Sunday, September 21, 2008
Hole In The Rock Road
I enjoyed my return to Hole In The Rock Road, southeast of Escalante, UT. Four years ago I drove that road but was blocked from reaching the end because my Acura MDX's 8 inches of ground clearance couldn't handle the steep rocky sections. My new Land Rover did just fine and had no troubles at all.
The roughly 60 mile long road is mostly graded dirt with the occasional switchback to drop down into, and climb back out of washes that cross the road. The views are terrific. The weather was great this time with highs around 90F and lows around 48F. It was about 110F on my previous visit and that was very draining. The last 5 miles of the road are partly on slickrock and are less maintained (this section is technically in the Glen Canyon NRA).
The road has historical significance as it roughly follows the route of Mormon settlers in the 1879 San Juan Mission, directed by Brigham Young to settle the southeastern portion of Utah. Drivers are reminded of this by the occasional wooden signpost with a wagon symbol that marks the trail. At the road's end is the sheer drop to the Escalante River. The settlers camped nearby for about 6 weeks while their men blasted the rock and built wooden ramps to allow their wagons to reach the river below. For more details about the expedition and this trail, I recommend this book. I've read it and it was interesting.
Here's Dance Hall Rock. This natural ampitheater served as a meeting place and dance hall for the Mormon settlers during their stay here. To really appreciate the enormity of this rock, check out this photo.
Hole in the Rock Road provides access to many trailheads, including Spooky Gulch and Peek-a-Boo Gulch slot canyons. I've hiked them both but didn't stop this time. Well, I stopped, but for a different reason. I was flagged down by a foreign couple in their 20s. They were trying to get to Spooky and Peek-a-Boo, but wanted to take Early Weed Bench road, simply because the free craptacular map from the visitor center showed the canyon names closer to that road. I set them straight and steered them to the actual trailhead road a quarter mile south. They might have never found those particular slots from the other road, and bad things might have happened to them. The very next day, a couple from CA died in a flash flood in a nearby canyon.
If you want to visit Spooky and Peek-a-Boo slot canyons, then I recommend this site. It has a great map and useful info.
I took a pic of one of the many cattle guards along the road. I'd never seen one like that. The space between the pipes was big enough for cattle hooves to easily fall through. My own foot barely spans across the openings.
A turnaround and parking area is located at the end of the road. The visitor register includes free forms for overnight camping. You can camp right there if you like.
I took a few pics looking down the "hole in the rock". It looked like I could probably hike a ways down, but I decided against it.
I walked up the slickrock to a great vista looking out on the Escalante River. At this point, it's about 5 or 6 miles from entering Lake Powell.
The current road conditions on Hole in the Rock Road would allow any modern car with enough ground clearance and decent approach/departure angles to drive to the end.
I stopped several times to setup my camera and take videos of me driving over some of the more interesting sections.
Here's the NPS website for the Hole in the Rock Road. Here's the NPS website describing the history of Hole in the Rock. And here's the BLM site for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM), which includes Hole in the Rock Road.
at 8:36 AM