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Lower Calf Creek Falls Hike – Utah’s Best Waterfall

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If you’ve ever dreamt of visiting a true desert oasis, look no further than the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike!

Unlike most of Southern Utah, which is arid desert, Lower Calf Creek Falls is a thunderous waterfall towering 126-feet above the floor of the Navajo sandstone canyon. Even better, the hike to get there is relatively easy and beginner-friendly!

It is truly unique and one of the most impressive waterfalls in the southwest United States!

We visited Lower Calf Creek Falls as part of our Utah road trip and it’s well worth the stop.

In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know to prepare for your Lower Calf Creek Falls hike, from trail description, to what to pack, and where to stay before or after your hike.

Follow the seven Leave No Trace principles: plan your hike in advance, stick to designated trails, carry out all your belongings, dispose of waste properly, leave natural areas untouched, minimize the impact of campfires, show consideration for fellow hikers, and avoid approaching or feeding wildlife.

Lower Calf Creek Falls Hike At-A-Glance

  • Location: Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument between Escalante and Boulder
  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 500 feet
  • Time: 3-4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate due to sand
  • Pets Allowed? Yes (on leash)
  • Fee: $5 day-use fee per vehicle (free with America the Beautiful Pass)
  • Cell Phone Service: No

How to Get to Lower Calf Creek Falls Trailhead

Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail Location

Lower Calf Creek Falls is a 126-foot-tall waterfall in the desert of the Colorado Plateau. The trailhead is located about 15 miles east of the town of Escalante, Utah off Highway 12. As part of the sprawling Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, the trailhead is not near any airports or major towns.

If you are visiting from another state or country, you will most likely fly into Salt Lake City or Las Vegas for your Utah trip. From there, you’ll want to get a rental car and drive the rest of the way. Lower Calf Creek Falls is 4.5 hours from Salt Lake City and 5 hours from Las Vegas. You may also be able to fly into the small city of St. George, Utah which is 3.5 hours from the trailhead.

Lower Calf Creek Falls is also close to most of Utah’s National Parks, so if you are on a road trip through the Mighty 5, this is right on your route!


Park in any of the available spots at the trailhead. Before hitting the trail, be sure to use the toilets, as you won’t see any again until you return. Note there is no running water, so bring hand sanitizer!

After you park and pay your day-use fee of $5 at the self-serve kiosk (or display your National Parks Pass in your dashboard), you can pick up a paper pamphlet with information corresponding to 15 markers on the trail pointing out archaeological sites, geological features, plants, and animals along the trail.

Tip: Save paper and skip the interpretive trail handout by downloading it onto your phone here in advance of your hike!

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Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail Highlights

The 6-mile roundtrip trail to Lower Calf Creek Falls is mostly flat, with some little hills and descents along the way. The trail follows Calf Creek most of the way to the 126-foot waterfall. In the creek, you might spot Brook, brown, and rainbow trout, as well as a variety of plant life on the banks that thrive in this rare wet environment in an otherwise dry desert.

You’ll see the first of the 15 trail markers pretty early on. Tim and I loved following along on the trail and learning about the historical and geological significance of Calf Creek.

Be sure to stop at the 5th marker, about 1.25 miles into the trail. Across the Navajo sandstone canyon, you can see two 800-year-old granaries dating to the 1200s from the prehistoric Fremont people who lived in the canyon.

Then, at marker 9, you’ll see additional signs of the Fremont people in the pictographs painted on the smooth canyon wall. You can see three large figures in red pigment with long arms and headdresses.

Remember, archaeological finds like pictographs, petroglyphs, structures, etc. can never be replaced. Look but don’t touch when you see artifacts here at Lower Calf Creek Falls and anywhere your travels take you!

At the 3-mile mark, you’ll arrive at Lower Calf Creek Falls. Now it’s time to relax and enjoy the spray on your face, the lush green foliage, and the refreshing water in the swimming hole at the base of the falls.

