If you’re planning a Utah Road trip, then let me introduce you to Hole in the Rock Road- the dirt road that holds some of the best FREE hiking and camping in Southern Utah.
Hole in the Rock Road is full of epic areas to explore that allow you to bring your dog, get away from the large crowds, and enjoy the remote desert. If you’re looking for areas to hit that aren’t in a National Park, or are looking for the perfect off-beaten addition to your Utah road trip itinerary, you’ve come to the right place!
In this post I’ve created a complete guide to exploring Hole in the Rock Road to help you build your itinerary. Keep reading for safety tips, hiking destinations, and camping spots!
About Hole In The Rock Road
Hole in the Rock Road (BLM 200) is a dirt road accessed off US-12 roughly 4.5 miles east of Escalante, Utah. If you’re traveling from Capitol Reef National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park you’ll pass right by it!
It is roughly 62 miles long and leads travelers through a part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, ending at an actual hole in the rock on the western shore of Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This road follows the general route of the original Hole in the Rock Expedition.
This expedition was led by Mormon Pioneers in 1878-1879, who were part of the San Juan mission with a goal to expand their settlements into Southern Utah. The pioneers ended up camping at Hole in the Rock for the winter and worked on expanding the hole so they could travel through.
This piece of history only makes reaching Hole in the Rock, and maybe even camping where the pioneers camped, that much more exciting!
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What To Expect When Driving Hole In The Rock Road
First thing first, you need to understand what you are getting yourself into. Hole in the Rock road is not a ‘last minute, spur of the moment decision’. There are some things you definitely need to be aware of and take into account. I’ve listed these for you below:
- Zero Services
Hole in the Rock road does not have any gas stations, markets, information stations, etc. You can count on having 0 services for 62 miles (one way). No matter how far you plan on driving, you’ll need to be prepared to hold your own during any situation.
I highly suggest having a spare tire and knowing how to change it, enough food and water for an extra day, and extra gas if you plan on driving the entire road down and back.
PRO TIP: There are no routine patrols by any agencies along this road. If you head out, be prepared to hold your own.
- Unreliable Cell Reception
You can not count on having cell reception while exploring Hole in the Rock Road. When I visited, I had reception through Verizon for the first few miles. After that, there was absolutely no reception. This is when having a Satellite Communicator / Personal Locator like a Garmin InReach Explorer+ would be a good idea.
- Rough Road Conditions
The road is a lengthy dirt road that almost any car can travel on up until the last 10 miles, then a high clearance 4×4 is required. If you don’t plan on driving to the very end then don’t worry about having a 4×4, but do check on the road conditions before traveling! The entire road is a washboard and can make driving it a bit miserable for both you and your vehicle.
Depending on the season, Hole in the Rock Road can be impassable due to snow, mud, or ruts in the road. You can check this website for updated road conditions and more information on visiting the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument area.
- Epic hiking spots!
Some of the roughest roads lead to some of the best destinations, and in this case, it is true! Hole in the Rock Road leads you right to a handful of great trailheads, as well as connecting roads to more remote trailheads.
Keep reading for a list of hiking spots to add to your itinerary.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Spring and fall are by far the best times to drive and hike along Hole in the Rock Road! We’re talking about being out in the middle of the desert terrain without any services. This means 0 shade and 100+ temps during summer, so summer would not be ideal for a majority of these hikes.
If you’re traveling with your furry friend, please do not even attempt to hike during the summer out here. Their natural body temperatures are higher than ours which means they overheat faster. Not to mention all these trails are sandy and when baked in the sun they become too hot for their paws. If you’re convinced on hiking in the summer, please at least leave the furry one behind!
Nearest Services To Hole In The Rock Road
Since there are no services along this road you’ll want to stock up before heading out. Make sure you have 1 gallon of water per person for each day especially during the hotter months! I always suggest having an extra gallon as a backup. You’ll want to fill your gas tank and stock up on extra snacks/food as well.
