Julie United States 33 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.

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.

Important Update for 2020: One of our readers informed us that the trail can only be hiked in a clockwise direction (read the comments below for more information). This eliminates two-way traffic through Spooky Slot to minimize traffic jams and face-to-face exposure. If you hike this trail and would like to provide an update, please let us know in the comment section below. Thanks! And happy hiking. 😊

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 Destination Guide.

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Comments 33

  1. Your blog has been an invaluable source of information & inspiration! We just did the Peek-a-Boo and Spooky canyons yesterday and had a phenomenal time. Due to Antelope’s closure, these were our alternatives and now I have no desire to do Antelope. We had the place virtually to ourselves and it had optimal conditions – no rain in the recent week. We drove the Hole in the Rock Road in our rental car (all-wheel drive) and had no issues (similar to Cottonwood Road). We ran into a couple who were heading back to the trailhead and were a little concerned when the woman said she was unable to climb into the entrance of the Peek-a-Boo slot canyon. Fortunately, my husband boosted me up (I’m 5’3.5″) and we were able to navigate our way through with no issues. The same could not be said for Spooky, where we encountered the dryfall of rock. After about 15 minutes of reconnaissance, we decided not to continue onward as we didn’t see a safe way to traverse it. Another couple determined the same thing and we both turned around and followed the canyon along the top to the wash. It has been the highlight of our trip! P.S. I’d recommend wearing flexible clothing/pants. My hubby wore jeans and encountered some issues with (ahem) “stretching”!

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  2. Hi! First I want to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for this blog! It is my #1 destination when planning trips! Absolutely amazing! Ok.. now on to why I decided to leave a comment 🙂
    We did Spooky and Peek-a-Boo yesterday Sept 22, 2020. After reading comments on other websites, travel blogs, and even here, I was very hesitant to take our rental sedan. But it ended up being ABSOLUTELY FINE! I wanted to make sure that other readers and travelers know that the road is definitely not as scary as (in my opinion) others make it sound. Please don’t leave this part of the trip behind because you think the road condition is horrible.. because it really isn’t! Now with that said… do make sure that it WILL NOT RAIN, otherwise you will be in big trouble as the sandy parts would quickly become muddy and unpassable with a sedan.
    Needless to say.. the hike and the canyons are absolutely stunning and 100% worth the 52 mile round-trip drive on unpaved road plus the 5.5 mile hike. Do bring lots of water! And… just follow the cairns (piles of rocks).

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      Hello Mari. Thank you so much for your very kind words. And I really appreciate your input on this post…it’s wonderful when our readers help keep our content updated. Happy hiking and happy travels! Cheers, Julie

  3. I’m going to Spooky Gulch this weekend with some skinny relatives. If it’s only 10 in at its narrowest (another person said it was 12 in ) and I’m about 15 to 16 inches at my widest, will I get stuck for sure or is there a way I can be pushed / pulled through its narrowest parts? About how many feet long are the narrowest sections? I’m 5 ft 3 in tall. If I crouch down will it be wider at the bottom in the narrowest sections? Is Peekaboo Gulch much wider? Thanks for your help.

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      Hello Kerry. You might be able to crouch down and slide through the lower part of the slot canyon. There is a photo of Tim in the narrowest section, so you can get an idea of what it is like, and might be able to tell how wide it is at the bottom. It’s been a few years since we did this, but I think that this very narrow section is 10 to 15 feet long. Peek-a-Boo is much wider, there shouldn’t be an issue here. Just be ready for the steep climb up into the canyon and few areas of rock scrambling. Have a great hike! Cheers, Julie

  4. We just hiked Picaboo and Spooky today. The canyons are beautiful. The hole in the rock road has a lot of washboard but no clearance or other problem areas. We saw lots of cars on it. They have changed the parking and start of the trail. The parking is graveled out nicely so it is passable by all vehicles. The trail is about a mile longer than it used to be due to the new parking area. You take about a mile walk along the rim of the wash before dropping down the slick rock and sandy sections making it about 5.5 miles to go up picaboo and down spooky. They have new signs and have done work to better mark the trail. They do have a sign saying you should go up picaboo and down spooky. We took rope to get our kids up the initial face into picaboo and ended up helping several other groups. If you get down on you knees in the tightest spot jn spooky it is wider so you can get through easier. Enjoy the beautiful trail.

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      These tips are amazing!!! Thank you so much for sharing them with us and with our readers! Happy travels to wherever you go next! Cheers, Julie

  5. We hiked Peek-A-Boo canyon today (didn’t continue on into Spooky Canyon) but there wasn’t a park ranger or any signs directing traffic through the slot canyons. Most people who didn’t want to continue on to Spooky Canyon just turned around and back-tracked through Peek-A-Boo and exited out through the entrance, which is what we did. I agree with a recent comment about the road condition. We had 4×4 and made it just fine, but the condition is pretty rough right now. We did pass a road grader that had smoothed out a short section, so they might be planning on doing the entire whole road. P.S. – We VERY much enjoy your blogs and use them extensively to plan some of our trips, so thank you for the tremendous effort you put into them!

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      Hello Holly. Thank you for these great updates!! I hope you have a great time wherever you are headed next. Happy Travels! Cheers, Julie

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