The morning after returning from our previous Escalante backpack, we embarked on another even more adventurous trek – this time into the slickrock country just east of the town of Escalante. For years I’ve driven the spectacular stretch of highway between Boulder and Escalante and always wondered what it was like up amongst all that slickrock. During this trek we would find out!
Our trek started from the edge of Escalante and ascended up to the high slickrock plateau along the Old Boulder Mail Trail. This is the route the postman would walk between Boulder and Escalante back in the days before there were any roads connecting the two towns. Maybe that’s a job I would have enjoyed back then.
Amongst the largest expanse of slickrock we found a fantastic spot to pitch the tent, and enjoyed an evening wandering around and soaking in the expansive views.
Halfway along the trail, we dropped into the impressively deep Death Hollow canyon. The rest of the day would be spent descending through this amazing gorge.
A creek that drains from the higher mountains to the north flows through Death Hollow; because the creek oftentimes fills the narrow canyon from wall to wall, and otherwise would require countless crossings, the best way to hike down the canyon is right in the river! We were prepared with neoprene socks and breathable, quick-drying trail running shoes, which kept our feet warm and made the watery trek quite enjoyable.
Although the creek bed was oftentimes mossy like this, traction was still good.
The creek was mostly shin-to-knee deep, but there were many deeper potholes to be avoided. Above was the “crux” in the narrows, where a little ledge on the right side allowed passage without needing to swim through the hole. Of course, I assume that conditions in this canyon can vary greatly; probably this section requires a full swim sometimes. We should have brought garbage bags for our backpacks just in case, but luckily we didn’t need them on this day.
After a full day of tromping through the creek, we finally set up camp for the night under a huge overhanging alcove next to an idyllic pond.
We were very much impressed with this incredible trek over the Mail Trail and through Death Hollow; I would say it was definitely one of the most amazing treks I’ve done in the desert, along with the popular Coyote Gulch classic and the Tapeats/Deer Creek trek into the Grand Canyon.
The final day of our “triangle” loop took us up the Escalante River canyon. This canyon is drier and not quite so spectacular as Death Hollow, but still a nice hike to get back to where we started.