SUGGESTION: Regardless if you drive to the end or not, I would allow yourself at least 2 days to explore this road and the hikes along it!
If you’re headed to Hole in the Rock Road from Capitol Reef National Park you’ll want to stop at the Phillips 66 gas station at the intersection of US-12 and Utah State Route 24. There is a Subway and other minimal services here which will pretty much be the last you’ll pass for miles. Boulder, UT has very minimal services and will be the last you’ll pass before turning on the dirt road.
You may also want to consider adding time to stop at Lower Calf Creek Falls on your way between Capitol Reef and Hole in the Rock Road!
From Bryce Canyon National Park headed to Hole in the Rock Road you have 2 good options when it comes to services. First you’ll pass through Tropic, which is where I prefer to stop and stock up. You’ll also be able to stop in Escalante since you’ll pass through it before turning down the dirt road.
Hole In The Rock Road Hikes
My goodness, the destinations along Hole in the Rock Road seem endless. You could easily spend an entire week exploring the area! This is by no means an all-inclusive list, however I’ve included the main stops along the road in order, plus some camping spots. It should be enough to keep you busy!
You can use the interactive map below to familiarize yourself with Hole in the Rock Road and the destinations along it. If you want to zoom in or out just use two fingers or your mouse scroll button. The icon in the top left corner expands the menu where you can turn off the Hikes or Camping layers. Click on a specific point for more information.
CEDAR WASH ARCH
The first hike option comes at about 3.2 miles down Hole in the Rock Road. You’ll want to turn right onto Cedar Wash Road and drive another 3.5 miles to the unmarked trailhead for Cedar Wash Arch.
This arch is a natural white sandstone arch that was carved by the wind over many, many years. It really isn’t a hike to get to the arch as much as it is a walk. However, since the trailhead isn’t marked it can be pretty tricky to find.
You’ll need to use a combination of a GPS map and your own wayfinding capabilities. The best way to reach the arch is by walking along the slickrock. You’ll want to be careful not to walk too close to the edge for there are some steep drop offs, but if you approach the arch this way you’ll be able to hike right up to it!
Once you’re done viewing the arch, you can turn around and head back to Hole in the Rock Road, OR, continue down Cedar Wash road a little ways to hike to the Covered Wagon Bridge.
Click here for driving directions!
COVERED WAGON NATURAL BRIDGE
Drive 1.6 miles further down Cedar Wash Road and you’ll be at Covered Wagon Natural Bridge! You’ll want to be on the lookout for this trailhead, for there is only a set of 3 large boulders and an un-named brown post marking it.
This natural bridge is located in a wash and was carved out by water over many, many years. It only takes a few minutes to reach the arch/bridge. The trail usually leads you out on top of it, so you’ll need to hike down into the wash to get the full view of it.
Once you’re done visiting the Covered Wagon Natural Bridge, you can continue down Cedar Wash Road which will lead you into Escalante, or turn around and head back to Hole in the Rock Road for more adventure!
Click here for driving directions!
BIG HORN CANYON
The next hike along Hole in the Rock Road is a great dog friendly slot canyon. At about 4.6 miles you’ll drive upon the un-marked trailhead on the left side of the road. It doesn’t look like one because there are two large, blue containers that make it look un-inviting, but you can park here!
Big Horn Canyon is a great slot canyon option if the popular Zebra Slot Canyon (listed below) is too crowded for your liking. The Big Horn Slot Canyon is dry, doesn’t get as narrow, and is great for dogs and kids to enjoy.
Getting to the slot canyon is pretty straight forward but is exposed and dry. This is not one you’ll want to do during the summer because it’ll take you 2 miles to even get to the slot canyon itself. All together you’re looking at hiking 5-6 miles round trip. You can read my post below for more in-depth information on this hike!
Click here for driving directions!
ZEBRA SLOT CANYON
Zebra Slot Canyon is probably the most popular of Hole in the Rock hikes. The large parking lot is 8 miles down Hole in the Rock Road and marked. You’ll park on the right side of the road but the trailhead will begin on the other side so you’ll have to cross it to begin your hike.
