How to Hike Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch Slot Canyons

Are you considering hiking Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch Slot Canyons? Good – you should! Read on for a detailed guide on how to do it.

A view through the narrow, pink, bumpy sandstone passage of Spooky Slot Canyon near Escalante, Utah.
The twisting passage that awaits in Spooky Gulch

If you like a bit of adventure and a really unique type of hike, Spooky Gulch and Peekaboo Slot Canyons are absolutely an experience you need to have!

These vibrant orange, pink, and red-orange canyons have twisting, turning trails and super tight, super narrow passages and make for an unforgettable hike.

Both canyons are part of the Dry Forks Slot Canyons area, which is part of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is run by the Bureau of Land Management. This is a very remote area of southern Utah, and is neither a state nor national park.

Hiking Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulch slot canyons (or, as we affectionately call them: Spookaboo canyons) was one of the my favorite hikes ever, and is one of the absolute best slot canyons to explore in Utah.

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Everything You Need to Know About Hiking Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch Slot Canyons

Here’s everything you need to know about hiking in Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch slot canyons, including how to get there, what the hike is like, and a ton of practical information and details at the end!

How to Get To the Trailhead

Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch Slot Canyons are two slot canyons located right next to each other and can easily be combined into the same hike, making one big loop.

Right next to these two canyons is a third slot canyon: Dry Fork Canyon. While still considered a slot canyon, it is much wider and less windy than Peek-a-boo and Spooky, so most people choose to skip Dry Fork and just do the other two.

However, if you are claustrophic, are traveling with very young children, or want to bring your dog, Dry Fork is a great and still cool option that would be a better choice for those situations!

As we mentioned in the introduction, the slot canyons are part of the Dry Forks Slot Canyon area, and are located in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah. There are two trailheads for this hike: the Upper Dry Fork Trailhead and Lower Dry Fork Trailhead. We parked in the Lower Dry Fork Trailhead. this is where most people park.

If the Lower Dry Fork Trailhead parking lot is full, there is an overflow lot about a half mile south, or you can park at the Upper Dry Fork Trailhead. If you park in the Upper Dry Fork Trailhead, you will hike in through Dry Fork slot canyon to reach Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch canyons. So, this is also just a good option overall if you are interested in doing all three.

Driving Hole in the Rock Road

To arrive at the Lower Dry Fork Trailhead, you will need to drive for about an hour on Hole in the Rock Trail (it’s also named as BLM 200 on Google Maps), which is off of Highway 12. You will drive 28 miles total, which took us about an hour. It’s slow going as the road is not in good condition.

After 26 miles, you’ll come to the turnoff from Hole in the Rock Road for BLM 252, or K9285. It’s not super well marked, so I would download off-line maps for this ahead of time so you can watch for the turnoff on your maps when you lose cell service.

I would also recommend resetting your odometer when you turn onto Hole in the Rock road and watching for the turnoff at 26 miles. Once you turn onto BLM 252/K9285, you’ll follow the road all the way to the end for the main parking area.

You should know that Hole in the Rock road is unpaved and unmaintained and is essentially an incredibly bumpy washboard, with occasional sections that are particularly bad (sandy, big potholes). We did not have a 4 wheel drive vehicle and did the drive in our old minivan just fine.

They do say the road is much harder to traverse if it has rained recently and the road is muddy. I don’t think our minivan would have made it if it was muddy.

We started driving Hole in the Rock road at about 25 miles an hour, but then realized that going a little bit faster, around 40 mph, actually helped our van skim across the washboard instead of hitting every bump.

Now, this does come with a little more risk because you can come across a big pothole or a sandy area unexpectedly, and will need to slow down for these areas. We found that 10-15 miles an hour in the really bad (sandy, big pothole) sections was about the right speed.

Peekaboo + Spooky Gulch Slot Canyon Trail Stats + Map

  • Distance: 5.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 604 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time to Complete: 3-4 hours (we took 4 hours, but we were hiking with kids and did take a couple of breaks between the canyons for resting in the shade + snacks)
Peek-a-boo and Spooky slot canyon trail map.
Spooky and Peekaboo hike elevation gain and profile.

At the Trailhead

Two metal posts indicate the narrowness of Spooky Gulch slot canyon. The sign is framed against a desert landscape.
Make sure you fit in Spooky Gulch!

