The hike through Peek-a-boo Gulch and Spooky Gulch is so fun!! While you can do them separately, they are usually done together as a modified loop. It’s a fairly short hike to get to the Gulches and navigating them is like an adult obstacle course. Located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, this is an adventurous hike with big pay offs and awesome rock formations… if you’re ok with squeezing through tight spaces.
Get ready for narrow slots, boulder jams, climbs and drops, boulder scrambling, teamwork and a really great time!
- Distance: 3.5mi round trip (including both)
- Type: Modified loop
- Time: 3-6 hours
- Elevation at trailhead: 4910 feet
- Elevation Change: -200 ft
- Difficulty: Moderate- Difficult
- Crowd Factor: Moderate
- Best Time: March-May, Sept-Nov
- Permits/Fees: No
- Water: No
There are two trailheads that will get you to Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulch, both of which are located off of Hole-In-The-Rock-Road.
Hole-In-The-Rock-Road turns off of Rt 12 about 5miles outside of Escalante (which is a really cute small town, I’d suggest staying here over Boulder). It’s a packed dirt road and gravel with several cattle guards, which is going to take about 45mins to drive down. The first 5 miles or so are essentially paved, but this soon gives way to packed dirt, caterpillar tracks, and ruts in the road. In good weather, you can do this road in a regular sedan (we did it in a Prius). But if its been rain recently, the road could become muddy and then you could get stuck, even with 4WD.
Lower Dry Fork Trailhead is usually the preferred trailhead for this hike as this trail to get to the canyons is shorter, but is a little further down the dirt road. The trailhead is 26 miles down Hole-In-The-Rock Road off of a short turn off on the left.
It’s clearly marked how to get to Lower Dry Fork Trailhead.
There’s a large parking lot at the trailhead with pit toilettes. There’s also two steel poles with a warning that if you can’t fit through this gap, that you won’t be able to fit through Spooky Gulch – and they aren’t exaggerating!
Upper Dry Fork Trailhead is the other trailhead that can be used to reach the Gulches. It’s earlier on Hole-In-The-Rock-Road at mile 24 and is also clearly marked and has the same amenities. Starting here will take you through the Dry Fork Narrows, which is pretty cool, but not as cool as our main attraction, and will make the total length of the hike roughly 6mi.
What to expect along the trail
(From Lower Dry Fork Trailhead) This trail can get HOT and crowded depending on the time of year. The trail to the Gulches offers no shade as you trek across the desert, so make sure to bring plenty of water with you.
From the trailhead, just look for the foot trail that heads out to the ridge from the parking lot. It’s hard to miss.
Once you reach the ridge of Coyote Gulch, the trail will turn left and wind around the rim. The trail is mostly packed dirt and rock as you work your way around the sandstone benches. After about .3mi, (shortly before this you can look down into Coyote Gulch and see the entrance to Peek-a-boo), the trail will traverse over several rocks as it descends into the Gulch.
Be on the lookout for the rock cairns that will show you the way.
You’ll continue to climb down the rocks for approximately another .3mi, which can be slightly steep in sections – and remember, what goes down has to come back up.
The last push before getting the bottom of the gulch goes through a somewhat steep sandy hill. Then once at the bottom of the gulch, there’s some (but not many) opportunities for shade between some of the trees and tall rock walls.
Once at the bottom, there’s a directional sign to point you where you want to go. To get to Peek-a-boo, you essentially just want to go straight/slightly right across the wash. It can be a little discombobulating as you don’t clearly see the entrance to Peek-a-boo from this vantage point.
But just continue walking straight/slightly right across the wash to the crack in the wall on the other side and you’ll be sure to find it. Or, depending on the time of year, just look for the people!
This is what the entrance to Peek-a-boo Gulch looks like:
It’s a roughly 12ft climb to get up into the Gulch, which is going to be one of the most difficult parts. There are plenty of spots to dig in your hands and toes, but having friends to help give you a boost is really the best way to go. Adventuring through these Gulches are going to be a good exercise in teamwork!
Peekaboo is roughly about .5mi long and the walls are max only around 30ft high, but it has beautiful red rock coloring, especially when the sun shines through the chapel-like peek-a-boo holes. For the entirety of the trek through the gulch, you’re going to be crawling through, around, and over the rock formations in the gulch.
From climbing through big round holes.
To squeezing through the twists and turns of the narrow curves.
