or chronicled online. A few of our routes are best described as "arcane"—known to a handful of explorers, but beyond the scope of guidebooks, including ours: Hiking from Here to WOW — Utah Canyon Country. So when you hike with us, solitude is likely.
The scenery you’ll witness with us ranges from sublime to bizarre, from intimate to immense. The physical challenge you’ll face with us depends on your experience and ability, as well as your interests, preferences and goals.
When we guide, it’s not about setting a pace and pushing people to keep up. We can hightail it, and you’re welcome to do so with us. But we don’t expect you to. We believe guiding is about creating the optimal experience for our guests.
If you want to hike at a leisurely pace, we can and will. If you want to stop frequently for photography, we’ll do so, and we’ll help you find optimal vantage points and lighting opportunities. If you want to gaze, absorb, meditate, we’ll do it with you.
Guiding entails leading, of course. But that shouldn’t mean you’re relegated only to following. Before setting out, we’ll ask you questions and listen to your answers. Then we’ll do our best to ensure our day together unfolds according to your expectations as well as ours.
Enjoy perusing the menu below. And, just as you’d ask a server at a restaurant to elaborate on dishes that interest you, tell us what routes you’re considering and we’ll help you choose.
Intermediate Routes: 4 to 6 hours
ROUTE: circuit LENGTH: 4 or 5 hours
VERTICAL: 660-ft or 820-ft gain & loss CHALLENGE: 2
A great, pale dome is conspicuous among the surrounding, brown-yellow slickrock. From a distance, an imaginative observer might say it resembles a glacier in the desert. The top of
the Glacier affords a dazzling yet easy-to-reach canyon-country panorama. From there, we can either loop back along the slickrock tongue of the Glacier, to complete a four-hour hike. Or we can continue along the flank of the Glacier, overlook a deep chasm spilling into a hidden canyon, then "slickwalk" back along the Glacier tongue. Whether you choose the shorter or longer option, we'll stop to admire an ancient pictograph panel along the way. The Glacier is an ideal first or last hike with us, because you'll overlook the routes we’ll soon explore, or the ones we’ve just completed.
ROUTE: round trip (possible loop) LENGTH: 4 hours
VERTICAL: 1160-ft gain & loss CHALLENGE: 2
A long, relatively level ridge is a topographical rarity anywhere and especially in this according-pleated high desert. Sky Train undulates gently while granting constant, panoramic views extending from Boulder Mountain to the Escalante canyons. Though scenically very rewarding, Sky Train is a relatively easy hike that will comfortably fit into a morning or afternoon. We can shorten or lengthen it, according to your needs and preferences. And Sky Train is ideal for introducing kids to the joy of slickrock hiking.
ROUTE: round trip or circuit LENGTH: 4.5 or 6 hours
VERTICAL: 1200-ft or1580-ft loss & gain CHALLENGE: 3 or 4
Descending into a creek canyon, we’ll hike on slickrock and among boulders until we reach
a short drop where hands-on scrambling is necessary for a couple minutes. This brief passage will thwart anyone with vertigo. But it's fun if you enjoy a gymnastic challenge. After resting in an idyllic sanctum, we'll ascend among pinyon and juniper, then on ramping sandstone, to the summit of a dome where we’ll gaze across a great swath of canyon country. Welcome to our Private Island. From here, the shorter, easier option is to return the way we came. Or we can "slickwalk" into another canyon: secretive, narrow, steep-walled, and gorgeous. We'll work our way up the cascading, slickrock, canyon floor (negotiating one, short, scramble pitch along the way), then pop out above, on the slickrock "beaches" of Private Island. From there, our initial approach is visible, and we'll follow it in reverse.
