In my online research, this little waterfall hike intrigued me enough to drive 120 miles round-trip for a half-day outing. It was worth it.
We got up early this morning to 29 degrees.
The plan was to leave around 7:00 and make the 60 mile drive down UT Hwy 12 to the Calf Creek Recreation Area in Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. Our actual departure time was around 7:45 - not bad for us.
Linda took the wheel as we drove the 2.5 miles to UT 12 which is an "All American Road" and National Scenic By-Way. It has its own website - Scenic By-Way 12.
Not long after turning onto UT 12, about half a dozen Mule Deer ran in front of us. Linda did well to stop in time, but that sat her on edge the rest of the way.
During this morning's drive, we had seven or eight encounters with deer on the side of the road or crossing the road.
There were two or three large herds of 20 or so deer. The trip took a bit longer as we kept our speed down to avoid any collisions.
From Torrey at 6,830 feet, we climbed up 8% grades on the twisty road to the summit at 9,600 feet. That part of the drive is pretty and has a couple of nice lookouts.
Then we dropped back down on the southern side to the town of Boulder at 6,700 feet before climbing again to a narrow ridge overlooking beautiful canyons. This narrow ridge is known as the "Hogsback" where the land you are driving over is only slightly wider than the road with drop-offs on both sides.
After passing over the Hogsback, we passed this sign - 14% Grade Next Four Miles.
On the way down, I took some shots of the canyons below where we would be hiking.
Near the end of the descent, we came to the Calf Creek Recreation Area on the right. There is a day-use parking area and a campground. And there are signs to the trailhead for Lower Calf Creek Falls.
The sign says the trailhead is 300 yards up the road, but it's more like 300 feet. We filled out our day-use parking permit and headed out for the six-mile roundtrip. Fortunately, it had warmed up enough that we could leave our outer layers of clothing in the Jeep.
The sign at the trailhead says it would take average hikers 3 - 4 hours roundtrip.
We got started somewhere around 9:30. I had hoped to get started about an hour earlier, but as long as we got to the Lower Calf Creek Falls by late morning we'd be okay. Shadows start covering the falls in the afternoon, and I knew we needed to get there early for the best photos.
At the trailhead, there is a hiking/interpretive guide available that corresponds to 14 signposts along the way to the falls.
This is a fairly easy hike, but is certainly not a casual stroll. There are lots of ups and downs among the red rocks above Calf Creek.
Though the falls are the goal and the ultimate highlight, the entire trail has great scenery.
Fremont Barberry (with their holly-like leaves and bright yellow, fragrant blooms) and sagebrush lined the narrow trail.
A couple of these lizards with blue spots on their back posed for me.
There were some formations that stood out.
The moon was still in view in the upper left of the photo below.
At one of the signposts, we looked far across the creek and could see three pictographs on a canyon wall.
They had to be huge since we could see them with the naked eye from a long way away. I did a little zoom and crop to bring them closer.
The beaver ponds area ....
had dams ....
and a lodge.
We continued on ...
and for about the last mile, the trail ran closer to the creek.
Except for some of the ups and downs over slickrock, most of the trail was sandy with some areas where the sand was rather deep.
The rock walls along the way had desert varnish, swirls, and striping.
We got a brief glimpse of some type of snake in this shady area where the path was surrounded by horsetails - a vascular plant that likes moist areas.
We came upon this rock formation that looked like a mouth - so of course, hikers added "teeth".
Along the creek, we noticed lots of decent-sized trout. There were six in this one pool.
Looks like a Brown Trout here.
Just around the next corner, we got our first glimpse at the 126-foot Lower Calf Creek Falls through the trees.
Our next look was better and showed us the upper part of the falls, ....
but that was nothing compared to the full view a few steps later. WOW!
When we arrived at the end of the 3-mile, very popular hike, we were glad to see only three people there. I buzzed around and took photos from every angle.
The blue skies, the green pool, the colors on the rock walls, and the leafy trees made for excellent pics.
I scrambled across the creek to get a shot from the right side, ....
and then we took a spot in the sun on the left side to have something to eat and just admire the scene for awhile.
Here's a wide shot with some of our fellow hikers for perspective.
And here are a couple videos Linda took as we approached the falls.
For sheer beauty in a wonderful setting, Lower Calf Creek Falls is now one of my favorites.
We stayed for about a half hour. Some others arrived but when we left, there were still only three people there.
It had taken us just short of two hours to get to the falls due to my stops to take pictures and the soreness of Linda's ankle. Before we headed back, she loosened her hiking boot and wrapped an Ace bandage to provide some extra cushion between the boot and her bruise. That seemed to help.
On the way out, we must have passed at least 50 people and a dozen or so dogs. It looked like our timing was perfect.
I'm betting that the falls turn into a big swimming pool and dog park when it gets hot in the summer. It seems we were fortunate to be here this time of year, and we did good by starting our hike early.
We moved a little quicker on the way back and arrived at the parking area (which was overflowing by now) around 1:15. I can't imagine where everyone parks in peak season.
But certainly, this great little hike has a lot to offer and the waterfall was beautiful. I'd have to rank it up there pretty high in our list of top easy hikes.