When you arrive at the parking lot and trailhead, there are vault toilets and this “tightness guide.” At it’s narrowest, Spooky Gulch is only 10 inches wide! These posts demonstrate how large that gap is, so you can test and see if you will fit through (you’ll definitely need to turn sideways and hand-carry backpacks).

Note that there is basically no cell reception in this area. If you cannot fit through, I would just do Dry Fork Slot Canyon instead. Matthew is a fairly big guy, and he did fit through this guide – tightly – but even then there was a spot in Spooky that he almost got stuck and had to do some creative movement to get through.

Starting the Hike

One important thing to know is that you will actually have a 1.5 mile hike before you even reach the slot canyons! This hike starts through dry, scrubby desert.

A family hiking through scrub brush on a sandy trail. Heading toward Peek-a-boo slot canyon.
The trail to Peekaboo and Spooky Canyons is mainly marked by where the footprints are.

And then continues on along the edge of these ridges. These two sections are pretty flat and last about 1 mile.

A trail winds along a red stone ridge on the way to Spooky Gulch canyon.
The trail to the slot canyons meanders in and out with these curves, increasing the distance.

While most of the way it’s pretty obvious where to go, there are some spots that you should pay attention to where the rocks and cairns are, marking where the trail goes. If you’re not familiar with cairns, they are piles of stacked rocks that mark a trail. You can see the cairn in the right-middle side of the photo, below.

A rock line and stone cairn indicate the correct trail for Peek-a-boo canyon near Escalante, Utah.
Peekaboo (Peek-a-boo) and Spooky Gulch slot canyons seen from above. A large, rocky desert plateau is split with ridges and cracks creating the canyons.
The view from the path down over the area where the slot canyons are. That raised rock area down below is where you are heading for Peekaboo and Spooky Canyons.

Eventually, you’ll start heading down from the rocky ridge and into the path that leads to the slot canyons. This 1/2 mile stretch of the trail is fairly steep and sandy, although rarely at the same time.

Our kids didn’t love how much sand was getting in their shoes, which was pretty unavoidable with tennis shoes. Matthew had hiking shoes and they were tight enough to repel the sand a bit more.

A family is seen from behind as they hike through sand by a rock wall. Desert bushes and trees are plentiful. Hiking to Spooky Gulch.
Don’t expect much shade on the hike to Peekaboo or Spooky Slot Canyons.

Entering the Peekaboo Slot Canyon

I would recommend starting with Peekaboo Slot Canyon and doing a loop, ending with Spooky Gulch Slot Canyon. This is the route most people take, and while everyone loves to escape crowds and get off the beaten path, I wouldn’t recommend it here.

The reason? It is HARD to let someone who is going the opposite direction pass you when you’re in the very narrowest parts of the canyons. It’s easier to just go the same direction!

Okay so you’re at the start of Peekaboo Slot Canyon. First, you’ll need to scale up a 15 foot rock wall to enter the canyon! This is a little tricky and requires some hoisting, but helping hoist and pull each other up in a group makes this go a lot easier.

Pro tip: Use your legs more than your arms as much as you can. Getting your foot in a little nook and pushing yourself up is easier than using your arms to pull yourself up.

The start of Peek-a-boo (Peekaboo) Canyon. This orange and pink slot canyon starts with a 15 foot wall with a few ledges.
Good news: there are a few ledges and sandstone is naturally fairly grippy. Bad news: lots of people climbing has smoothed out the start of Peekaboo Canyon.

When you’re finally in, you’ll be treated to these cool rock formations! Aren’t the arches and tunnels incredible?!

The winding passage through Peek-a-boo slot canyon. Pink rocks ripple, leading to a small archway.
Look at that Peekaboo arch!
A tight, twisting section of Peekaboo slot canyon highlighting strata, sharp edges, and pink and orange coloring.
I love the striations in Peekaboo

The undulations in the walls are magnificent! The rocks are orange, and sometimes more pink, depending on the angle of the sun. The canyon does tight, little turns, creating a lot of visual interest and making the hike pretty exciting as you twist and turn your way through.

By my estimation, the canyon walls were anywhere from 15-30 feet tall, depending on the section, giving you a sense of being enveloped in the rock.

I’m slightly claustrophobic, but didn’t have any problem in these canyons, because the top was open to the sky (if I had been doing this in a cave I think my claustrophobia would have definitely come out more).

