Slot Canyon

A Photojourney through Peek-A-Boo Gulch and Spooky Gulch

Julie United States 17 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.

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.

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.

Comments 17

  1. Hi,
    I enjoyed your article, I thought you might like a little history about the two canyons. My grandfather, Edson Alvey found and named Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulch (he registered the names with the State). Hey was a school teacher and in the summer time he would herd Sheep for extra money. One day when he was out walking around, herding sheep he found the two slot canyons. He was excited to show someone so he came home and took my Mom and my Aunt to see them. In the first canyon they came to, the little girls were playing Peek-a-boo and in the next canyon my Mom said this place is Spooky. The rest is history.

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  2. Hi There – We are planning a SW canyons trip next May 2020 and your blog has been so helpful! We’re RVing, staying in several NP campgrounds, and not wanting to move anymore than we have to, yet stay close enough to trails to not spend all our time driving. We’re coming in from the NW, will start at Bryce and then move to Zion. My question is: Will it be practical to drive to Escalante from Bryce North Campground to do 2-3 hikes in two days? We’d like to spend four night at Bryce and would rather drive the extra hour to Escalante rather than change campgrounds before moving on to Zion. What’s your opinion?

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      Hello Kristi. Yes, you can use Bryce Canyon as your home base. It takes an hour to get to Escalante and then another hour to drive to Spooky Gulch (and this will be on the gravel road) so you are looking at 4 hours of driving to do this hike. If you don’t mind the driving time to not have to change campgrounds it could be worth it. If you also plan to do Zebra Slot, make sure you do it on the same day as Spooky so you don’t have to do this drive twice. Cheers, Julie

  3. I really just love your blog. It’s so fun to follow your family’s travels! Do you happen to know if these canyons are accessible in the winter?

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      Hello Ashley. I am not totally certain, but I think they might be depending on weather/snowfall. I don’t know if these roads get plowed if it snows. Maybe the BLM website (who manages the area) will have more information. Cheers, Julie

  4. Beenherebefore (2x) with mixture of men/women. Seemed to need the men to get us UP into the start of Pekabb. I want to bring a handful of girls on my next trip. A bit concerned about getting the 1st gal up into the start of Peekaboo. Do you think we can manage it w some boosts? What we’ve done in the past os hen have some webbing and the 1st person sits w the webbing around them and the others use it as an assist to climb up. I am very concerned about being able to get the 1st person up. Any tips/thoughts??? Thanks, really want to make this a girls trip!

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      I think you will have to assist each other in giving a boost up that first climb. The strongest person should go last, since there will be no one to give her a boost. Cheers, Julie

  5. Hi Julie! We were just here! Our host at our B&B in Escalante recommended going up Spooky and down Peek-A-Boo IF traffic was light. We were there on a weekend and there were many people hiking the slot canyons. So it was up Peek-A-Boo and down Spooky.

    We definitely needed a little assistance from locals to get up the entrance into Peek-A-Boo. They even pointed out a black widow spider hiding in a hole in the wall about shoulder level as we climbed out!

    Spooky Slot Canyon…yep! It’s just that. The drop down from the lodged boulder shortly after we started our hike down was a bit tough. An 8′ drop for me. Then the fun began…it got narrower and narrower. Like they have amusement parks for height, they need to have a width gauge for getting through the rest of the slot canyon. My husband is fit but has a barrel chest, and had a tough time getting through the narrowest sections.

    And, to our amazement, people were combing through these hikes with babies, 60-lb. dogs and elderly parents! Quite the experience1

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      Hello Beth. Thanks for sharing your experience! It sounds like it was a lot of fun but that’s a bit freaky about the black widow spider! Cheers, Julie

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      1. Excellent! And thank you so much for the prompt response. BTW, your family’s lifestyle is pretty much my main goal in life. I’m getting married soon, and I’ve kinda fantasized what I’d like my future family to be like, and it’s been reassuring to know that it’s all possible. I’m so happy that you guys have found joy in traveling and have shared a sample of it with the rest of us. I think the world would be a better place if we all would surf your website and reprioritized our lives a bit. You all are awesome!

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          Wow, thank you so much!! You just made our day…what a wonderful comment! We are trying our best to show our kids the world and hopefully inspire more people/families/friends to do the same thing. Thank you again for these very kind words and happy travels to you. Maybe we’ll see you and your family out on the road someday! Cheers, Julie and Tim

  6. Your info and pictures are great! and we find them extremely helpful ! thanks you so very much for taking the time to help others !! Going in a few weeks and now feeling much more confident !! Can’t wait!

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