Lower Calf Creek Falls is a great day hike! Located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument near Escalante Utah, this hike weaves through impressive towering red and white sandstone cliffs and ends at a large waterfall and swimming hole. The waterfall provides a great relief on hot days and is full of a variety of colors.
The hike itself is pretty easy as most of the terrain is flat, winding along the edge of the canyon. Lots of cool cliffs and rock formations to view along the trail. The trail starts in full sun, but becomes more shaded as you get further back in the canyon towards the waterfall.
- Distance: 6.2mi round trip
- Type: Out & Back
- Time: 3-4 hours
- Elevation at trailhead: ~5200feet
- Elevation Change: 850 ft
- Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
- Crowd Factor: Moderate – High
- Best Time: Mar-June, Sept-Oct
- Permits/Fees: No permits, parking fee
- Water: Available at the picnic site at the trailhead, or can be taken out of the creek and then treated
The trailhead starts at Calf Creek Campground which is in the Calf Creek recreation area and prominently signed by the Bureau of Land Management. This is off of UT 12, which is 11.4 miles south of UT 12/Burr Trail Road junction in Boulder and 14.4 miles northeast of Escalante UT.
Off of UT 12, follow the paved road for about 250 yards to the day-use parking lot. Park at the designated parking lot by the restrooms, just before the campground. There is a $5 per vehicle fee which can be paid via the payment box (remember to bring cash).
Is Lower Calf Creek Falls worth it?
Yes, Lower Calf Creek Falls is definitely worth it. It was more impressive than I thought it would be. The hike there is really beautiful through some very unique rock formations and colors and then the 126-ft waterfall at the end is spectacular. We went earlier in the year in April and there was a lot of water coming over the falls.
Is Upper or Lower Calf Creek Falls better?
Most people would probably say that Upper Calf Creek falls is better. The falls themselves are pretty similar, however the hike to the Upper Falls is more difficult and therefore deters a lot of people. The Lower Falls are more popular and tend to get crowded, especially during weekends. Therefore, the Upper Falls are usually considered better since there are less crowds.
What to expect along the trail
From the parking lot, there are signs to take you to the trailhead, which is a short walk past the end of the parking lot. Just before the road dips down to the creek, the prominently signed trail heads left up the west slopes of the canyon.
The first mile – 1.25mi of the trail is mostly through sand – get ready for a butt workout! This portion is largely exposed to the sun and is one of the more difficult parts of the trail.
After this, the train starts to traverse the cliffs along the side of the canyon. You’ll cross several sandstone ledges that make up small steps as you head deeper into the canyon.
The colors in this canyon are really beautiful. Ribbons of red and white streak through the canyon walls.
For the most part the trail is following alongside the creek riverbed. The further away from the waterfall you are, the drier this creek is.
At roughly 1.75mi into the trail, it starts to incline up away from the creek. This is the steepest part of the trail and where you’ll get the majority of the elevation gain. From here the trail becomes much more varied and enjoyable. You start to get some shade, which can be a nice relief from the hot desert sun.
The trail winds past small rocks, through shrubs and shaded glens of cottonwood trees. There’s even a section of reeds and a wet marshy area as the trail meets with the creek that is flowing through the canyon.
The last .75mi or so is again all sand. The trail declines and intersects with the creek for a wet crossing. From here you’re now approaching the waterfall and can see it towering above you in the distance.
Once you reach Lower Calf Creek Falls, there’s a small sandy beach bordering along the swimming hole. There’s several logs and rocks that make for good places to sit.
Several people and dogs were playing and swimming in the creek during our visit.
The waterfall is pretty impressive. More so than I thought it would be. In April there was still a good amount of water flowing, but this is likely to almost dry up in the hot summer months. Depending on the time of year, the color of the rocks behind the waterfall can be very vibrant. Green mosses and different colored mineral deposits create a very cool juxtaposition of warm and cool colors as a backdrop to the falls.