Julie United States 61 Comments

If you are looking for a super fun hike to do, put Peek-A-Boo Gulch and Spooky Gulch on your list. Just their names make this hike sound enticing.

These slot canyons are located in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Getting here can be a mini-adventure, driving over 25 miles down a rough, dirt road through dry desert landscapes. And once you are here, two short, thrilling scrambles through some of the most fun slot canyons in the area awaits.

Peek-A-Boo Gulch has several sections of challenging rock scrambling, including a 12 foot climb just to enter the canyon. Spooky Gulch is one of the narrowest slot canyons around, only 10 inches wide in some spots! If you’re up for the challenge, these two slot canyons are tons of fun.

Facts About the Hike

Distance: 3.5 miles
Length of Time: 3 – 4 hours
Difficulty: The trail to the slot canyons is easy to moderate. Hiking through Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Gulches can be challenging in spots. If you are claustrophobic, consider skipping Spooky Gulch.
When to go: Any time of year, although expect very high temperatures in the summer.

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

Getting to the Trailhead

The trailhead is located on Hole-in-the-Rock Road in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

In the town of Escalante, turn onto Hole-in-the-Rock Road and reset your odometer. Drive 26 miles down the road to the Dry Fork turnoff on the left hand side of the road. This access road can be rutted and uneven. If you are in a car or low-clearance vehicle, park at the first parking area (.7 miles down the Dry Fork access road). From here, you will have to walk 1 mile to the trailhead. SUV’s and 4×4’s can continue 1 mile on a very rough road to the final car park.

About Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Hole-in-the-Rock Road is a well-packed dirt and gravel road. You can drive this is a car, although an SUV is preferable and a 4×4 is ideal. We drove a Toyota Forerunner with 4×4. If it has been raining, Hole-in-the-Rock Road can be impassable, even with a 4×4.

Important Note:  In 2020, several of our readers have reported that Hole-in-the-Rock Road is very rough and difficult to drive in a standard car. If you can, try to rent an SUV or a 4×4. 

The trail to Spooky Gulch and Peek-A-Boo Gulch starts at the main car park.

Getting to the Slot Canyons

The trail starts on a plateau with great views of the entire area. The first part of the hike involves walking down a combination of slick rock and sandy trails.

First View

Desert Landscape

 

Make sure you follow the rock cairns (the stacked piles of stones). These cairns mark the trail.

Rock Cairns

 

The trail ends down at the sandy bottom of the Dry Fork wash. Straight in front of you is Peek-A-Boo Gulch. To the left is the Dry Fork Narrows. And if you follow the Dry Fork wash to the right you will get to Spooky Gulch.

Spooky Gulch Map

Should you do this hike as a Loop or Out-and-Back?

You have two options to hike these two slot canyons. You can combine Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Gulches into one big loop or you can hike each slot canyon individually.

Hiking each slot canyon out and back is a little more fun, because you get to do them twice. Plus, they are both very short (only about a quarter mile long) so it doesn’t add much time to retrace your steps. However, if you are short on time or like the idea of doing one big loop, consider linking them together.

Tim and I hiked each slot canyon separately. We did Spooky Gulch first and then Peek-A-Boo Gulch. Both are tons of fun, but I think I liked Peek-A-Boo a little more. With the sections of rock scrambling, this one was just a little more challenging and fun for me.

If you want to make one loop, I recommend starting with Peek-A-Boo and ending with Spooky. There is a difficult climb in Spooky Gulch, but if you start in the back you get to go down this section, making it a little easier.

Peek-A-Boo Gulch

The hardest part of Peek-A-Boo Gulch comes right at the beginning. In front of you is a 12 foot climb just to gain access into the slot canyon. It can be a little tricky getting up this, but if you are hiking with friends, it sometimes helps to a get a little boost up from them.

Peek A Boo Entrance

Once in Peek-A-Boo Gulch, enjoy the view. These sandstone arches look amazing!

Peek A Boo Arches

Tim Rivenbark

As you hike up into the slot canyon, there are a series of smaller scrambles. Each can be challenging in their own way and the fun is trying to figure how to get through each obstacle.

Tim Climbing

Julie Rock Scrambling

Small Arch

Julie in Peek A Boo

This can be a little more difficult if it has recently rained. There may pools of nasty, stagnant water at each of these sections, something you definitely want to stay away from if you don’t want to walk around in soggy hiking shoes for the rest of the day.