The Rose Bowl
ROUTE: loop LENGTH: 4 hours
VERTICAL: 500-ft gain & loss CHALLENGE: 2
The Escalante River canyon has countless tributaries ranging from gullies to gulches. One of them begins in a great, pink-and-red-hued amphitheater. We call it "The Rose Bowl." It's complex, trail-less, little visited. So hiking in this rosy basin feels venturesome. Yet it's easy, because you're mostly on gently-angled slickrock. We'll start by cruising the headwall. Staying above the sandy arroyos but below the sheer clifftops, we'll investigate The Rose Bowl's inner sanctums. Where a stately ponderosa says "stop for lunch in my shade," we'll accept the invitation. Then we'll drop into and cross The Rose Bowl to reach a solitary butte. Want to scramble up for a 360° vista? Let's do it. From there, it's a short hike back to our trailhead.
ROUTE: circuit LENGTH: 5 hours
VERTICAL: 700-ft gain / 360-ft loss CHALLENGE: 2
When you clap eyes on this route’s scenic climax you might call it “incredible,” “amazing,” “awesome,” “bizarre,” “crazy,” “out of this world.” An “anomaly” is the simplest, accurate way to describe it. It’s the result of an intense mix of geologic forces. But what ignites the projectile adjectives rocketing from your brain is the initial reaction—irresistible to all but a resolute scientist—that you’re witnessing a supernatural phenomenon. Hence the name Witchcraft Caldron. This hike, however, isn’t a one-view wonder. Our slickrock route to and from the caldron is a joyous romp.
All You Can Eat
ROUTE: loop LENGTH: 5 to 6 hours
VERTICAL: 800-ft loss & gain CHALLENGE: 3
Feast on a buffet of canyon-country wonders. Soon after starting, we’ll pause for reverent admiration of a fascinating, 2000-year old Archaic rock-art panel. Then we’ll work our way
to the riparian floor of a steep-walled canyon where the world feels much farther away than
it actually is. After switchbacking up to a colossal arch, we’ll explore a side canyon and walk on wide ledges to circle a peninsula that offers striking vistas of Escalante River Canyon.
ROUTE: circuit LENGTH: 3 hours
VERTICAL: 800-ft loss & gain CHALLENGE: 2 to 3
While mass-migration-like crowds overwhelm Zion National Park, you can witness similar grandeur with us—in solitude—very near Boulder, Utah. We'll be on slickrock 80% of the time as we explore all manner of sculpted sandstone—domes, towers, and slots—in this gorgeous, fascinating, tranquil, park-like basin. We'll witness gardens of astonishing, balancing boulders. We'll even summit the most prominent dome so we can gaze across a huge chunk of complex canyon-country that almost no one ever probes. Bear in mind, you must be very sure-footed to manage the initial, steep, bouldery descent. And a burst of mountain-climbing strength is required to ascend that same slope at the end of the hike.
ROUTE: loop LENGTH: 4 to 4.5 hours
VERTICAL: 700-ft loss & gain CHALLENGE: 3 overall, briefly 5
A short drive from Boulder, we’ll quickly drop into what feels like The Big Wild: lonely, spectacular, seemingly hundreds of miles from any hint of civilization. We’ll descend through a minor, slickrock arroyo to the distinctive dome we call "Gotama Head" because it resembles a salient aspect of the images we’ve all seen of The Buddha. Twice we’ll boulder-hop a shallow creek before rising to a bench midway up a canyon wall. We’ll follow this bench down-canyon while admiring a menagerie of fantastic, Carmel-sandstone formations, including Wagon Wheel. Then we’ll turn into another arroyo and encounter the short, exposed scramble that earns this hike a challenge rating of 5. Beyond, we’ll resume hiking. Ascending mostly on slickrock we'll soon complete the loop to our starting point.
ROUTE: Circuit LENGTH: 4.5 to 5 hours
VERTICAL: 600-ft gain & loss CHALLENGE: 3
Ledge-walking above a sheer-walled canyon is a thrill. Here, we'll cruise above two canyons, following a comfortably broad, ever intriguing, Kayenta-sandstone ledge system above Wingate cliffs. Views are constant: into the depths below, across to the opposite cliffs, and out to the horizon. We'll begin by hiking streamside, through a cottonwood grove. As we probe the canyon, you'll glance upward, seeking the well-concealed passage that will convey us to the rim above. Cowboys once used it to herd cattle to a mesa-top pasture, hence the name Cowboy Up. Though we've hiked it many times, this historic "escalator" always strikes us as miraculous.
