Lower Calf Creek Falls Hiking Guide

Lower Calf Creek Falls in Utah, USA is a spectacular desert waterfall where the water plunges 130 feet over a sandstone cliff into a pool of cool water.

The falls are named for its use as a natural pen for calves back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

When the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah was formed, the Calf Creek Falls area became a tourist destination.

Use our Lower Calf Creek Falls hiking guide to be prepared to hike this fun trail.

  • How to get to Lower Calf Creek Falls
  • Where to stay
  • What to pack
  • Trail description

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How to Get to Lower Calf Creek Falls

The trailhead is located at the Calf Creek Campground on Highway 12, 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.

Lower Calf Creek Falls at the end of the hiking trail in Utah

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 Capitol Reef National Park itinerary 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:

Where we’ve stayed: 

Lower Calf Creek Falls in Utah

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, snacks and other essentials.
  • Good hiking shoes –  Our favorite hiking shoes are Merrell Moab combined with Darn Tough Socks. Your feet will thank you!
  • Hat or Buff headband – We like the versatility of the Buff headbands.
  • Sunscreen
  • Dress in layers appropriate for the season
  • Lunch or snack to eat while you relax at the falls
  • Hiking Gear Checklist for Kids
Lower Calf Creek Falls at the end of the hiking trail in Utah

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.

CAMERA GEAR: Travel Cameras | Travel Tripods

Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail Information

  • 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. 

pictoglyphs along the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail in Utah

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.

Lower Calf Creek Falls hiking trail under a blue sky with clouds

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.

woman standing along the edge of the creek along the Calf Creek Falls hiking trail in Utah

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.

woman relaxing in the shade by the Lower Calf Creek Falls in Utah

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!

A group of young men in the cold pool of water at the bottom of the Lower Calf Creek Falls in Utah

Return the way you came.


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