Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, UT
If there was a hall of fame for classic canyon-country sights, it would include soaring sandstone walls, lush riparian oases, gravity-defying arches, massive alcoves, and Native American rock art—all highly concentrated in one moderate hike. In other words, it would look like Coyote Gulch. A rare perennial stream feeds an unusually vibrant canyon bottom, with cottonwood trees that turn gold in the fall. And this expansive campsite on a sandy beach is the primo spot to hole up, in part because it has “one of the best night-sky views in the canyon,” according to photographer David Collier. The site is about seven miles into a 26-mile out-and-back hike down Coyote Gulch to the Escalante River. Make it a two-night basecamp, and on your middle day, hike to the Escalante, a tributary of the Colorado. At the Escalante, hike upstream about a half mile for a view of Stevens Natural Arch. At 160 feet high and with a span of 225 feet, it’s one of the largest arches in the country. Fairly popular in spring and fall—quieter before mid-April and after mid-October—Coyote Gulch features 50-foot-wide Coyote Natural Bridge arcing over the canyon, 150-foot-wide Jacob Hamblin Arch (a few minutes’ walk downstream from this campsite), walls undercut 200 feet, Fremont Indian pictographs, and several waterfalls all within a couple miles. Start at Hurricane Wash trailhead on Hole-in-the-Rock Road (high clearance recommended), 33 miles south of UT 12; the turnoff from the highway is five miles east of Escalante.
Permit Required and free, available at trailhead or visitor center in the town of Escalante. MapBuy the BACKPACKER PRO MAP Contact (435) 826-5499, blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/grand_staircase-escalante.html