Sometimes the best adventures are unexpected.
Turning off the scenic highway 12 in Utah, I ventured down a pot-holed dirt and gravel road for 25 miles into Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. No signs. No mile markers. No cell coverage.
Yet in the midst of desolation – an empty desert – the sun and beauty break free.
Spooky Gulch is a remote stream-forge slot canyon tucked way back into the national monument. Meandering for a mile through red-rock and sandstone, the walls of the canyon form chiseled ledges and harsh curves that look like a prisoner carved his way out of cave-man cell. Named and famous for the panic-inspiring quality of its walls, the slot canyon slowly narrows the deeper you walk into its center.
Spooky can be combined with its sister slot canyon, Peek-a-boo Gulch to make a fun loop hike. Make sure you have good navigation and clear weather though before attempting this 3.5 mile loop as the desert can be disorienting.
Getting there: Drive 26 miles down the Hole-in-the-Rock Road off of Highway 12, until you reach Dry Fork Road, heading northeast into the desert. The Dry Fork turnoff branches after only a few hundred yards. Stay left to reach the overlook and trail head. Follow the cairns to the entrance of the slot canyons.
Make sure you have plenty of water before departing for this hike. Highway 12 is a rugged, washboard road and should not be attempted in a small passenger vehicle after heavy rains. I barely made it to the overlook in my Mitsubishi Lancer and saw a 4-wheel truck flipped on the side of the road, so please drive with caution.