Easy Slot Canyons and Idyllic Camping in Grand Staircase Escalante

Grand Staircase-Escalante’s Little Death Hollow takes you into one of the most remote corners of Utah.

Photo: Ryan Wichelns

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This canyon is starting to feel infinite. It’s been hours since I left the open desert of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, dropping from green prairie to red-walled valley to a shoulder-wide maze. Now sandstone surrounds me but for the narrow strip of blue Utah sky over my head, and  I seem to be burrowing further and further into the ground. With every boulder I hop over and narrow bend I shimmy through this trip feels more remote. It’s like I’ve entered a rocky portal to a world where I’m the only human left in all this desert vastness, even if I only left my car behind this morning. Steep canyon walls block out the rest of the world; I might as well be on Mars. It’s amazing that an experience like this is so accessible, not requiring technical canyoneering gear or experience. There’s a stillness between the sandstone walls that even the scrub-brush desert above can’t match, setting this trip apart from any other, and I’m determined to sink into every moment of it.

Overall: 4/5

Difficulty: 3.5/5

Duration: 2 days

Turn-By-Turn From the Little Death Hollow Trailhead

  1. Follow the trail southwest between Little Brown Bench on your right and a smaller mesa on your left. Near mile 1.5, another valley appears behind you, but continue southwest between Little and Big Brown Bench. Keep an eye out for petroglyphs on the boulders beside the trail. 
  2. Near mile 2.8, the canyon narrows dramatically and begins to oxbow. Continue downstream. 
  3. Near mile 3.2, stay right past a side canyon entering from the left. 
  4. The canyon reaches its most scenic and narrow stretch after mile 6, though nothing is less than shoulder-width or requires more than easy scrambling over logs or boulders.
  5. After mile 8 the canyon widens again until it meets Deadhorse Canyon at mile 7. Continue heading south until you reach the Escalante River, underneath a towering rock wall at mile 12. Spend the night in the cottonwoods by the water. 
  6. The next day, head back north up Dead Horse Canyon, passing Little Death Hollow on your right at mile 14.5. 
  7. Pick up an old road and follow it to mile 16.3. 
  8. At mile 19.9, take a side canyon right, then take a right into another side canyon at mile 21.9. 
  9. Curve southeast around the eastern tip of Little Brown Bench, aiming for the road at mile 23.6, then follow it back to your car at mile 23.75.

Permit none Info Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument 

GPX here