Utah Vacation: Bull Valley Gorge

Back in October Christian and I ran away for two weeks of adventure in the gorgeous state of Utah. I'd like to share some highlights from that trip because it really is a beautiful place.

In early October the government shutdown closed all of the National Parks. We weren't sure if they would be back open by the time we left for vacation (they opened 2 days before we left home) so I started coming up with other plans in case the Parks were still closed. While National Monuments were also affected by the shutdown, I called a state park close to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the ranger assured me that we could still get into the two slot canyons that we wanted to see.

Bull Valley Gorge and Willis Creek slot canyons are very close to one another and you can actually make a loop hike out of them because they empty into the same canyon. Our plan was to backpack down Bull Valley Gorge, camp on Sheep Creek and then hike up Willis Creek canyon in the morning and then back to our car via the road. We got a very late start packing into Bull Valley and were racing sundown. 

We started out on top of the slot canyon and had to hike up-canyon where we could gain access. There used to be a wooden car bridge that spanned the gorge. In the 1970s a trio of hunters was traveling over the bridge during a rainstorm when they lost control and their truck careened down into the gorge. All three men died and the truck is still lodged in the gorge today.

Here the canyon floor is a few hundred feet down in the crack.

Eventually the cliff walls lowered and we crawled down into the slot.

As we worked our way through the twisting passageways we dropped deeper and deeper into the canyon. Our guidebooks said this canyon is almost always dry but we ran into quite a bit of mud.

This log helped us down-climb a large drop-off.

Eventually we came to a chokestone that had a large pool below it. Christian climbed down the chokestone to try to figure out how deep the pool was. The pool seemed deep enough that we would end up wet. 

Given the hour and the cold, we decided to turn around and hike back the way we came. Before our trip my mom told me to "use my head." My gut was telling me that we shouldn't chance going into that pool. Even if we did get through that pool, there's no telling how many more we would encounter along the way. So, we hiked back along the great crack and to our car.

Our new plan: wilderness camp and hike down Willis Creek in the morning. As we drove back toward Escalante we were calmed by an amazing sunset.

Up next on our trip: hiking down Willis Creek slot canyon.


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