A man wends his way through Peek-a-boo slot canyon. The rocks are a pleasant orange. He is a Jayhawks fan.
Note that Peekaboo and Spooky are often wider and narrower at different heights. If you’re feeling stuck, climb up or crouch down.

Peekaboo Slot Canyon ranges from pretty narrow to actually decently wide. There are also some small arches that you’ll have to duck through and some small ledges and rocks you’ll have to climb up and over. The most difficult sections are near where you start, with a couple more tricky ledges. After that it’s a more casual experience, just enjoying the vibe.

A wide section of Peek-a-boo Canyon near Escalante, UT. The canyon is wide enough for two people, the rocks are orange, and a layer of sand is apparent on the floor of the canyon.
A wide section of Peek-a-boo Canyon

This is at the end of the Peekaboo Slot Canyon. Here, the canyon is pretty wide and easy to walk through. Note that the entire time in the slot canyons you are walking through sand!

Peekaboo Slot Canyon is not long in pure distance, but it will definitely take you more time than anticipated to hike through the canyon.

Two girls and a man leap through Peekaboo canyon.
As you can tell, our girls really enjoyed Peek-a-boo

Between Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch Slot Canyon

A girl walks across desert rocks making the journey between Peekaboo and Spooky slot canyons.
Back into the sun to transfer from Peekaboo to Spooky.

Once you finish Peekaboo slot canyon, you’ll go over and around rocky hills and sand dunes to reach the beginning of Spooky Gulch slot canyon. This section of the hike is a little less than a half mile long. The trail isn’t super obvious here, so just pay close attention to following the cairns along the rock face.

This is a good spot to remind you that although the canyons are the focus of the hike, much of the hike is along exposed trails and you will want to have some good sun protection.

Entering Spooky Gulch Slot Canyon

Finally, you’ll enter Spooky Gulch slot canyon! This slot canyon has plenty of similarities to Peekaboo, but, despitethe proximity in location, it has a few key differences. First, the walls have more knobby protuberances on them, as you can see in the picture below.

A woman looks back through Spooky Gulch slot canyon. The walls feature orange and pink rocks with knobs among the strata.
The knobs were a fun difference between Spooky and Peekaboo, and in some sections they were very numerous.

Also, the canyon is definitely much narrower than in Peekaboo slot canyon. You will need to hold your bag and walk sideways for a big chunk of this canyon! The narrowness of the canyon makes it a little bit darker, as well.

A smiling woman walks sideways through Spooky canyon.
No room for a backpack. And this was a wider section of Spooky Gulch.
A man carries his backpack as he squeezes through Spooky Gulch slot canyon in southern Utah.
Suck it in!

There are some arches to duck under…

A woman hikes, framed by a pink arch in Spooky Gulch.

And overall, just some of the absolutely coolest curving rock walls. You’ll look at these sections of the trail and think “there’s no way I could fit through that,” but sure enough, you’ll make it through!

A narrow, twisting passage through the orange rocks of Spooky canyon.
Small rock bumps speckle the tight walls of Spooky Gulch.

Pay Attention to This Spot

Now, there is one spot in Spooky Gulch that you’ll need to be particularly careful at. This spot has a big rockfall, with large boulders piled up (this happened thanks to flash flooding). There’s a small hole with a 10-15 foot drop to where the trail continues.

Girls wait on boulders to follow their father down a hole in Spooky Gulch.
Scrambling in Spooky Gulch

It’s a decent drop and the angle and rock placements are a little funky, so there’s also a rope with some foot holds to help you safely descend.

However, when Matthew went down first, his foot got caught weird in the rope and his center of mass got out of line with the rope, and he tilted and swung, which made his foot get caught above his waist.

Thankfully, there was another person at the bottom who quickly jumped in and helped Matthew get rebalanced and recentered, but it was a tense moment.

While this was mostly just an unlucky incident, this is definitely a spot to use plenty of safety and caution as you descend! Matthew turned his body around to descend, but after his experience, the rest of us went down facing forward, and we found that with this orientation it was actually easier to stay balanced.

A man squeezes through a hole in Spooky Gulch. He holds a rope to help him descend. Children wait their turn.
Don’t turn inward like Matthew did. But either way, it is much easier when someone is at the bottom to help.

Hiking Back

When you finally exit the tight slot canyon, the sudden openness can be jarring. Fortunately, you still get to walk through a fun canyon and some cool scenery. Be prepared for some sandy hiking – it makes it a bit harder on the ascents.

