Lower Calf Creek Falls is a beautiful hike located in the Grand Staircase National Monument between Escalante and Boulder. The trailhead begins at Calf Creek Campground off of Highway 12. It is about 6 miles round trip and takes 3-4 hours with a difficulty rating of moderate. Of the upper and lower falls, the lower is an easier hike, more accessible, and more popular. The waterfall is higher at 126 feet tall.
Lower Calf Creek Falls follows a sandy, mostly flat trail lined with cedar trees. Despite the abundance of vegetation, there is little shade along the way and most of the trail is exposed to the sun. This makes it extremely hot in the sun, best hiked early morning or evening and in spring or fall. The sand becomes softer and deeper in the summertime, making it more difficult to walk.
A map obtained at the trailhead indicates several spots of interest along the way to the falls. About a mile and a half into the canyon, the wall to the east displays pictographs and two granaries from the Fremont tribe. A granary is a large supply basket used to store grains and vegetables. The Fremonts inhabited the area 800 years ago.
Three miles into the hike the trail opens up into a clearing. The area is a lush desert oasis lined with trees and plants, shadier and cooler than the rest of the trail. The falls pour over an orange and black sandstone wall into a pool of water, creating a thin mist in the air.
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Many hikers like to wade into the pool and cool off in the refreshing water. Swimming is especially popular among dogs and children. The spot is a great place to stop for a snack and relax on the sand. The majestic rumbling waterfall provides a calming noise as well as a beautiful backdrop for dramatic photographs.
After enjoying the waterfall and its surroundings, hikers should turn and return along the trail the way they came. Some choose to wind down the day in the Calf Creek Campground. The campground costs $10 a night and operates on a first come first serve basis. Parking requires a $5 fee per day, camping or not. Restrooms are available at the trailhead.
The hike is very popular and can be quite crowded. Those looking to lessen the traffic should hike mid-week in the winter or summer. While the summer is hot, the midway splash is perfect. Starting very early also helps beat the crowds.
Sharing the trail respectfully, keeping noise pollution down, and packing out trash helps preserve the area for years to come. The trail is popular for a reason and is well worth the hike. It is hard to beat a huge cascade in the middle of the dry desert. Lower Calf Creek Falls is one of Southern Utah’s most unique gems.
Written by: Lauren Kehoe