Lower Calf Creek Falls & Scenic Byway 12
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
Lower Calf Creek Falls with greater than 120 foot drop into a amazing sandy bottom pool the kids and dogs could play in, is a great destination.
Breathtaking views of the canyon at every turn
Variety of plants and flowers to explore and photograph
Dog and kid friendly
Hiking at dawn was a good choice for us to beat the heat and crowds.
Scenic Highway 12 will be remembered as one of the highlights of the trip with cattle, mule deer, a 14% grade, and Dixie National Forest
Word of caution: Scenic Highway 12 can cause car sickness as mentioned in more detail below. We recommend Sea-Band Acupressure Wrist Bands and use them often for our Brood when traveling. They were required for this drive.
My wife and I have a good relationship. I'm always calculated, some would say deliberative, and she always pushes me to be more adventurous. I don't like it when we are planning but am always happy with the outcome. This is one of those times. As you can see in the map Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail is halfway between Torrey UT and Bryce Canyon via US scenic highway 12.
We discussed taking the RV with truck in tow along the scenic byway on our way to Bryce and stop at the falls trail. This would save us a two hour round trip drive and we could free up a day to do something else in Escalante. So, my calculated mind started doing some research while we were in Moab. This is the parking lot:
Based on these views we decided to take the truck and leave the Motorhome at the RV Park. We left our campground, in Torrey, early in the morning, with the knowledge that the parking lot was small and the hike would be great. We knew nothing of the drive and what we were about to experience. Dawn was beautiful on the road and we really enjoyed the trees of Dixie National Forest on Boulder Mountain. Fun fact is that you can get a Christmas Tree Permit to cut your own Christmas Tree. There are no guard rails although there is decent shoulder. We found out there are a lot of spaces to camp. Click here for Dixie National Forest - Camping.
In the forest, there we found thousands of cattle grazing along the road and hundreds of mule deer. We really had to be cautious to watch out for animals in the road. When we got to the Hogback we were amazed to see no guard rails and both shoulders separated the road from significant descents down the mountain. It was breathtakingly beautiful and a little unnerving. There is a final descent to the Falls trail parking lot. I've never seen a road with a 14% grade before. This descent was 14% and there was very little notice.
We also didn't know that the entrance to the parking lot was on the grade and I warmed up the brakes a little as we slowed abruptly and made our turn. There were about five other vehicles in the parking lot. We grabbed our packs, grabbed our dogs and walked through the campground to the trailhead. Tent camping or camper vans are the only way to camp at this campground and I was a little jealous others got to spend the night here and we didn't. Every way to camp has its advantages.
We started the trail before 8am and came across a few other hikers. The trail follows the canyon from the campground to the Falls. The trail is rated moderate and mostly sand and rock with flowers and plants lining the trail. The trail has about 16 points of interest indicated by a numbered post. Knowing this on the way back helped us understand how far we travelled. The canyon is beautiful and the creek is teeming with fish. I'm not sure I could describe the hike well so here are pictures and links to short videos that show the canyon as best as I could capture it. The Falls and pond were beautiful. The water was cold, clear, and the best destination for thirsty dogs. The creek falls 126 feet into the pond. As with most Falls the pond is deeper the closer you get to the Falls. On the way, back to the trailhead we encountered over 100 people and a few groups over 10. The parking lot was full, when we returned, with cars parked wherever their drivers could find a spot.
The Flowers. I have to show you the flowers:
As we drove back to the RV park, the mule deer were gone and the cattle were less numerous. My wife asked me why I was so depressed or upset. I was struggling because I enjoy driving through the mountains fast and we are always short on time. So, I was really trying hard not to drive "my speed" because, the rest of the brood gets car sick. About the same time, we got passed by a minivan from Illinois. I commented about the van to prove my point. About five minutes later, the minivan put on their hazards, pulled off the side of the road and the passenger opened the door. Clearly the driver wasn't listening to their passengers! I was ok driving slow afterwards. We were all worried about the passenger, and very happy the rest of the way back to the RV. Again, here is the link for the sea bands: https://amzn.to/2KHelCI
In summary, the Falls trail was one of the highlights of our trip. I would not recommend large motorhomes on Scenic Highway 12. I'm sure it can be done, but not for me. The going is slow, the cattle and mule deer are a risk, and the grade is the difficult. Here is the route we took. The route was much easier, scenic, and we enjoyed taking a different route.
Let us know what you think? Maps, aerial photos, and 14% grade sign from Google.