Spooky Gulch is a short slot canyon hike in the Grand Staircase-Escalante area, located off the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, 26 miles south of the town of Escalante. Spooky is well named and famous for how dark and narrow it gets in its deep slot.
Spooky is indeed a dark and mysterious place, containing about half a mile of serpentine, narrow passages where it is often only possible to see a few feet ahead, as the canyon twists and turns through many 180 degree bends. The colors and forms are very beautiful which adds to the eerie nature of the canyon.
The Dry Fork Canyon is interesting for its colors.
Spooky Gulch overall rating = moderate
Distance: 0.8 miles from the parking area plus 0.4 miles in the slot = ~2.4 miles return – easy
Elevation gain: 300 feet down to the Dry Fork Wash – easy
Terrain: wide sandy access wash and a claustrophobic narrow slot – moderate
Exposure: some chokestones plus tight maneuverability – moderate
Dry Fork overall rating = easy
Distance: About 0.6 miles along the Dry Fork Wash and through the Dry Fork Canyon return = easy
Elevation gain: Terrain: wide flat packed sand – easy
Exposure: none but watch for rattle snakes – easy
To see the trail rating system used here see Trail Rating System
Take the Hole-in-the-rock road east from State Road 12 at Escalante, Utah for 26.2 miles. Turn left on the Dry Fork road and drive 1.7 miles to the parking area. This parking area is beside an overlook that sits 300 feet above the canyon systems below it.
From the parking area make your way down a winding path along the slopes and boulders of the cliff, and into the sandy bottom of the Dry Fork Wash below. There are markers on the trail down but they are easily missed and you may just have to find your own way down.
From the entry point into the Dry Fork Wash, go upstream north to Peek-a-boo Gulch, west past Peek-a-boo Gulch to the Dry Fork Canyon, and back east downstream past the wash entry point to Spooky Gulch.
Spooky Gulch is about 0.8 miles downstream from the Dry Fork Wash entry point. Part way there is a short-cut over a sandbank just before the main canyon, marked by a cairn.
For a one page printout of the directions to this trail click Directions to Spooky Gulch and Dry Fork
The entire route from Highway 12 is an extremely rugged washboard road with sand traps and the occasional rut. Though vans and cars can tackle the route, a four-wheel drive vehicle with decent suspension is recommended.
The 1.7 mile road into the parking area is in extremely bad condition with ruts 2 feet deep and places where you have to ride almost out of the road. A high clearance vehicle is essential and a 4 wheel drive vehicle would be required if the road is at all wet or muddy from rain.
The Spooky Gulch slot canyon has sharp bends, thin protruding fins of rock, small potholes and occasional boulders partially blocking the passageway. In some sections, sideways walking is required, and larger people may not be able to walk all the way through.
Two places require more exertion; a 5 foot squeeze up a near vertical crevice then around a narrow corner at the top, and a climb over a pile of large boulders near the upper end of the canyon.
As with most slot canyons in this area, the gulch becomes shallow after a while and the slot gives way to a wide, open, sandy wash which continues for several miles across gently sloping land towards a distant plateau.
The Dry Fork canyon is a section of the Dry Fork Wash that travels for ~1/2 mile through a 5 to 10 foot wide moderately deep canyon. This is a very easy walk but watch out for snakes.
We did not enter Peek-a-boo Gulch due to the 12 foot high wall at the entry point.