Upper Calf Creek Falls

Upper Calf Creek Falls.

Just down the road from the popular Lower Calf Creek Falls, the trail to the Upper Falls is a shorter but much more challenging hike.

The sand parking lot is just off of Highway 12, around mile marker 80. There are no signs, either on the highway or in the parking lot, but the trailhead for the Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail is just behind the parking lot.

Upper Calf Creek Falls Trailhead

Upper Calf Creek Falls Trailhead

Starting out, the trail plunges you almost straight away onto a slab of sandstone, and continues to descend pretty steadily toward the creek. Parts of it are sandy paths, but the majority is over rocky slabs.

Sandstone near the top of the trail.

Sandstone near the top of the trail.

The trail is marked out by small stacks of rocks, and at a few points it takes careful attention to follow it. I found myself backtracking a couple of times, despite keeping a close eye out for footprints and rock piles. For the most part, though, the trail isn’t too hard to follow.

Keep an eye out along the trail for some interesting plant life.

Indian Paintbrush

Castlleja, commonly known as Indian Paintbrush, adds splashes of vivid red to the canyons. The flowers of the plant are edible, and were used by Native Americans for flavor.

Cryptobiotic Soil

Biological soil crusts, also called Cryptobiotic Soil, are made up of communities of cyanobacteria, fungi, lichens, and other microorganisms. They stabilize the soil, and are an important part of the ecosystem. Take care–cryptobiotic soil can take up to 1,000 years to recover if it’s disturbed!

It’s only 1 mile out to the falls, so you come up on them fairly quickly. Calf Creek Waterfall is a cascade totaling 214 ft, with the upper falls reaching a height of 88ft. ¬†The trail winds down to the bottom of the waterfall. ¬†Another trail continues on to the pools at the top.

The falls drop 88ft into a beautiful emerald pool

The falls drop 88ft into a beautiful emerald pool

Upper Falls

The trail down to the bottom of the falls leads into a beautiful alcove alongside the waterfall.

At the top of the falls, the water plunges over the 88ft drop.

At the top of the falls, the water plunges over the 88ft drop.

In late March, the water was pretty icy, but that didn’t deter a few of the hikers from plunging into the pools up there. In the summer, it would make a refreshing dip.

Upper Calf Creek Falls

Keep following the creek at the top of the falls, and you will come across some beautiful pools, perfect for taking a dip.

Allow 1.5 to 2 hours for the hike, depending on how much time you plan to spend playing around at the pools and the waterfall.

Getting There

If you’re coming from Escalante, the turnoff to the trailhead is on the left side of Highway 12. Look for a dirt and gravel road about .7 miles past mile marker 80.

The parking lot is just off of the highway, and the road to it was easily passable in my 2 wheel drive sedan. If it were rainy or muddy, you might need a 4WD vehicle.

Camping

Camping isn’t permitted at the trailhead. Backcountry permits are required for overnight stays along the trail, and can be obtained at the trailhead.

Fee Information

No fees! Day use and overnight backcountry permits are all free.