As you climb up Peek-A-Boo Gulch, the walls get shorter and the rock scrambling sections get easier. Now it becomes a gorgeous walk through the ripples of the slot canyon.

Peek A Boo Gulch

More Peek A Boo

Top of Peek A Boo

At the back of the gulch, the trail climbs up onto flat ground. You can even look down into the narrow slot canyon. So, that’s why it’s called Peek-A-Boo Gulch!

Peek A Boo

From here, you can retrace your steps back through the slot canyon, or walk about 15 minutes on a flat, sandy trail to Spooky Gulch. It can take 30 to 45 minutes to hike this slot canyon out and back.

Spooky Gulch

Why is it called Spooky Gulch? This slot canyon is much narrower and much darker than Peek-A-Boo. If you are claustrophobic, do not even attempt this part of the hike. This slot canyon is so narrow at times that it made Tim and I a little anxious, and we never have issues with claustrophobia.

From the entrance of Peek-A-Boo slot canyon, it is about a 10 minute walk down the Dry Fork wash to get to Spooky Gulch. The entrance into Spooky Canyon looks like this.

Spooky Gulch Entrance

It starts off wide but wastes no time in thinning out. I recommend leaving your backpacks at the entrance, they only make hiking through these narrow spaces even more difficult (and this is another advantage to hiking each slot canyon out and back).

As you head to the back of Spooky Gulch, the canyon gets narrower and narrower and narrower. At times, we were almost dragging ourselves through the narrower spots.

Spooky Start

Spooky Gulch

Squeezing through

It is beautiful in here, and it’s also a lot cooler than in the sunny Dry Fork canyon.

Spooky Gulch

Narrow Spooky Gulch

We were lucky during our visit in that we were the only ones in Spooky Gulch. I can’t imagine two way traffic in this extremely narrow space!

Towards the back of the canyon you will reach a dryfall of rock. This is very challenging to climb. You can climb it and continue on or turn around here and retrace your steps. It can take up to 30 minutes to hike this slot canyon out and back, depending on how far you go.

Dry Fork Narrows

While you are here, you can hike through the Dry Fork Narrows. This is another slot canyon but it is much wider that Spooky Gulch and rather unexciting after Peek-A-Boo Gulch.

What to Bring with You

Lots of Water. BLM recommends 4 liters of water per person.

Hiking Shoes. You can get by with a good pair of running shoes, but hiking shoes will give you more traction when rock scrambling through Peek-A-Boo Gulch.

Sunscreen. There is very little shade out here. The only time you will be out of the sun is the short amount of time you are in Spooky Gulch.

What to do Next

Visit Devils Garden, just 15 miles northwest on Hole-in-the-Rock Road, a 30-minute drive back towards Escalante.

Hike Zebra Slot Canyon, 19 miles northwest on Hole-in-the-Rock Road, a 40-minute drive back towards Escalante.

Explore 1, 2, or all 5 of Utah’s national parks. Learn more in our Utah’s Mighty 5 Travel Guide and Road Trip Itinerary.

If you like this hike, you’ll LOVE Little Wild Horse Canyon, which is in Utah, between Capitol Reef National Park and Moab.


Have you hiked Peek-A-Boo or Spooky Gulches? Do you have any advice for our readers? Comment below!

Planning a trip through the United States? Read all of our articles in our United States Travel Guide.

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Comments 61

  1. I did this hike yesterday! I was driving from Kanab and only got to Moab around 10:45, but it was well worth it – one of my favorite hikes ever. It’s mid-October and I think it’s been dry for a while, so both roads were fine for my little hybrid. I was lucky enough to have both canyons almost entirely to myself, except for one family who didn’t go past either entrance. It’s now recommended that you do a loop (Peek-A-Boo through Spooky) so there’s no two-way traffic. I had so much fun scrambling in Peek-A-Boo! The entrance was much easier for me than the interior scrambles, mainly because of some big pools of muddy water. I was able to avoid some, but ended up on my butt in one of them – all part of the fun! I definitely ended up doing some parkour in Peek-A-Boo that I didn’t know I was capable of (chimney climb featuring my head, for example). There was no rope going down into Spooky. I had to figure out where to go down to the floor with no real markers, but thankfully I noticed a terrifying horror-movie-esque claw mark left by someone who clearly slid down the rocks into the abyss. Keeping this in mind, I did a controlled wedge-and-slide between the massive boulders to get to the trail. It would take some impressive climbing skills to get out that way without a rope. I have a few scrapes and bruises from the hike, but I sure feel accomplished!