A girl walks across a desert landscape along a sandy path through the rocks and brush near Spooky and Peekaboo canyons.
You’ll have about a mile walking on the sandy paths leaving Spooky and Peekaboo canyons.

When you reach the sandstone rock, it becomes much easier to hike, but… it’s pretty steep. That, plus the fact that it was much warmer than when we started, made this hike up much harder for our kids. However, you’ll reach flat ground soon enough, and then it’s an easy hike back to the parking lot.

A rocky hill leading back to the Spooky Gulch trailhead.
A view of the slot canyon from the adjacent ridge . You can see the crack in the rock awll where the slot canyon starts. You can see the people waiting to climb up into Peekaboo!
A view of the slot canyon from the adjacent ridge – you can see the people waiting to climb up into Peekaboo!

Practical Information and FAQ’s

When to Go and When Not to Go

You can do this hike anytime of year, in any season. Spring and fall are the most pleasant times to go, as the weather is very mild, but winter and summer are totally fine times to go, too.

We started this hike at about 9am in the morning in the middle of June. Weather conditions were clear, sunny, and hot. We actually found that when we were inside the slot canyons, the high canyon walls provided quite a bit of shade in the morning hours and the temperature was very pleasant.

Of course, hiking back out (and up that sandy hill) at noon in 90+ F weather was much less pleasant.

Definitely DO NOT attempt this hike when there is even a chance of rain in the forecast, as conditions can be very dangerous. Flash floods can and do occur in the slot canyons, even if there is rain in a nearby area. These floods can happen suddenly and dramatically, with water and debris rushing through and can injure or kill hikers.

Entrance Fees and Hours

There are no entrance fees to hike Spooky Gulch or Peekaboo Slot Canyons, or to park in the parking lot.

There are no hours of operations, you are free to hike any time you wish. However, I would not recommend hiking during the dark, so plan to start your hike early enough that you finish in the canyons before it gets dark.

Where to Stay Nearby

The closest place to stay with hotel is in the town of Escalante, off of Highway 12, and before you get onto Hole in the Rock road. This is about 1 hour from the slot canyons. A few good hotel options are:

The Ponderosa Inn: This budget inn is highly rated (9.3/10 stars), in central Escalante, and rooms are clean and cozy.

Slot Canyons Inn Bed & Breakfast: Beautiful property and incredible views just outside of town, in a lovely building with a fantastic breakfast, all for a mid-range price.

Escalante Yurts: A glamping experience in a secluded spot in nature, where you can stay in a gorgeous luxury yurt.

Camping

If you prefer camping, this area of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) and you can wild camp for free. You just need to find a spot that is cleared enough for you to park and set up a tent.

This is actually what we did, and we saw just a few spots on Hole in the Rock road that would accommodate someone parking and camping. Most of the road has brush and small cacti along it, plus it seemed like the shoulder either fell off or rose up suddenly, making it pretty hard to pull off.

There were occasionally roads that intersected Hole in the Rock Road, so you could go down those further to try and find a spot suitable for camping.

We actually camped right at the turnoff from Hole in the Rock road to BLM 252 (aka K9285, aka the turnoff at 26 miles for the trailhead). There was a large open dirt area and it was easy to pull off the road.

An expanse of dirt is in the foreground, with scrubby desert  plants behind. A van is on the side of the picture. Near Spooky Gulch Lower Trailhead

You do need to fill out a backcountry camping registration form. You can do this at the BLM office in Escalante or at the trailhead parking lots (either Upper or Lower). At the lots, you will find a metal stand with a log enclosed where you can put your information. You cannot camp at the lot, though. You can also sign the log when you start the hike – in case something goes wrong, people know to look for you.

And remember, if you’re wild camping, you will need to use the bathroom in the wild and pack all your waste and garbage out – including number 2.

How Long Does it Take to Hike?

While the actual canyons are pretty short, the entire loop from the lower trailhead is about 5 miles. Each slot canyon is approximately 0.5 miles long. While that seems short, I promise you it feels longer, and will definitely take longer than just walking 0.5 miles on unencumbered ground.

Leave No Trace

Please remember to leave no trace as you are exploring Spooky Gulch and Peekaboo! This includes picking up all your trash and packing it out, not taking rocks with you, and not carving into the soft sandstone.

These trails are unbelievable and in good condition – let’s all do our part to keep them that way.

