The month of October is a time to revel in all things scary, but it’s also a wonderful time of the year to spend exploring two slot canyons whose names epitomize the spirit of the season: Spooky and Peek-A-Boo.
The fair weather makes for excellent hiking conditions in the normally hot and arid desert environment characteristic of southern Utah, especially for areas like Escalante, where the slots are located nearby.
The slots are extremely popular destinations, though getting there does require a bit of preparation, as Escalante is 2.5 hours from Cedar City.
The turnoff to Dry Fork, where the hike to the slots begin, is approximately 26 miles down Hole-in-the-Rock road. The 1.7 miles to the trailhead is very sandy, so a high-clearance or 4WD vehicle is recommended.
Accessing the slots involves traversing several sandstone slabs protruding from the sides of the narrowing gulch down to the Dry Fork drainage.
Cairns have been established by BLM rangers to help navigate the trail.
Upon reaching an ammo box which serves as a log book, a nearby carsonite sign helps direct hikers to either the Dry Fork Narrows to the left or to the closest and shortest slot, Peek-A-Boo.
In a group expedition, some find it helpful to have a rope to assist in the first scramble up into Peek-A-Boo from the wash.
Once in the slot, the winding, twisting sandstone walls are interspersed with 3-5 foot scrambles and features such as fins, arches and holes that can be crawled through.
The slot itself is only 0.4 miles, which is why a popular route involves a short, northeast hike across the semi-sandy plateau to the north entrance of Spooky.
Though the path can be tricky to find, the trail is frequented by hikers, leaving footprints in the sand to aid in navigation. The slot canyon is just below a very wide wash, serving as a good landmark to look out for.
Aptly named, Spooky is also 0.4 miles, though it narrows even more than its companion slot, as tight as 10 inches at the narrowest point, and gets very dark during descent.
There is also a boulder jam about halfway through Spooky that might turn back some hikers. A small passage through the rocks ends in a 6.5-foot drop, after which the canyon continues to narrow until the last 75 yards before the exit.
Aside from the extremely close space (claustrophobes beware!), another fascinating feature are small, rocky nodules covering the canyon walls. These wart-like lumps are a result of receding flood water mixing with mud and hardening on the sandstone walls.
Spooky empties back into the Dry Fork Wash, and signs once again indicate the trail looping west back to the entrance of Peek-A-Boo. From there, hikers take the same path back up to the trailhead as coming down.
The entire loop is about 3 miles, and takes around 3-4 hours to complete, depending on foot traffic and the level of exploration desired.
PRO TIP: The isolated location does not mean less tourists. Try to hit the slots earlier in the day rather than later. 8 a.m. is a perfect time to go if less human contact is desired. The slots are narrow enough that passing someone is impossible in some places, so this is another advantage of hiking earlier.
Story by: Reyce Knutson
Photos by: Reyce Knutson and Brian Smith