Coyote Gulch winds through the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument’s red rock backcountry. The full length of this popular Escalante River Canyon is about 11.5 miles roundtrip and requires a good deal of stamina—with a pretty spectacular payoff. Highlights along the way include Stevens Arch and Jacob Hamblin Arch, Coyote Natural Bridge, and Crack-in-the-Rock.
Coyote Gulch is located about 30 miles southeast of Escalante via Hole-in-the-Rock Road, just south of Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulches. Begin at the Water Tanks on Fortymile Ridge, near the merge of Coyote Gulch and Escalante Canyon. (There are a few route options, including one that begins at Hurricane Wash, but the most popular route starts at the Water Tanks, about 4.5 miles up Fortymile Ridge Road.) The trail is broad and sandy at first; follow the cairns once the terrain becomes slickrock as you head toward the rim of Escalante Canyon. The first major highlight in this direction will be Crack-in-the-Rock, an 18-inch crack through a fairly challenging 50-foot cliff. It’s best to lower your gear, and then navigate your way down to the red sand dunes below. From this point, you can see where Coyote Gulch meets the Escalante River, about half a mile to the west.
There are several arches and natural bridges on the Coyote Gulch hike. A short spur hike is well worth a close-up look at Stevens Arch, one of the largest in the U.S. at 160 feet high and 225 feet across. There will be a few small waterfalls as you continue through Coyote Gulch and the trail may occasionally follow some shallow waters. A 15-foot waterfall is just upstream from Cliff Arch, which juts out of a Navajo sandstone cliff. Cliff Arch is about the halfway point of the hike so you may want to set up camp nearby. If you choose to keep going a bit further, keep an eye out for an Anasazi pictograph about 1.6 miles from Cliff Arch.
About three-quarters of a mile past the pictograph, you’ll reach Coyote Natural Bridge, which spans a small stream. It’s about 1.7 miles to Jacob Hamblin Arch, which signals the turn-around point. (If you’re still on day one of the hikes, there are a few campsites here.) This is where the real call for strength and stamina comes in, as hikers must ascend a 100-foot incline with a 45-degree pitch back up to Fortymile Ridge. There are some ancient hand- and foot-holds in the stone which will help with the ascent. Having a rope for this final ascent will also be helpful for hoisting up gear. The Coyote Gulch hike ends back at the Water Tanks, about two miles south. If the ascent is too difficult for your skill level, another option is to continue through Hurricane Wash for another 7.8 miles.
It is also possible to enter Coyote Gulch from a trail that accesses near the bottom of the gulch (off Hole-in-the-rock road) at Forty Mile Ridge trailhead. Follow the trail across the flat and descend a short crevice to a long sand dune with Stevens Arch in view across the canyon. This is the confluence of Coyote Gulch and the Escalante River Canyon and then hike up Coyote Gulch.