Lower Calf Creek Falls is nothing short of magical. Imagine yourself driving through a national monument over 1 million acres large and seeing nothing but rolling slick rock as far as the eye can see and noticing down at the bottom of the canyon a line of greenery. What could that possibly be here in the desert you may ask? Well, believe it or not, it’s a creek. In fact, it is Calf Creek and yes, it does belong there and yes, it is flowing. In fact, it is flowing so much so that there are two, yes you read that right, two waterfalls supplying this creek.
Well, if you know anything about me the second I hear about a waterfall I am there. I love the sound of flowing water and I love the mystical, magicalness (yes, I just made that word up) of a waterfall. You really can’t beat the peace and serenity of a waterfall, and if you can manage to have it to yourself, even better.
Lower Calf Creek Falls is located in the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument and it is truly breathtaking. We actually stumbled upon this phenomenon by complete accident. We were just looking at things to do near us, Bryce Canyon National Park, and saw this online. Naturally, knowing me, Jason quickly brought it to my attention knowing I would be enamored by the idea. And, he was right. Boy does he know me or what?!?!?!
So, we plan to get up early the next morning and get there since it says the parking is scarce and often full. Unfortunately, sometimes getting up early, just doesn’t work for us. So, needless to say, we did not get to do the hike as we spent over 30 minutes waiting and trying to get parking to see this magical waterfall. Instead we ended up doing another amazing hike. More about that hike later.
So, a couple weeks later I finally have a day off work, and I decide I am going to try it again. This time though, it was a Thursday morning and believe it or not, I wasn’t up early, and I wasn’t pushing myself. I just worked 8 days straight and I wasn’t about to miss out on a chance to sleep in.
I decided that day I was going to do Upper Calf Creek Falls (labeled as a hard/strenuous hike) and then do Lower Calf Creek Falls (a moderate 6 mile hike). Believe it or not, I did both and I am not sorry about it. What an amazing day filled with waterfalls, outdoors and pushing my body.
This trail is labeled as moderate because you have a slight elevation gain of 521 feet but mostly because the majority of the trail you will be walking in the sun and sand. Believe it or not, walking in sand in the desert is not as easy as the beach. This particular waterfall cascades down a mineral-stained sandstone about 126 feet. The water that floods out of this waterfall has unbelievable clarity and is beyond refreshing to swim or stand in after the long hike in the sun and sand. Also, if you hit it the right time of day, the sun will cast down and produce a magnitude of beautiful colors throughout the small opening while the slight wind will blow a refreshing mist across you while relaxing on the sandy beach. It is no Multnomah Falls, but it is still colorfully spectacular and partly because it is hidden in the desert and acres upon acres of slickrock, sand and desert.
I know at this point you must be wondering if Jason was sad that he missed it. I’m happy to tell you that this waterfall was so amazing that the next time he visited, I was able to wake him up at 4am so we could go to the falls. Yes, he griped most of the way for me waking him up so early on his vacation, but once we got to the waterfall and had it all to ourselves for about 30 minutes, his attitude quickly changed. In reality, even if you didn’t have the waterfall to yourself, it is quickly a game changer. Every burden, pain, negative feeling you had that day, the last week or even the last year seems to quickly escape you and you are left in a state of complete calm and peace. The feeling you get is not something you can simply put into words; you just have to feel it for yourself.
This hike also had 14 interpretive stops that helped to break up the 3 miles in and give you some interesting stops. I took the time to take some pictures of the ones I liked to share with you so you can feel like you were there too.
Here you will see how the water forms the canyons. Over millions and millions of years you can see where the creek has carved deeper and deeper in the channel. As this is happening the rain flows down the slopes of the canyon eroding sand grains, rocks, pebbles and boulders which leads to the canyon widening.
This upland species is gambel oak. It provides important food for the wildlife from it’s twigs, acorns and leaves throughout the cool, shady locations along the trail. Some of this wildlife includes deer and turkey. I was fortunate enough to actually spot a turkey on this trail.
Above the canyon ledges you will see several granaries that were built by the ancient Fremont Culture. At the time of this culture they lived in pithouses, created rock art, thin walled gray pottery and wore moccasins. I am determined to get a pair for myself before I leave this area.
At the bottom of this cliff wall are three large pictographs painted in red pigment. Supposedly they are a trapezoidal shape with arms, legs and head dresses. As you can see from this image, the greenery was pretty grown and I could not view them from the path.
The predominant tree in this canyon is the Boxelder. This tree is a member of the maple family and reaches about 50 feet high. This tree is able to flourish in this area due to the abundance of wetland. This tree is able to create bank stabilization as well as an ample amount of shade.
The over abundance of vegetation here shows that you will soon be to the source of the water. There are only 14 interpretive spots so you are almost there when you hit this one. From here you will be close to the creek and should take a minute to look for the trout darting through the creek beds.
- The name came from being used as a natural pen for calves in the late 1800’s
- There is a campground at the trailhead with 13 different campsites to get the full experience