A Red Rock Museum
Archaeologists believe that Fremont people inhabited this region from 400 a.d. to 1350 a.d., living a seminomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle that may have ended with the coming of a decades-long drought like the one some scientists think is underway now. The short hike into Explorer Canyon is a tantalizing window into their mysterious world; it leads past three sets of rock carvings–or petroglyphs–that depict human forms in a variety of poses. Between the first two petroglyph panels, keep an eye out for Zane Grey Arch in a small box canyon to the north. This canyon leads to the last carvings and an insurmountable pour-off. Several springs that feed the creek begin here. Below, there’s good camping amid oak trees, a surprising find whose shade takes the sting out of the desert’s swelter. There’s also good scrambling over various domes and slickrock faces, and huge alcoves to curl up under with a copy of The Monkey Wrench Gang.
The Way Explorer is 12 miles up the Escalante from Lake Powell by boat or kayak. Tie up where you beach, then walk upstream, crossing small waterfalls and .5 mile of resurfaced canyon. At the high-water mark, take the faint trail on the north side of the canyon. Allow 3 to 4 hours for the 4-mile round-trip.