It really feels like an adult jungle gym that you’re working your way through. And if it’s rained recently, be prepared for some puddles!
In the gulch, you’ll slowly be increasing in elevation, which adds to the climbing that happens moving from one section to the other.
Go slow and be patient – you never know what’s going to be around the next corner!
Around half way through you’ll get a little rest as the walls straighten out and widen before bringing you into the next slot section.
The “end” of Peekaboo will be marked with rock cairns that appear to the right and traverse the desert. While it is possible to continue in the gulch, the upper section isn’t nearly as impressive.
From Peekaboo to Spooky
Exit the wash at Peekaboo and follow these cairns for approx. .4mi to reach the entrance of Spooky Gulch.
This path traverses through the open desert. My sense of direction is usually pretty good, and while going across this trail felt like we were heading back to the wash where we had entered Peekaboo, which was incorrect. As long as you’re following the cairns, just stick with it and it will drop you right at the top of Spooky.
The last section before the top of Spooky will decline sharply down a sandy hill before you reach the entrance.
Spooky Gulch doesn’t pull any punches – if you thought that Peekaboo was narrow, buckle up! The sign at the trailhead which says if you can’t fit between these poles is no joke – you literally will not fit through this gulch if you can’t. It’s not for the claustrophobic.
Spooky starts off relatively wide, but continues to get more and more narrow as you move on. This gulch is also approx. .5mi long and this time, you’re steadily going down rather than up.
Since you’re slowly descending through the gulch, you may be tempted to try to stay above some of the twists and turns rather than dropping down into the cracks…. we tried this and it doesn’t work.
The best strategy is just to jump in the deepest sections with both feet as you’re only going to continue to decline. It’s a bit of an arm workout lowering yourself from section to section in the gulch.
Roughly 5-10mins into Spooky you’re going to reach a boulder jam and might think that you’ve made a mistake. This is the most difficult part of this gulch.
To get through this jam, stay to the left and you’ll see a small pathway through the boulders made of “steps” to help you down… almost to the ground.
It’s about an 8ft drop from the lowest section in the boulders to the ground of the gulch below.
If you have a tall person in your group, they might be able to stretch and get down first and then help the others. If not, another method is for one person to laydown on their belly and someone above to hold their hands/arms and lower them down.
The way that we got through was that I essentially “planked” myself between both sides of the gulch (feet pushing against one wall and hands/elbows pressed against the other) and then slowly worked my way down walls until I could get one foot on the ground. Then I wedged myself against one of the walls and put my leg across so that my friends could use my thigh as an extra “step” on the way down.
After this section, the walls will get narrower and narrower. The rock walls in the gulch are pretty cool! While not as colorful as Peekaboo, the walls are almost serrated with striations of with pebbles and rocks that are reminiscent of witch’s warts pushing through the sandstone.
Spooky gets it’s name from being darker and narrower and “spookier” than Peekaboo and it lives up to its name. The walls in the gulch are cool, shielded from the sun, and some sections are literally only wide enough to fit one foot at the base.
You’ll have to remove your backpack and walk sideways through the most narrow sections.
I’d definitely recommend doing this hike starting with Peekaboo (from bottom to top) and then Spooky (top to bottom) as this is the more popular route and if you were to meet someone going the other direction in these super narrow spots, you’d have to back out until it opens up again to get by.
Getting back to the trailhead
Once you exit Spooky Gulch, it’s about .7mi through the wash to get back to the entrance of Peebakoo and the trail up to the trailhead.
There’s two ways to get back to the wash from the exit of Spooky – the shortest is to stay to the right directly after exiting the gulch and follow the hiker-made trail up and through a small shrubby gulch. The second, more obvious, but longer way, is to continue to follow the wide wash straight out of the exit of the gulch and then take a right when you reach the main wash.
The walk back to the entrance where you came in is pretty exposed and unremarkable. The wash twists and turns, but there are also opportunities to take “short cuts” up and over the necks of the meandering wash.
Back at the confluence with Peekaboo Gulch and the Dry Fork Narrows, it’s back up the way you came to get back to the trailhead.
Looking for more adventure?
But if you want more slot canyons and are looking for an additional adventure, Brimstone Gulch is just around the corner from the exit of Spooky!
Or the Dry Fork Narrows are also just to the east of where you first entered the Dry Fork Wash.