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  2. is Peek a boo good for kids?

    family of 4 (kids 6 and 8) so just curious if we can get past the initial 12 foot hike with only 2 adults assisting especially the little one (short 6 y/o)?

    Thank you, your pictures are amazing and narrative is appreciated!

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      Maybe. I’ve heard reports from others about getting young kids up the 12 foot wall, so it is possible, but honestly, I’ve wondered how they did it. You might need an adult at the bottom and one at the top, to help lift/pull the kids up. But once past that point the rest will be easy. Good luck! Cheers, Julie

  3. We hiked Peekaboo and Spooky in early June 2021. The 26 miles of Hole in the Rock Road are VERY rough in a passenger car. Hard to go more than 20 mph. We were on our way to Capitol Reef and had all of our luggage with us and ended up with two leaking rear shock absorbers on a year old car. The canyons were spectacular so no regrets but we’ll rent a Jeep for the day next time.

  4. We completed this hike May 17 2021. The road past the overflow lot to the main trailhead has been improved and is easily passable with 2WD. There are vault toilets at the trailhead as well. Hole-in-the-Rock was freshly wash-boarded Spring 2021. Bumpy but manageable! This was my second favorite hike in all of Utah. I would suggest completing the loop; it would have been really difficult to pass other hikers in Spooky!! Dry Fork Gulch is interesting, beautiful, and mostly shaded. About 3/4 mile in, there is an exit to an overland trail back to the Trailhead. If you have some extra energy and time, it’s a worthy add. Bring Water and Sun Protection!

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  5. It was a lot of fun but hard when you have to do the 10ish foot drop where you have to climb down a rope. there was a lot of people in front of us and so it took about 20 mins to get through that part but the little kids could get down it with help and some can just jump down

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      1. When you hang a right onto Hole in the rock (coming from Escalante) a little road will pop up ~200 yards down on the right and thats just all dispersed camping there. As for what sort of neighbors youll end up with that is hit or miss but you can definitely camp just about anywhere there and use existing fire rings.

        I did this hike 2 days ago (thanks for your guide!) and this was my first time in Escalante in ~5 years and holy cow has it gotten busier. Im from Denver and there were more ppl at osme of these spots than you would see at a popular Front Range hike in the Denver/Boulder area. Shocking really. I mean i was there too so i was part of that crowd.

        Anyway, just wanted ot note something i saw which was quite a few ppl were physically incapable of the initial climb into peek-a-boo and thus were trudging down the wash to Spooky and trying to come up Spooky while ppl were coming down. These folks didnt have the skills/strength to stem up the walls so there guaranteed to be a mass pile-up of stuck folks. Not great.. It was 80 and sunny and lots of ppl and their dogs really shouldnt have been there.

        Basically, if anyone is interested in doing this the answer is, as always with hiking, go early. Be at the trailhead before everyone else and youll avoid crowds/heat and ppl coming up Spooky.

        Given the absolute crush of crowds i dont think ill return to Escalante again except for in the winter.

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          Thanks for writing in with this information. A lot of people have been asking where to camp so this is great info. We did this hike May 2017 and had very little crowds. It sounds like a lot has changed since then. Thanks again! Cheers, Julie

    2. We boondocked at the Overflow Parking Lot the night before, then started out early and had the canyons to ourselves.

  6. If you’re fat, or have a large upper body, don’t go into Spooky. You’ll likely end up trying to go backwards (which is either super difficult to impossible depending on your strength and flexibility)

    1. I’m 5’6″, 225 lbs. I can lift my own bodyweight. I may be fat but I handled both Peekaboo and Spooky without issues. Lots of giggles though!

  7. We hiked this today and absolutely loved it. Thank you so much for all of the useful info. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it up into Peekaboo but there was a rope at the top and a hand from my husband did the trick. I was also worried I would not fit in Spooky. I’m 52 years old, 5’7, a size 12 and have two artificial knees. There were a couple of tight spots but I didn’t struggle much to get through. My only regret is that I didn’t slow down and enjoy it more.

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      Hello Liz. Thanks for writing in! That’s great that there is now a rope!! And I totally understand your regret…we also sometimes rush through hikes, just to get to the next experience, but wish that we had spent more time. I hope you enjoy whatever else remains on your trip! Cheers, Julie

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