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Backpacker Magazine – September 2005

ESCALANTE: A Complete Adventure Guide

When Utahans really wants to disappear, they head to the magnificent canyons of Grand Staircase-Escalante.

by: Steve Howe

2. Bull Valley Gorge Loop
Plumb deep, dark narrows on this fast-changing canyoneering adventure.
Two slickrock gorges hundreds of feet deep highlight this challenging 12.2-mile loop, which can be done as an aggressive dayhike but has enough water and scenery for an overnight. Bull Valley Gorge is technical; bring a 50-foot rope for hauling and lowering packs, and be aware that canyon conditions can change in hours due to upstream rainfall.

From the Bull Valley Gorge bridge, pass through a gate and hike up the canyon's northeast rim for .4 mile until you can easily enter the wash. Heading downstream, you'll encounter logjams, pouroffs, and potholes that are often thigh-deep with cold, muddy water. During unusually wet springs, this becomes a full-on canyoneering experience, requiring a wetsuit and waterproof pack. Not far below the bridge, you'll encounter a recent boulder collapse that must be scrambled; beware of loose rock.

After several miles of deep narrows, the canyon widens and ponderosa pines appear. The confluence with Sheep Creek comes after 6.5 miles. Look downstream for water seeps and campsites, or hike 4 miles up Sheep to the Willis Creek confluence, then return west to Skutumpah Road and your car. This trip is also a good start for extended treks into the Upper Paria River.

The Way
Drive 3.6 miles S from Cannonville to the Skutumpah Road turnoff. Steep, exposed grades on this road are slick when wet. Continue on Skutumpah Road past Willis Creek trailhead, and park after 9 miles near the bridge over Bull Valley Gorge. Hike or bike the 1.8-mile shuttle to close the loop.

USGS quad Bull Valley Gorge

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