Distance: 1.2 miles (one way – to Spooky)
Difficulty: Easy, but tight spaces and some scrambling
Best time of year: Fall, Winter, Spring
Last hiked: 2016 May
There’s a great loop that connects Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon to Spooky Slot Canyon, which was my original plan for a hike. As it turns out, ascending into Peek-A-Boo Slot can be very tricky and downright dangerous. It was a little too much for me while solo, and even too much for another couple that caught up to me in Spooky. This helped to reinforce my decision to only venture into Spooky. Even Spooky Slot had a part that made me feel a little uneasy alone, so hopefully I can come back one day and do this loop properly with the help of a hiking partner. In the meantime though, I did get a bit into Spooky Slot Canyon, and it was a pretty amazing trip through many very tight squeezes.
Begin the hike by walking to the other end of the parking area, signing in, and then beginning the slickrock descent toward the canyon. If you’re not comfortable with a few steepish walks on slickrock, you may want to skip this one entirely. It makes great use of the rocks on its way down, which does mean some rather open and fun drops down.
Continue ahead using the cairns to guide you to the proper canyon, then follow that down and continue along the large sandstone wall on your right. This brings you out to a large junction with another canyon. From here, Dry Fork Canyon is off to the left, while Peek-a-Boo Canyon is straight ahead. If there’s no water collected below and you want to give a shot at it, give it a shot. Make sure you have someone there to spot you if you change your mind though.
Spooky Slot Canyon is still a bit down the canyon, so either head down the wash or look for the trail that cuts through. After about a quarter to a half mile from Peek-a-Boo Canyon, Spooky Gulch appears from a small side canyon.
At first, it appears like any other slot canyon in the area, but after pushing through a little farther, the walls get much tighter. I stopped for a second to decide if I wanted to keep going, a little outside of my comfort zone, but a little outside is good. A lot would have been a problem. That was trying to get up Peek-a-Boo. This had a bit of excitement to it, so I squeezed my way through the first constriction with success. That wasn’t the last of it though. If you’re not sure if you’re claustrophobic or not, you’ll find out in this canyon.
Much of the remaining distance I went would only get tighter. Most of the way it was too narrow to even stand up a tripod. Holding my camera gear in one hand and my backpack in the other became the standard method of hiking through here.
Tip: Don’t bring a backpack if you’re only hiking Spooky Slot Canyon.
The reason for the name soon becomes apparent. As the canyon walls become tighter, they also become higher. The tall curvy walls prevent much light from reaching the sandy surface. Combined with any debris that gets lodged high above during unfathomable floods, sections get a lot darker than other slot canyons. With its narrow corridor, seeing around just five feet ahead of you can be eerily tricky, and yet remarkably beautiful. All different shades and intensities of purples, reds, and oranges reflect a staggering amount of indirect sunlight. Deep in the canyon, the earthy pastel colors are solidified in enormous waves of sand that were frozen just before an imaginary collision, leaving just enough room for an adventurous hiker to squeeze through.
In the end, I turned around where a vertical ascent of about 15 feet was required. Though I probably could have easily wedged myself up with my feet one step at a time, it wasn’t worth chancing. I had already had a great time in the parts that I had seen. Also, I knew I’d be back to conquer Peek-a-Boo as well, so I wasn’t in any real rush to risk it.
To maximize the lighting from the sun, make sure to be in the canyon either in mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Once the sun is directly overhead, enough direct light will trickle through to diminish the best effects of the colors.
From Escalante, head east on Highway 12 for 5 miles, then take a right at Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Continue south for 26 miles to the Dry Fork Trailhead and make a left at the dirt road there. A parking area for low-clearance vehicles will be on the right a short distance in. High-clearance vehicles may continue down the road to the trailhead.