If You’re Claustrophobic

This might not be the hike for you. Consider doing Dry Fork Slot Canyon instead, which is right next to Spooky and Peekaboo, where the walls aren’t nearly as tight.

Do You Need a Guide for Peekaboo or Spooky Canyons?

We did this hike by ourselves, and it was very manageable! However, you may prefer the security of going with a guide who knows how to navigate through the trail, and can help you if there are any tricky spots.

Plus, going with a guide means you don’t need to drive yourself down the washboard that is Hole in the Rock road!

>>If this is something you’d be interested in, you can book the guided tour of Peekaboo Canyon here.

FYI, There are Actually Three Peekaboo Trails in Southern Utah

One of the these canyons is the one we’re discussing here – Peekaboo Slot Canyon in Escalante.

There’s also Red Canyon, which is also referred to as Peekaboo Slot Canyon, or Peekaboo Kanab. This trail is located about 10 miles north of Kanab, Utah.

Finally, there is Peekaboo Loop Trail, which is in Bryce Canyon National Park.

Just make sure you have the right trail when looking at maps and directions!

What to Wear/What to Bring

A woman in black shorts and a pink tank top wears a backpack and stands in a narrow slot canyon (Spooky Gulch) with orange walls.

A full tank of gas: There are no gas stations once you start down Hole in the Rock Road.

Downloaded Maps: We like to download Alltrails maps of the trail and then have Google maps of the area downloaded offline, so we can use them even if we don’t have cell service or data.

Power Bank: For if you start running low on battery after using maps for navigation and taking a million pictures of the beautiful canyon.

Good hiking shoes: While you don’t necessarily need full hiking boots, a sturdy sneaker is imperative. Both Matthew and I wore our hiking boots, which we appreciated. The kids wore regular tennis shoes. While the sandstone in the area is pretty grippy, it was still nice to have some extra ankle support.

Plenty of water: We always bring this hydroflask or this camel pack on hikes with us. In the summer, its recommended to bring 2 L to 1 gallon of water per person.

Snacks: Don’t forget some trail food! Some salty options are good to have when it is hot. Also works great as motivation for small kids to get to different checkpoints.

My Favorite Hiking Outfit: I love these tank tops, these athletic shorts (with zippered pockets!), and these sports bras. For hiking in cooler weather, I always wear these leggings.

Sunscreen: While you will be mostly sheltered from the sun in the canyon (depending on time of day), you will be walking about 3 miles round trip to and from the canyon in the full force of the sun. This is the best sunscreen we’ve used – it’s spreads and rubs in very easily and absorbs well, but gives great sun protection. We also love this sunscreen stick for faces.

Hat: Speaking of the sun, hats can be very helpful. This is my favorite baseball cap I often wear hiking.

What Not to Bring

Dogs: While dogs are allowed here, your dog may struggle with the areas where you’d need to do some rock climbing/scrambling, and narrow spaces. It will be easy for leashes to become a hinderance, too.

Baby Carriers (Front or Back): There is definitely not enough space in the canyons to fit an adult who is also wearing a baby.

Frame backpacks: There is for sure not enough space to wear a frame backpack in the tighter part of the canyons,

Flip flops: Don’t do this. Wear proper footwear; it’s safer and will make your life so much better! (As we were hiking back, we did see some people walking towards the canyon in flip flops. They were definitely going to regret that choice later…)

Can Children Do This Hike?

Yes, children can definitely do this hike! We went with our 5, 7, 9, and 11 year old girls, and they all did great.

Our girls are all able to hike by themselves, and love to climb and scramble on rocks. We did have to help them up quite a bit at the entrance to Peekaboo, and every so often in the canyon, but overall, they did great.

However, I don’t think very young children (or their parents) will have a great experience on this trail. I would be very hesitant to go with kids three or younger, or who are not able to walk confidently by themselves for long periods of time. This is a difficult place if your kids want to be held, or if they need to have their hands held while walking/hiking, etc.

Final Thoughts on Hiking Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch Slot Canyons

Hiking the Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch slot canyons trail was one of my absolute most favorite hikes in southern Utah. This is a definite must do hike in southern Utah – you don’t want to miss it!

Keep Planning Your Southern Utah Trip

Spooky Gulch and Peekaboo slot canyons were amazing and you will love them, too. But, when you done you’ll likely be itching for more adventure. There’s so much to see in southern Utah! Extend your trip with these great locations:

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK:

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK:

ZION NATIONAL PARK:

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