Escalante - Zebra Canyon and Coyote Gulch - BeckmannImages

The beginning of the trail to Zebra Canyon


Note: This is part 3 of my posts on my May 2015 photography trip to Grand Escalante in Southern Utah. To see part 1, click here, and to see part 2, click here.

Day 3 of our tour was a light day after spending the two previous nights out late doing night photography. We also had a long hike planned for day 4, so we decided to spend the afternoon hiking out to Zebra Canyon, another slot canyon in the Escalante area known for it's Moqui marbles and stripes. The hike out was through a wash that had some interesting rock formations.

The rocks on the walk to Zebra Canyon had some really cool striations in them

I liked the leading lines of the rock taking into the image here

A small plant tries it's hardest in the dry river bed

Zebra Slot Canyon lies straight ahead


After a roughly 2 mile hike, we reached the slot canyon. While not very long, maybe a quarter mile, the canyon has some great formations and colors, and is also known for the Moqui marble formations on the side walls. We had to do a little bit of wading, the entrance to the canyon always has knee deep water in it. Well worth it though.

You can easily see why the slot canyon gets the name Zebra

A few of the moqui marble formations along the side wall. These formations eventually fall off the wall leaving craters behind, and depositing iron oxide covered balls into the canyon.

We were lucky enough to get some nice reflected light while we were there, which really plays up the colors and striations in the wall

This is looking back down the canyon from the very end. I focus stacked several shots together here in order to get everything sharp throughout the image.

Our guide David was kind enough to get a shot of me inside the canyon, just hanging out


After exploring the canyon, we had planned to visit another one and go check out the moqui marbles up on top, but daylight was running out and we needed to still hike back to the car and make it to town before the restaurants closed at 9pm. On our drive back though, we caught the last bit of sunlight as we crested a hill on Hole in the Rock Road, and I had to jump out to get this shot. Sometimes even when you aren't chasing the light, it has a way of presenting itself!

The sun rays make a dramatic scene  heading back into Escalante


Day 4 was definitely going to be one of the highlights of the trip. Coyote Gulch is a deep canyon that comes off of the Escalante River canyon. At the bottom runs Coyote Creek, a spring-fed creek that supports an oasis in the desert essentially. We started the day early, leaving the hotel at 730 AM, and getting on the trail at 9. The total hike is roughly 9 miles, 2 miles in, 5 miles in the canyon, and 2 miles hike back out to a 2nd runner car that we left. We took the Forty Mile Ridge trail in.

A mile past the trailhead is Crack-in-the-Wall, which as you can see here literally is the crack in the rock that we downclimbed to get into the Escalante Canyon. It was a tight fit!

The scenery starts to get picturesque as soon as we got through the crack in the rock. The river down below here is the Escalante River, with the entrance to Coyote Gulch just off to the left.

I got more pictures of myself from this trip than I know what to do with! 


We finally made our way into Coyote Gulch around 11am. The hike through the gulch requires you to get wet, spending most of the time wading through the crystal clear spring water. I brought water shoes, but David mentioned he does the hike barefoot, and after a couple hundred yards, I followed suit. The sandy bottom of the river feels great, and surprisingly even when not in the stream bed there are no sharp objects to offend your feet.

We were in Coyote Gulch to shoot waterfalls. The creek has a lot of them, and the red rocks provide a great backdrop for them. A tripod is a must here, as are circular polarizing filters and a neutral density filter. The polarizer reduces glare and reflections from the wet rock and surface of the water, and the ND filter acts as sunglasses for the camera, enabling one to get slower shutter speeds to blur the water for a more pleasing effect.

The first waterfall we encountered. Notice the ripples of the sand visible through the water. That is only possible using a circular polarizer. I really liked the B&W effect here.

Most of the waterfalls here don't have names, but I like to call this one the staircase

The old stump here provided an interesting  element to the composition, and I love the pop of color the green trees add to this

After a while, we almost got tired of all the beautiful waterfalls . . . Ok, not really


In addition to the numerous waterfalls, Coyote Gulch has some neat rock formations as well. There are two arches along the way, Stevens Arch, which is right at the beginning and can be seen high above the Escalante River in one of the above photos, and Jacob Hamlin Arch, which is one of the biggest I have ever seen. There is also Coyote Natural Bridge, which sits near the end of the hike and right next to the stream. Since the stream is spring-fed, water is not a problem in the canyon. There are several great spots to fill up a water bottle straight from the springs that pour out of the redrock walls.

This is Coyote Natural Bridge. You can see our guide David jumping in the middle of it to give a sense of scale.

This large Alcove sits at a bend in the stream

One of the springs  that feed the river and provide the best tasting water I've ever had

Jacob Hamlin Arch, one of the biggest I've ever seen, with the Coyote Creek in the foreground. This is a very popular spot for camping, and also the end of our hike and spot where we climbed out  of the canyon.


About a half mile before Jacob Hamlin Arch is the last waterfall we would come across, and the first with a name, Swiss Cheese Falls. This incredibly picturesque waterfall is only a couple feet high, and lends itself to a wide angle shot, with some awesome greenery in the background. We spent a while here photographing the falls. Unfortunately, this is also where I lost my expensive Tissot watch, which was in the front pocket of my backpack. Once we had climbed the 1200 feet out of the canyon, I noticed the pocket was partly open and the watch was gone, but it was too late to go back and get it. We'll call it a sacrifice to the canyon.

This tight spot below Swiss Cheese Falls shows the power of even a little bit of water as it finds a way through the rocks

Swiss Cheese Falls


Most people hike into Coyote Gulch one of two ways, the Crack-in-the-Wall route that we took, or hiking up Hurricane Wash from the other end. The Hurricane wash route adds 5.5 miles to the trip before even reaching Coyote Gulch, and usually requires an overnight stay. To avoid the extra miles of hiking back the way we came, or going out Hurricane Wash, we use the sneaker route, a 1200 foot vertical climb up slickrock that is not for the faint-hearted. David rigged a rope to help us climb up a particularly steep section at the beginning. Once we were on top, we hiked the two miles back to our runner car and arrived just before sunset. It was a fantastic day of hiking and photography. Coyote Gulch is a world-class hike.

A quick phone panorama from the top of the sneaker route, with Coyote Gulch down below

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