The trail is 5.3 miles total and is done as an out and back. It takes roughly 45 minutes to reach the entrance of the slot canyon and is exposed the entire way there. The slot canyon itself is very short and it does get filled with water depending on recent rainfall, so expect to get wet during this adventure. The water level can range anywhere from ankle to chest deep!
The canyon gets narrow very quickly so leaving your pack at the entrance is always a good idea. This will allow you to maneuver through the tight spaces much easier. Also consider bringing along water friendly shoes to change into before you enter the canyon!
Click here for driving directions!
NOTE: Although dogs are technically allowed to use this trail, I’d refrain from taking them into the slot canyon unless they are small and can be carried. Instead, try taking them to the Big Horn Slot Canyon listed above!
One of my favorite little stops along Hole in the Rock Road was Devil’s Garden. This isn’t actually a hike, rather you park at the parking lot and walk around the hoodoos to explore as much as you wish. The area is very sandy and not much shade is available.
Kids and dogs tend to love this area because you can climb and explore the rock formations! The sandstone can wear down your dog’s paws if they’re climbing a lot, so I do suggest putting some boots on them if their paws aren’t built up to withstand the elements.
Devil’s Garden is a perfect sunrise or sunset area to photograph! The most popular arch to photograph here is Metate Arch (pictured above). There are also some picnic tables to sit at and a vault toilet is provided near the parking area.
To get here you’ll turn right off Hole in the Rock Road onto BLM 225. This short road will dead end right at the Devil’s Garden parking area.
Click here for driving directions!
20 MILE DINOSAUR TRACKS
Your next destination along Hole in the Rock Road could be the 20 Mile Dinosaur Tracks. They are a little ways off the main road, but if you are a big dinosaur fan or want some good remote camping spots, it may be worth it!
Getting to the trail is a little tricky and finding the dinosaur tracks can be even more tricky. If you know exactly what you are looking for it is easier. But if you go out without a clue like I did, you’ll start to think everything could be a dino track! I highly suggest doing some more in-depth research on this one as far as what to look for.
NOTE: I am no archeologist, so I am not 100% certain the pictures I’m sharing are in fact dinosaur tracks. This is just the closest thing that I found and thought could resemble the tracks. Regardless, it is still fun to search for them and think what you found was ‘it’!
As far as directions go, I can 100% help you get there! From Hole in the Rock Road you’ll turn right on Left Hand Collet Road. Travel down this road for a ways, and turn onto an un-marked dirt road into Left Hand Collet Canyon. This is where having a map or GPS of your own will come in handy.
You’ll know where to turn right once you see a large, white outcropping of rock. It really stands out! Once you turn on the un-marked dirt road it’ll lead you towards the white outcropping. You’ll want to hang a left and there will be a very small dirt parking area with a small white paper marking the trail. From here you just hike out onto the rock outcropping and wander around to find the dinosaur tracks!
The mapped directions below bring you to the general area. However, use these coordinates for the exact parking and trailhead location- (37.55069, -111.42487).
Even if you import these into Google Maps it’ll only bring you to the general area. You’ll have to use a GPS app such as Gaia GPS App to be exact.
Click here for general driving directions!
You’ve probably already seen Golden Cathedral on social media, in magazines, or on calendars. It is THE iconic destination within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument! It sits within the Neon Canyon which isn’t so easy to get to, however. I haven’t visited yet myself, but I still wanted to include this in the guide so you’re aware of the opportunity!
To get to the trailhead you’ll travel 16 miles down Hole in the Rock Road to Egypt Road, which is located on the left. From here on a 4×4 vehicle is recommended. You’ll drive down this road for just over 9 miles then turn right to get to the trailhead. Again, Google Maps does not map you directly to the trailhead so you’ll want to use a GPS and these coordinates- (37.59318, -111.21836).
Hiking to the Golden Cathedral can be done as an out and back in one day, but many suggest actually backpacking it for a better experience.
Click here for general driving directions!
