"Lower Calf Creek Falls"
September 2012, Grand Staircase Escalante, Utah
Lower Calf Creek Falls is one of the premier attractions of the Grand Staircase Escalante, and for good reason. First of all, the drive to the trailhead along Utah's amazing Highway 12 is absolutely stunning, regardless of which direction you approach from. The trailhead is approximately 12 miles from either Boulder to the north or Escalante to the west. Indeed, Highway 12 is a destination all by itself ! Lower Calf Creek Falls is just a delicious added bonus. I have traversed the sinuous curves of Highway 12 dozens of times for it's entire 100-mile run between Bryce Canyon and Torrey. The drive is simply indescribable.
Once you reach the trailhead it only gets better. The hike to the falls is a mostly level 5-1/2 mile (round-trip) affair. The trail follows the canyon floor along beautiful Calf Creek. The lush, riparian ecosystem is a delight to the senses and in stark contrast to the inhospitable desert environment which surrounds the canyon. As you walk through the canyon you are treated to ancient Indian ruins, pictographs, towering canyon walls, and a veritable smorgasbord of flora. Each shrub, tree, and plant offers a completely unique aroma, accompanied all the while by the delightful bubbling of Calf Creek. This is a hike which demands that you take your time. The waterfall will be there whenever you arrive - don't rush!
As for the waterfall itself, it is 126' tall, roughly the height of a 12-story office building. It cascades into an emerald green plunge pool which is irresistible for those hiking during the summer. It can get quite hot on the canyon floor during the midsummer months, and it is common for hikers to cool themselves in the refreshing waters of the pool. Another saving grace of the hike is the fact that it is in a very deep canyon, so direct sunlight only hits you in the middle of the day. Early morning and late afternoon provides a mostly shaded excursion along the trail's entire length.
As you may have surmised from the name of the waterfall, there is also an Upper Calf Creek Falls, but it is not as spectacular and is much more difficult to reach. However, for those who have the time, it offers another destination in Utah's stunning Grand Staircase Escalante.