Feel free to swim, just be sure you are wearing eco-friendly sunscreen! Then, enjoy a picnic on the sandy shore. When it’s time to say goodbye to this beautiful destination, be sure to pack everything out with you. There are no trash cans here or at the trailhead!

Overall, the Lower Calf Cree Falls trail felt easier and shorter to us than we expected based on the distance and elevation gain. We think this is a great trail for families and beginner hikers since the elevation gain is very gradual throughout the hike.

Packing List for Lower Calf Creek Falls

Here are some recommended items to bring with you on the hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls. Even though it’s not a difficult hike, it’s always important to be prepared with essential hiking safety equipment and gear.


  1. Quick-drying hiking pants or shorts
  2. Breathable, lightweight shirt
  3. Fleece or lightweight jacket (evenings can get cool)
  4. Waterproof and windproof jacket or shell
  5. Hiking socks (preferably moisture-wicking)
  6. Sturdy hiking boots or trail shoes with good traction
  7. Wide-brimmed hat or cap for sun protection
  8. Sunglasses with UV protection
  9. Bandana or buff (for sun protection or wiping sweat)


  1. Backpack (large enough to carry essentials)
  2. Hydration system (water bladder or water bottles)
  3. Trekking poles (optional, but helpful for stability)

Safety and First Aid:

  1. First aid kit (bandages, antiseptic wipes, blister treatment, pain relievers, etc.)
  2. Sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) and lip balm with SPF
  3. Insect repellent
  4. Emergency blanket or bivy sack
  5. Personal locator beacon or satellite messenger (optional for remote areas)

Food and Hydration:

  1. Three liters of water per person
  2. High-energy snacks (trail mix, energy bars, dried fruit)
  3. Lightweight, non-perishable lunch (sandwiches, wraps)
  4. Electrolyte tablets or sports drinks


  1. Trash bags (pack out what you pack in)
  2. National Park pass or day-use fee
  3. Lightweight, packable picnic blanket (for enjoying the falls area)
  4. Personal toiletries (hand sanitizer, tissues, etc.)

Where to Stay

Camping at Lower Calf Creek Falls

There is a campground at the trailhead, but the 13 sites are first-come, first-served and difficult to get a spot (we tried and failed!). If you are camping in a tent, you’ll have more options, but there are also limited spots where a camper or van would fit. You can purchase your camping permit on-site once you arrive. The camping fee is $15 but with an America the Beautiful Pass you can get 50% off!

Accommodations Nearby

The towns of Escalante and Boulder are your best picks for where to stay if you aren’t camping at Lower Calf Creek Falls.

Use the map below to search for additional options!

Best Time to Hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls

Lower Calf Creek Falls flows year-round, so spring, summer, fall and winter are all on the table!

In general, spring and fall will be the best times to hike. Spring usually sees somewhat higher water volumes, while fall foliage adds a little magic to the hike in autumn.

Avoid midday (unless you are hiking in winter) as there is very little shade on the trail, and the Utah sun is unforgivingly hot. Morning light spring, summer, and fall create ideal viewing and photographing conditions at the falls. Additionally, a morning start can help you beat the crowds during the busy spring and summer seasons.

I would also recommend avoiding hiking in Calf Creek Canyon if there is rain in the forecast due to the risk of flash flooding.

Lastly, try to visit on a weekday if you can! Weekends tend to draw more crowds.

Bonus Hike: Upper Calf Creek Falls

Yup, there’s an Upper to this Lower! Upper Calf Creek Falls is NOT accessible from Lower Calf Creek Falls, but you can hike there from a different trailhead a few miles away. This waterfall is beautiful in its own right, at 88 feet tall, but it’s far less frequently visited since the trail is more difficult with Class 2 scrambles (albeit shorter). Tip: There’s a small swimming hole at the base of Upper Calf Creek Falls, so bring your swimsuit if you are up for a dip!

Other Things to Do Nearby

PS: Here are 35 things to do in Capitol Reef National Park!

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