October 3, 2009

Dry Fork Coyote Gulch Slot and Collet Top Dinosaur Tracks, Escalante, UT

Distance: 1.6 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy

About 5 miles from Escalante is the Hole-in-the-Rock Road. This 46 mile dirt road leads all the way to a break in the steep walls of Glen Canyon and was one of the only ways early mormon pioneers could cross the Colorado River for nearly 500 miles. While reaching the Hole-in-the-Rock is a major journey of excitement, requiring a high clearance 4x4, there are numerous sites along the way that anyone can reach with a passenger car which also provide great excitement.

Approximately 13.6 miles from the beginning of the Hole-in-the Rock Road is a road to the right called “Collet Top”. If you turn here you can quickly reach some ancient dinosaur tracks laid down in cretaceous sand dunes some 77 million years ago. Follow Collet Top Road for 1.7 miles until reaching the wash out. Park your car, cross the dry wash, and then continue to follow the road on foot for an additional 0.7 miles. The dinosaur tracks are located on the white sandstone ridge to your right.

As you walk the road, you will appear to be walking past the sandstone, but soon there will be a branch. Follow the main road as it curves right and heads back toward the sandstone ridge. Just as you reach the base of the ridge there will be a trail register and a map of how to find the tracks. Walk to the slope where it seems easiest to climb to the top of the ridge, then go up that way to the top. Upon reaching the top you will see at least one very obvious 3-toed track, as well as, numerous other fainter tracks. There is even a place where several tracks are lined up side-by-side with a tail drag mark in the middle.

The quickest way back to your vehicle is to enter the dry wash and walk it all the way back to the washout.

Distance: 2 miles to unlimited

Difficulty: Moderately Easy to Difficult

If you continue down Hole-in-the-Rock road to appoximately 30 miles from the start, there will be a road to the left for “Dry Fork”, which refers to Dry Fork Coyote Gulch. Follow this rough road for 1.7 miles to the trailhead. At the trailhead, the trail will descend nearly 300 feet over slickrock to the dry wash at the bottom.

You must follow the cairns down and a couple of places can be tricky if you have a heavy pack on. Upon reaching the canyon bottom, there will be a nice big slot canyon to the left. This is Dry Fork Coyote Gulch and it is an easy walk upstream for several miles along this 10-15 foot wide, 100 foot deep slot. Just outside the entrance to the open wash to the right is another slot known as Peek-a-Boo slot. This is a very difficult slot with several difficult climbs up rock faces and mud in deep pools within. Having a toddler with us, we did not attempt this one, but we talked to several people who did it.

However, if you continue to walk down the wash ½ mile, you can reach a really wonderful slot canyon that is made just for kids. It is Spooky Gulch. The way to find it is to walk the Dry Fork until reaching a very wide sandy wash coming in from the left. As you walk up this wide sandy wash you will notice a large sand dune on the left and then as you turn right you will go right into this narrow slot.

Spooky Gulch is an incredible slot canyon because it is only about 2-3 feet across. Our 20 month toddler loved it because it was just her size as she wandered up the canyon. Linda was thin enough to follow pretty easily. I however had several tight squeezes and at least one spot where I got on my hands-and-knees because it was too narrow for my chest at that height.

The slot only goes about a ½ mile, but the further you go the tighter it gets, so eventually you will reach a point where you want to turn back. Hilina did not want to turn back however! This is a slot that can make anyone claustrophic eventually!

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