ROUTE: one way (short, easy vehicle shuttle) LENGTH: 4.5 to 5 hours
VERTICAL: 1420-ft loss / 1100-ft gain CHALLENGE: 3
We’ll begin on a long-abandoned pioneer route that provides insight into local history as well as an elegant descent into an impressive canyon. Then we’ll veer onto our own, untracked course. Linking prominent, geographic features, we’ll complete an engaging, one-way hike. Eventually we’ll rise through a sensuous, slickrock ravine punctuated by what we call “the Pondering Pools.” Then we’ll cross a slender mesa and descend a slickrock escarpment to arrive at our shuttle vehicle.
ROUTE: loop LENGTH: 6 hours
VERTICAL: 750-ft loss & gain CHALLENGE: 2 to 3
This constantly-scenic loop is evocative of Canyonlands National Park. But there, crowds dilute the experience. Here, solitude intensifies it. We’ll begin with a ledge-walk midway up a red-orange Kayenta-sandstone canyon wall. It’s nearly level, wonderfully panoramic, and remains so for a surprisingly long distance. After turning into a tributary gulch, we’ll admire the native rock-art that inspired us to name this route Tribal Instinct. Deeper in the gulch, we’ll pass perennial pools and see a well-concealed arch. A short thrash through riparian thickets heightens the sense that we’ve entered another dimension and traded artificial anxieties for genuine challenge. Then we’ll tag onto an ancient stock-trail climbing up and out of the gulch. Resuming on slickrock, we’ll intersect an historic, wilderness road—now just a path—and follow it over a climactic saddle. After we gaze at the encircling chaos of domes and buttes, the meandering path gently descends into the canyon where we began our hike.
Crack in the Cosmic Egg
ROUTE: circuit (mostly a loop, with a brief entry/exit)
LENGTH: 3.5 hours VERTICAL: 500-ft loss & gain CHALLENGE: 2
After a short drive from Boulder, and a quick approach on foot, we'll roam an enticing Navajo-sandstone slickrock basin. This is freelance "slick walking" at its best: flowing with the sensuously sculpted terrain like surfers on a wave. The color palette ranges from biscuit dough, to gold leaf. Weird formations abound, including many curious turrets. The climax of our walk is a cleft so deep and vertical we call it the Crack in the Cosmic Egg. We'll sit here for a while, contemplating what could be the navel of the universe. To and from the crack, we can safely test our ability to imitate lizards on a wall, because slickrock isn't "slick." It's smooth, gritty, like having velcro on your bootsoles. When dry, slickrock feels like "grip rock." Hike with us here the afternoon you arrive in Boulder, or the morning you leave. If you've never probed slickrock, this is the place to try it.
Photo by Utah Slickrock Guides' guest Ake Almgren
Advanced Routes: 6 to 8 hours
Whirling Dervish Reef
ROUTE: round trip LENGTH: 5.5 to 7.5 hours
VERTICAL: 1600-to-1800-ft gain & loss CHALLENGE: 3 to 4
Follow your bliss on a freelancing “slickwalk” over and around a mini-mountain range of whirling, sandstone peaks. Want to ascend? Up we’ll go. Curious about that intriguing cleft below? Down we’ll go. We’ll mostly be friction-walking, sometimes on steep grades, so you must be sure-footed. But we can avoid exposure, adjusting our route to avoid vertigo-inducing perches. A European couple who'd hiked all over the world and completed more than 50 of the hikes in our "WOW Utah" guidebook told us—while only midway through our Whirling Dervish day together—"This is one of the most spectacular hikes the two of us have ever done."
