Backpacking Paradise: Coyote Gulch with Kids

On May 11, we headed out for our second backpacking trip ever with the whole family.  It was the first time we had taken the little ones backpacking with us in the desert.  Backpacking in the desert is harder than the places we go in the mountains because you have to carry enough water for everyone.  Although we have backpacked places where there were no reliable sources of water, this trip would take us into a beautiful desert canyon with a creek running through the bottom.  We knew we would be able to find enough water to purify, so everyone got to come along.

Access to Coyote Gulch is on the Hole in the Rock Road outside of Escalante, Utah.  I know I’ve been talking alot about this area, and I have to say again — this is a desert rat’s paradise.  I wish I could live there.  I don’t think I would ever get tired of exploring.  About 33 miles down this washboard dirt road is the Hurricane Wash trailhead.  Again, I am not going to give detailed trip mileage, because it is easily found on other sites.   From the Hurricane Wash trailhead, the first 3 miles is a sandy open trail following the wash, but as water comes into the wash and you near Coyote Gulch, the canyon deepens and is quite pretty.  Once you enter Coyote Gulch, you are in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

The creek has huge meanders which have cut deep alcoves into the rock.  In these alcoves, springs and hanging gardens making a beautiful green contrast to the red sandstone.  There is an abundance of life in this canyon, with birds calling from every side, HUGE lizards, desert toads, tadpoles, fish and plenty of deer tracks (although we didn’t see any deer.)   We also saw a rattlesnake in Hurricane Wash.  This is only the second time we have ever seen a rattlesnake in our hikes.

The main high points usually referenced in the trail guides are Jacob Hamblin Arch, Cliff Arch (also called Jug Handle Arch) and Coyote Natural Bridge.  But every step of this gorge is beautiful with waterfalls cutting through sandstone ledges or water sparkling over sand, springs spraying through hanging gardens to the creek below, and huge cottonwoods making shade over boulders.

We packed into a beautiful spot near Jacob Hamblin Arch.  We had heard that there weren’t many camping spots farther down canyon, but when we dayhiked the rest of the canyon the following day, we found that there were many spots continuing for miles past our camping spot, so don’t feel pressured to pick your spot early.  If you are lucky, you might catch one of the spots on the sand ledges inside an alcove — there are several beautiful ones.  After we made camp the first night, the kids enjoyed water walking while we rested and set up camp.

The second day, we hiked down the creek, making it within half mile of the river.  There was a large climb over a pour off here that we were unable to do because the kids had dropped their shoes a couple of miles up river (they were hiking barefoot in the sand.)  So, we turned around, went back to our camp (round trip about 12 miles) and then hiked another 3 to camp in Hurricane Wash the second night.  This left us with only 5 miles to do Sunday morning, which is a good thing because everyone is tired of hiking by the third day.

Lulu and Max were excited because they had “hiked a marathon.”  We were all happy that we had done this trip.  It was an excellent place for backpacking, and we  can’t wait to go again.

Do you enjoy backpacking with your kids?  What do you think are some keys to making backpacking with little kids successful?  Please leave me a comment!

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  1. Okay, I’m jealous. I love that area!! I love it in October actually. Every October I wish I was in southern Utah 🙂

  2. Though I’ve hiked with my kids for almost 10 years, I am only just now getting the gear for backpacking. All I need is a tent and we are good to go. It never fails, whenever we hike, the kids wish we could stay longer and play, or camp on the way back. It’s a lot of work camping and hiking with young children, but it’s so worth it once we are out there. I look forward to following your adventures!

    • Getting the gear for everyone was the tough part for us, but once you’ve got it, you have fun for years. It is totally worth the effort. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Coyote Gulch has always been one of my favorite places on earth and I can’t wait to take my kids backpacking there too. we have a few kid backpacking trips posted at my blog and some gear reviews going. As a long-time backpacker it’s awesome to finally get my kids out there doing it too. Great blog!


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