Lower Calf Creek Falls Hiking Guide
One of the spectacular places to visit in Utah is desert waterfall where the water plunges 130 feet over a sandstone cliff into a pool of cool water.
Use this Lower Calf Creek Falls hiking guide to be prepared to hike this fun trail.
When the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah was formed, the Calf Creek Falls area became a tourist destination.
The falls are named for its use as a natural pen for calves back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Check out these hiking resources to make sure you have everything you need to explore the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail.
- What to Bring on a Day Hike
- Hiking Gear and Tips for Kids
- Winter Clothing for Hiking
- Photography Gear for Hiking
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How to Get to Lower Calf Creek Falls
Lower Calf Creek Falls is one of the best stops along Scenic Byway 12. The trailhead is located at the Calf Creek Campground, 11 miles south of the town of Boulder, and 15 miles east of the town of Escalante, Utah.
Arrive EARLY to escape the crowds, avoid the summer heat and find a parking spot at the Calf Creek Falls trailhead.
The trailhead contains an information kiosk and a modern restroom. There are no facilities along the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail. The restrooms at the parking lot are closed during the off season. There is another restroom on the way to the trailhead. You’ll see a sign for a restroom across a small bridge, but it’s actually a ways past the bridge, in the camping area.
A small fee is required to park in the day use area and is payable at the information kiosk. Visit the Bureau of Land Management website for the most updated information regarding permits and fees.
Where to Stay at Lower Calf Creek Falls
There are 13 camp sites available at the Calf Creek Campground. They are a first come first served. There is a fee to use the campground.
The options for hotels in the Boulder/Escalante area are a bit limited.
We added the Calf Creek Falls hike to our itinerary when visiting Bryce Canyon National Park so we chose to stay in a town that was a mid-way point between Bryce Canyon and Escalante/Boulder.
The Bryce Canyon Villas in Cannonville, Utah are clean, quaint cottages with a mini fridge and microwave. We always make sure to have a microwave where we stay so we can prepare a hot meal and avoid the time and cost of eating out! There aren’t a lot of perks here, but we weren’t there to sit in the hotel room so that didn’t matter to us.
You could also add the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike to your itinerary when visiting Capitol Reef National Park and stay in the Torrey area.
The Capitol Reef Resort has fun accommodations from guestrooms and luxury cabins to Conestoga wagons and teepees. We have enjoyed our stays there, especially the fact it’s so close to Capitol Reef. But it would be a fun day trip from here to Lower Calf Creek Falls. The town of Torrey, Utah has many hotel options as well:
What to Pack for the Lower Calf Creek Falls Hike
Highway 12 has Bryce Canyon City on one end and Torrey on the other end. Along the highway there are only very small towns. During the slow season of October through May, many stores and restaurants close. There is a small grocery store in Tropic and a few gas station mini marts along Highway 12.
BUT TO BE SAFE, we recommend you have at least a full tank of gas, water and food to eat in your car as you explore Highway 12 just in case nothing is open.
Here’s a list of road trip items to pack and healthy snack ideas for your travels.
We recommend this hiking gear for the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike:
- Water – Be sure to carry adequate water. During the off season, there is no water available. It’s a good practice to always bring your own water for hiking in more remote areas. We use hydration packs to carry our water, healthy snacks and other essentials.
- Hiking shoes combined with Darn Tough Socks.
- Dress in layers appropriate for the season
- Lunch or snack to eat while you relax at the falls
Tips to Photograph Lower Calf Creek Falls
Morning – Visit the Lower Calf Creek waterfall in the morning while it’s in the sunlight. Around noon the sun lights up the canyon walls and the falls and colors become less vibrant.
Wildlife – When the trail runs beside Calf Creek, look for trout or the evidence of busy beavers. Birds in the area include hummingbirds, ravens, robins, peregrine falcons and spotted towhees. The brochure indicate lizards, mule deer, ground squirrels, coyote, porcupine and mountain lion can be present along the trail.
Weight and space are important packing your photography gear for hiking. We rely on our camera gear checklist to make sure we don’t forget the camera accessories we need to photograph rivers and waterfalls:
Lenses – A wide-angle lens provides the overview of the entire Calf Creek Falls area. A mid lens captures the waterfall with surrounding trees. A telephoto lens allows isolation of the colors on the stone and the falling water.
Tripod – A tripod is necessary for long exposures to give the falling water a blurred motion effect. The area can be fairly dark with a constant breeze from the falls that poses a real challenge if you include trees and branches in your composition.
Lens Cloth – Use the camera lens cloth to keep your lens free of water drops from the spray of the Calf Creek Waterfall.
Lower Calf Creek Falls Hiking Guide
- Distance: 5.8 miles (round trip) to Lower Calf Creek Falls
- Elevation: 5,350-ft. at Trailhead; 5,550-ft. at Lower Calf Creek Falls
- Elevation Gain: 200-ft. to Lower Calf Creek Falls
- Difficulty: easy
The Lower Calf Creek Falls trail is about 3 miles one-way and will require approximately 1 1/2 hours to hike one-way.
From the trailhead follow the signs through the campground to the Calf Creek Falls trail. Just after the trail leaves the paved road there will be a trail register on your left.
Sign in and pick up a trail guide to enjoy the interpretive stops along the way to the falls.
The brochure indicates points of interest including canyon walls with desert varnish, two granaries and a pictograph panel made by Fremont Indians approximately 900 years ago.
The Lower Calf Creek Falls hike is moderately difficult due to the long stretches of deep sand that will slow your pace. The path is generally flat and sunny as it follows the creek.
I found myself many times thinking, “Are we there yet?” as we rounded corner after corner. But the grandeur of the canyon walls, sound of running water from the creek and other sites along the way helped keep me moving.
The breath-taking waterfall is the reward at the end of this hike. The mist from the falls and the shady shore create an oasis to relax, eat lunch and take in the wonder of it all.
There is a pool for swimming at the base of the waterfall. During summertime, especially on weekends, the area is filled with families. After a long, hot hike to the falls the cold water is most refreshing.
We did the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike in April. It was cold and rain clouds filled the sky. It was not a day to swim in the pool under the falls, but a group of young men took the plunge. Brrrr!
Return the way you came.