ROUTE: circuit LENGTH: 6 hours
VERTICAL: 800-ft loss & gain CHALLENGE: 3
If well known, this slot-canyon route would be a classic: in every guidebook, and on every Utah hiker’s to-do list. Yet it’s not. So solitude is probable here. We usually make it a ten-mile circuit, but we can shorten or lengthen it, as you prefer. Aside from brief ups and downs, it feels level. And it's scenically engaging the entire way. It comprises four, distinct, slot canyons: Han Solo Slot, Wookie Slot, Skywalker Slot, and Yoda Slot. Each differs in color, texture, depth and length, but all are non-technical. In other words, no equipment is necessary to negotiate these slot canyons. They're hiker friendly. Short spurts of fun scrambling is possible but never required. And, after wending through the secret, sinuous recesses of the Jedi Slots, we'll loop back above them. While striding, we'll peer down at where we just slithered. And we'll appreciate the larger context: the canyon harboring the Jedi Slots. A chaotic amalgam of colors and textures makes it kaleidoscopic. The entire galaxy of high-desert hues ripples through the serpentine layers of sandstone. It's a feast for photographers, and a dazzling, refreshing twist on the nonstop claustrophobia of the typical slot-canyon experience.
Boulder Jazz Festival
ROUTE: loop LENGTH: 5.5 to 8 hours
VERTICAL: 850-ft gain & loss CHALLENGE: 3
The essence of jazz is improvisation. And this grand, looping, slickrock hike allows countless, brief, improvisational forays. The sculpted, Navajo sandstone underfoot is the color of golden-edged biscuits ready to be lifted from the oven. Sweeping, aerial views of surrounding wilderness reveal why Boulder, Utah is the epicenter of canyon-country hiking, and will likely fire your desire to stay longer and explore further.
ROUTE: round trip LENGTH: 7 to 8 hours
VERTICAL: 1000-ft loss & gain CHALLENGE: 4
“Show, but don’t tell” is the desert-rat protocol. Guardians of arcane knowledge, they don’t want precious secrets publicized, because it quickly attracts crowds, which inevitably cause degradation, which ultimately leads to restrictions. So we’ll lead you into Never-Speak-Of-It-Gulch only if you agree not to spread word of its entrancing beauty and secluded location. After a steep, scrambling descent on loose rock, we’ll cruise down the gulch, then ascend slickrock slopes to an airy perch where we can overlook the gulch’s impenetrable lower reaches. At that point, we have options. We can linger there before turning around. Or we can roam farther, perhaps ascending the spine of a soaring, sandstone fin; maybe probing
a deep, narrow joint; possibly navigating to an outfitter’s hand-built steps dropping to a shady, cool copse on the bank of the Escalante River.
ROUTE: loop LENGTH: 7 to 8 hours
VERTICAL: 2200-ft loss & gain CHALLENGE: 4
All-day endurance is necessary here. And, for one, short, descent pitch, you’ll want self-assurance born of scrambling experience. If you meet those requirements, this extraordinary, slickrock trek has the power to remain your most vivid canyon-country memory. Twice we’ll drop into and rise out of the Escalante River Canyon, both times crossing the river. For a long stretch, we’ll follow—and marvel at—an historic, wagon “road.” Throughout, we’ll enjoy vast views and revel in the unique joy we call “slickwalking.”
ROUTE: circuit LENGTH: 8 to 9 hours
VERTICAL: 2100-ft loss / 2500-ft gain. CHALLENGE: 5
A great dome is the panoramic climax of one of our intermediate routes described above. On "Buckle Up," however, we'll bounce off that dome like pinballs as we zing far beyond on an ambitious, arduous, lonely, sensational, cross-country circuit. Much of the way we'll be on slickrock. We'll descend three, deep, gorgeous canyons. Twice we'll de-boot and ford streams. Significant ups and downs are numerous, scrambly (hands-on), and exciting because each minor summit reveals a new vista. Bending back toward our trailhead, we'll pound ever-skyward on the steep, slickrock nose of a mesa. Cruising atop that mesa, we'll peer into a startling chasm, resplendent with all the fiery colors in the high-desert palette. By the time we reach our vehicle, expect to feel tired but ecstatic. Very few hikers could navigate "Buckle Up" on their own. Most would insist it requires at least a one-night backpack trip. If you're a mile-crushing dayhiker with a huge appetite for wondrous scenery and total tranquility, talk to us about flashing "Buckle Up" in a single, unforgettable day. Our preference is to attempt it only with guests we've previously guided, so we can be confident they're up to the task. The extraordinary length of the route, and the necessity for two guides, requires us to charge $550 for two guests.
