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Canyons of the Escalante: Big Horn Canyon

Southern Utah Wanderings in a Sandstone Wilderness
Wednesday, October 2, 2019

After our long day hike on the Boulder Mail Trail on Tuesday, we decided to try to take things a little easier today. Kind of like a rest day. Of course, as we have found out over the years, Jared and I are not very good at taking rest days. We tell ourselves that we are only going to hike a couple of miles, but then we end up hiking over ten! We slept in a little later this morning and planned to head into Escalante for a hearty breakfast before our hike. Unfortunately, every place in town that serves breakfast was closed for some reason this morning and we ended up at Subway. Not really the hearty breakfast I had envisioned. Next we headed back to the Old Sheffield Road so we could hike a loop through Big Horn Canyon from the top. The funny thing is that when I was planning our hikes this week I thought that this canyon is where we would find the most solitude, but in reality we crossed paths with more people at the lower end of Big Horn Canyon than we would see on all our other hikes this week combined. I had no idea that this was such a popular place!

After dropping down into the upper reaches of Big Horn Canyon, we followed the shallow wash as it got deeper and more colorful.

Upper Big Horn Canyon

The hiking alternated between slickrock and soft sand. There was a lot of soft sand, so we tried to stick to the sandstone when we could.

Sand Across Stone

Sandstone Canyon

After a little over two miles we finally reached our first slot canyon. It was shallow, but the colors were nice.


We weren’t able to hike through the slot very far when we reached the first big drop. It was a little too much for us to descend, so we decided to climb out of the slot and find a way around it.

Jared in a Canyon

We followed a well-used social trail above the slot canyon for a little bit, but then it abruptly ended and cliffed out. We could not find a way down into the canyon from here and thought about giving up on the hike at this point.

Cliffed Out

Instead of giving up on reaching the lower slots the canyon, we decided to hike back up to my Jeep and drive around to the Hole-In-The-Rock Road. We parked near Tenmile Spring and were then able to hike up Harris Wash to the mouth of Big Horn Canyon so we could explore the lower part of the canyon from the bottom.

After hiking up the mouth of Big Horn Canyon a short distance we decided explore the West Fork first. If all that sand and gravel was removed, maybe there would be another wave underneath…

West Fork Entrance

The West Fork definitely had the nicest slot canyon we would visit today, even if it wasn’t very long.

West Fork Glow

Big Horn Glow

Wavey Wall

This was the end of the West Fork slot canyon for us. Around this last bend it got really narrow and ended at a dryfall.

End Light

Next we returned to the main fork of the canyon and hiked up the long stretches of colorful, but shallow slots.

Slot Wave

A swirl in the sandstone.


Walking through the shallow canyon bottom.

Shallow Canyon

I caught this sunstar in the last section of narrows we hiked into.

Big Horn Canyon Sunstar

Jared stands in the final chamber we entered before we were stopped by another large dryfall. This is as far as we would hike up the main fork of the canyon and it wasn’t too far away from where we had turned around earlier in the day.

Final Chamber

Sand & Stone

Sand & Stone

On our hike back out of the canyon we stayed out the slots so we could explore the colorful sandstone found above.

Colorful Sandstone

While hiking through the shallow slot canyon a little earlier I had come around a bend and ran into a guy with two goats. That was a new one for me! It turns out that he and his wife are goatpackers from Colorado and they were out exploring the area. We ran into them again on our way back so I stopped and took a photo of one of their goats.


Wandering around the colorful sandstone in Big Horn Canyon kind of reminded me of exploring Coyote Buttes North.

Big Horn Canyon

After returning to my Jeep at the trailhead we decided to head back into Escalante for dinner since we were nearby. Afterwards we headed back to Boulder and topped off the fuel tank in my Jeep before we headed out on the Burr Trail to the Wolverine Loop Road. We found a campsite in the dark near the trailhead for Little Death Hollow, which was the next loop we planned to backpack starting in the morning.

>> Big Horn Canyon Photo Gallery


  1. Owen Mercer
    Owen Mercer October 15, 2019

    Wow, you live the life. Thanks for the descriptive and interesting blogs about your adventures. I make a point to have the eggs cooked in a small pie crust for breakfast at Escalante Outfitters whenever I’m in that area. When I hiked Little Death Hallow last year, there was unavoidable thigh deep water in a couple of slot canyons you will have to get through. And if you loop back through Wolverine canyon there is some amazing petrified wood at the top of the canyon

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat October 16, 2019

      There was no water at all when we hiked through Little Death Hollow earlier this month.

  2. Steve Riggs
    Steve Riggs October 16, 2019

    Over the course of doing Bighorn from the top 2 times, we have seen only 1 other person, but I would not be surprised to find it getting busier- as everywhere it seems. The viable bypass trails are found on the left going down, and are easy.

  3. Nan
    Nan November 1, 2019

    Hey, I finally had a chance to come look at your blog. I’m the one with the goats and I followed the link you left on Goat-O-Rama. Thank you so much for sharing. You take beautiful photos!

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