Zebra Slot Canyon Escalante Utah (Plus Bryce Canyon) - Turktacular 2017

  • Updated: November 23, 2017
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

November 23rd, 2017
5.6 miles, 500'

Since we'd gotten off to a bad start and finished our 19 mile hike late the night before today was going to be a partial travel day taking us from our campsite near Kanab to Hole In The Rock Road in Escalante.  But we managed to fit in a quick visit to Bryce Canyon National Park and a quick run out to Zebra Slot Canyon before settling in for a Thanksgiving dinner.

We had spent the night along the 89 near Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park after climbing Canaan Mountain the day before.  Unfortunately we had endless traffic noise the entire time since we hadn't driven far enough back from the highway so it was a relief to get packed up and moving the next morning.

We planned to drive to Escalante and grab a shower before heading south along Hole In The Rock Road.  We were motivated to keep moving but when I found out Kristen had never been to Bryce Canyon and that we were driving right past the northern entrance we decided to duck in and see one of the overlooks.

That done it was off to the city of Escalante

The Grand Staircase Resort on the western edge of town offers showers for $7 which we gratefully took advantage of.  After cooking a quick tamale lunch on their patio we ran by the visitors center to see if they had anything useful to us (they were closed and they didn't) before gassing up for the last time for the next few days.

I had run inside to use the restroom and came out to find Kristen talking to a rather animated gentleman.  Catching sight of me he loudly exclaimed "I don't know what to be more excited about!  The jeep!  Or the green!  Or the man that matches the jeep!  This is my dream!"

The man that matches the jeep
The man that matches the jeep

He had rented a 4 Runner and was looking for advice for where to offroad and everything about us seemed to fill him with excitement down to the slightly excessive levels of firewood we had filling every open space in the back.  We gave him what advice we could and we were off.

We planned to spend the next few days doing activities along Hole In The Rock and then use Smokey Mountain Road to cut through the heart of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  This meant the next opportunity for gas and supplies would be several days away.

We had heard Hole In The Rock was amazing beautiful and had great camping opportunities everywhere.

I might be a little jaded by all the amazing sights I've seen in Utah but the majority of what we saw along the road was slightly barren cow fields.  For the records there are much prettier places to camp on the offshoots to the east particularly the road leading to Harris Wash.

Zebra Slot Canyon is a short hike off the road and the first thing we planned to see.  There's a dirt parking lot at the trailhead and a handful of other folks coming and going.

The trail was signed rather dramatically warning you if you didn't have 4 liters of water on you turn back because you are going to die.  Immediately.

We chose to foolhardily take our lives in our hands and continue on.  The trail isn't super well marked but there were large amounts of footprints to follow in addition to the track I'd set on my GPS.

After about 2.2 miles the canyon we were following opened up and we turned to the north where the entrance to Zebra is.

The entrance wasn't super obvious if you didn't know it was there but the foot trail leading to it was very clear.  We passed someone coming out and inside found a two people waiting by a flooded section with with four dogs.  They said their friends were deeper inside and warned us the water was cold.

Thanks to the time of year this was the only time this trip we had to take our boots off to make it further in.  Kristen was quite happy about this because it was a little on the cold side.

Past the water hazard came the slots true claim to fame which was a section of high banded rock walls.

It was mostly a walk in except for the spot above which required a move or two to get up.

Not far past that we came to this point which had about an 7 ft deep circular hole.  I was tempted to see if there was anything past it but I wasn't 100% sure I could get enough traction to make it back up so we decided to turn around here.  From the satellite map and descriptions online the canyon opens back up on the other side so I don't think we missed much.

We made it back to the cars by a little after 4 pm which meant we didn't have long to find a campsite in the daylight.

Contrary to what we found online I'd say there are camping options around just not great ones.  We spent a fair amount of time driving down dirt road offshoots between Zebra and the junction with Left Hand Collet Road and the few decent spots we found were already occupied and most of the other options were in open ish fields covered in cow pies.

Knowing what I do now our big mistake was not continuing further down the road towards Harris Wash.  That road had spots that were more sheltered and a much nicer view.

We ended up camping just south of Left Hand Collett Road where we found a stand of trees with a decent fire pit and flat sand.  We had occasional bits of traffic noise from Hole In The Wall Road but mostly it felt pretty isolated.

We had a nice fire and Kristen prepared an impressive dinner though she lamented the lack of cranberry sauce due to a stove issue.

We originally planned to do Red Breaks Slot Canyon tomorrow but decided we'd switch over to peakbagging and climb Fiftymile Mountain originally planned for the day after.  We figured the extra driving would give us a better picture of the area.

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