ROUTE: loop LENGTH: 7 to 9 hours
VERTICAL: 700-ft loss & gain CHALLENGE: 2 for terrain, 4 for distance
We describe this one in our guidebook Hiking From Here to WOW: Utah Canyon Country. It's Trip 33, titled Little Death Hollow. But it's such a long trek that you might want us to accompany you. We'd love to, if you're confident you have all-day endurance, because we'll be striding from morning 'til evening. Despite minimal elevation loss and gain, we'll have canyon walls on both sides of us nearly the entire way. And much of the time we'll be in slot canyons. They're not the deepest or most sharply vertical, but one is among the longest in the region. Spending so much time in a non-technical slot (accessible without climbing skills or equipment) can be a thrill for hikers seeking an introduction to this facet of high-desert travel. We call it a Slot Safari because it requires a long drive from Boulder (three hours round trip), because the hike itself is very long, and because the slot-sections alone feel like they're of safari length. As for the official label Little Death Hollow, it's interesting to note that "little death," or "la petite mort," is the French phrase for sexual orgasm. It refers to the fleeting, climactic release from physicality, the momentary coalescing of two spirits as one. So perhaps melding with creation—as is possible on such a long hike—can also be an orgasmic experience, oui?
ROUTE: loop LENGTH: 7 to 8 hours
VERTICAL: 1180-ft loss & gain CHALLENGE: 5
“No way we can hike down this,” you think. So you turn around, expecting to see us nodding our heads, solemnly confirming your assessment. But we’ll be smiling, and you’ll realize: “OMG! We are gonna hike down this!” And together, we’ll do it without drama—assuming you’re an experienced, competent scrambler and strong hiker. Our route slowly, sanely unlocks the puzzle, granting us passage into the Escalante River Canyon. After de-booting and crossing the river, we’ll ascend an old, stock trail to the base of a gigantic sandstone dome. From there we’ll work our way to another creek crossing, then ascend through a hidden passage—a canyon-country version of Diagon Alley. Beyond, we’ll see swirling, red, pink
and white cross-bedded sandstone, and visit an historic cabin. We’ll cross the Escalante River yet again. On the far bank, we’ll admire an entrancing rock-art site before snaking along
an ingenious route back to our trailhead.
Perennial creeks in a desert? Yes. It's another unique appeal of Boulder, Utah. And with us as your guides, you can take full advantage of it. The routes described below are largely in water. They’re ideal for summer when the weather's hot. But they're sometimes possible and enjoyable in spring or fall—if the conditions are right. Typically, we begin a water-walk early in the day, hike overland, enter the creek canyon and follow it, then hike out later, when it's cooler. The water will generally range from ankle to knee deep, and it’s usually chilly (even in summer), so we urge you to bring neoprene socks. The ideal footwear is synthetic (non-absorbent) hiking boots. And trekking poles are particularly helpful in the rocky streambeds.
Where Dinosaurs Drink
ROUTE: one way (short, easy vehicle shuttle) LENGTH: 5 to 7 hours
VERTICAL: 500-ft loss / 150-ft gain CHALLENGE: 2 to 3
Giant, sandstone fins arcing toward the Escalante River can—to an inventive mind—resemble dinosaurs gracefully bending their long necks to drink in the canyon. On this hike, we’ll initially follow remnants of an abandoned, historic road where it contours toward those dinosaur-like fins. Below the fins, we’ll descend sharply on rough terrain, to reach the river. Then we’ll splash downstream—occasionally shortcutting sandy banks—to end up near where we began hiking. En route, we’ll see ruins and rock art. Warm weather sometimes enables us to do this walk from March through October.
Secret Knowledge of Water
ROUTE: loop LENGTH: 5 or 8 hours
VERTICAL: 830-ft loss & gain CHALLENGE: 3 to 4 depending on length
Canyon country is a colossal sculpture in progress. Rivulets channel trickles that merge into gullies that flow into arroyos that incise ravines that feed draws that create gulches that deepen into magnificent chasms. On this route, we’ll literally immerse ourselves in the timeless equation constantly at work throughout southern Utah: sandstone + rain + gravity = canyons. As we approach sheer, soaring walls, we’ll proceed into the heart of a slender, secret corridor, and hike in the stream that courses through it. Our overland return will be through a mini-mountain-range of whirling, sandstone peaks.
Carved in Stone
ROUTE: loop LENGTH: 10 to 11 hours
VERTICAL: 800-ft loss & gain CHALLENGE: 5
During the approach to the canyon’s edge, and the final stretch back to the trailhead, we’ll be marching in sand. Total time: about 1.5 hours. But it’s an insignificant price-of-admission for this otherwise constantly alluring hike. A cunning, sinuous, slickrock route will coax us into a deep canyon. We’ll appreciate a large, well preserved, rock-art panel. We’ll visit a still-standing pioneer cabin. We’ll splash downstream through a knee-deep river, pausing often to peer up at the sheer walls of the yawning canyon it sculpted. Our exit is well concealed: a crack in the canyon wall where an outfitter blasted and hacked a crude-but-adequate staircase into the sandstone. Hence our name for this route: Carved in Stone. Above the stairs, we’ll summit a slickrock dome and overlook the river canyon we now know intimately. Then we’ll ascend through Never-Speak-of-It Gulch (itself a worthy destination) and stride a long section of level slickrock before we ignite our afterburners for that last sandy section. Carved in Stone is our longest route: a demanding endurance test for even the strongest hikers. Often, the cobbled river bed is not visible, so you're feeling your way with your feet—for hours. You might not have precisely this kind of experience, but only if you've pushed through epic challenges, and enjoyed them, should you consider Carved in Stone. The extraordinary length of the route, and the necessity for two guides, requires us to charge $600 for one hiker, $650 for two.
ROUTE: loop LENGTH: 7 to 8 hours
VERTICAL: 1000-ft loss & gain CHALLENGE: 5
Boulder has a water master—a local resident entrusted by the community to oversee the distribution of the most precious of all resources. Named in honor of this vital job, our hike descends a usually-dry slickrock tributary drainage to arrive at a canyon carved by a perennial creek. Here we’ll step into the flow and splash upstream into and through the remarkable, tubular, canyon narrows. We’ll hike often in the water, sometimes on slickrock benches beside the creek, occasionally through dense brush. After savoring the canyon’s tranquility, we’ll exit the water and face a short, exposed scramble before cruising back to the trailhead. Before we’ll guide you here, we’ll need to hike with you a day, because we must have confidence in your ability.
ROUTE: round trip LENGTH: 7 to 8.5 hours
VERTICAL: 1130-ft loss & gain CHALLENGE: 2 to 3 overall, briefly 5
If you’ve hiked Utah canyon country, you’ve likely heard of Death Hollow. And if you have our guidebook Hiking from Here to WOW: Utah Canyon Country—maybe you’ve followed our description of the Boulder Mail Trail, which links the towns of Boulder and Escalante and crosses Death Hollow en route. Boulder Baptism, however, probes Death Hollow. After descending a little-known route to reach the confluence of Death Hollow and the Escalante River, we’ll hike upstream for nearly three hours in the canyon’s deep, atmospheric, awe-inspiring narrows. You’ll be hiking in the clear creek, usually ankle to knee deep. We’ll swim in pools and lounge beside them for a couple hours. We need hot temps for this hike, which makes it possible only from late May through early October.