PEEK-A-BOO GULCH & SPOOKY GULCH
Up next along Hole in the Rock Road are Peek-A-boo Gulch and Spooky Gulch. These are two separate gulches that can be hiked either as individual out and back hikes or a complete loop! Dry Fork Slot Canyon is another nearby option, but is very narrow and dogs are not allowed.
Peek-A-Boo and Spooky are the most popular ones. Doing each as an out and back is actually fun because the canyons always look different once you turn around. If you’re short on time then hiking the loop is your best bet. If you do hike them as a loop I suggest starting with Peek-A-boo and ending with Spooky Gulch.
If you aren’t afraid of tight spaces and are looking to step up your skills, then you’ll love these gulches. The initial climb up into Peek-A-Boo is roughly 12 feet tall, so if you aren’t comfortable climbing and squeezing through tight spaces, I’d suggest hiking to Zebra Slot Canyon or Big Horn Canyon instead.
Sometimes we don’t have time for both, so if you had to choose between the two I’d suggest Peek-A-Boo. Spooky Gulch is in fact spooky! It gets extremely narrow in some spots and is darker than Peek-A-Boo.
Click here for driving directions!
MORE HOLE IN THE ROCK ROAD HIKES
Unfortunately I haven’t traveled all the way to the end of Hole in the Rock Road yet, and I am not about to pretend I did. It is on my never ending bucket list and I hope to return soon to finish the road, however there are still a couple destinations I want to point out so you know all opportunities!
Below are a couple more stops along Hole in the Rock Road worth researching and adding to your itinerary if you’d like to finish driving the full 62 miles!
DANCE HALL ROCK
HOLE IN THE ROCK (END OF ROAD)
Of course once I get the chance to visit them myself I’ll update this post!
What To Pack For Your Hole In The Rock Road Hikes
Since Hole in the Rock Road takes you through very remote areas you’ll want to be sure you’re prepared on your hikes. No matter how long or short they are, being prepared can help turn a dire situation into a manageable one.
While you should always pack the 10 Hiking Essentials, there are a few extra gear items I find worth mentioning below.
- An appropriate hiking pack
Having a good hiking backpack to carry your supplies and keep your hands free is highly recommended. While Hole in the Rock Road is generally flat, you’ll still be traversing through slot canyons, deep sand, and possibly some slick rock. You’ll also want plenty of room for the 10 Essentials due to the remoteness of the area.
- A hydration bladder
Since you’ll be in the open desert with lack of water resources, having a hydration bladder that fits into your pack is a must. Hydration bladders reduce the amount of plastic bottles you need to bring, take up less space, and allow you to sip water on the go and stay hydrated. For Hole in the Rock Road you want at least 2-3 liters per person to take with on a hike.
- Proper footwear
I highly suggest wearing boots while hiking in this area. There is a lot of deep sand, so having at the least a good mid hiking boot with wool socks will help keep your feet clean. I don’t suggest open toed shoes here since the open desert has many prickly plants, critters, and the sand can be too hot.
- Sun protection
The open desert means a ton of direct sun exposure. Be sure to bring along a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen!
- GPS device
I usually use my phone paired with a portable battery to track myself on the Gaia GPS App. But some of us find it easier or safer to use a handheld GPS to retain battery life and have the Personal Beacon Locator feature incase of an emergency.
Salty snacks and protein are something you should always pack with you! Rise Bars are my favorite protein bars to bring along on hikes. They have whey and vegan options, are soft, and filled with protein!
- Camera gear
The destinations off Hole in the Rock Road are epic, so if you’re one for capturing the beauty of it all, you’ll want the right gear to do so. If you’re still using your phone, consider a light weight tripod to get those shots with you in it.
For a complete human and dog gear list visit my gear page!
Hole In The Rock Road Camping
One of my favorite things about Hole in the Rock Road is the FREE camping available! If you’re willing to rough it in order to access some of these epic destinations and save money, then you’ll be happy to know there are a lot of dispersed camp sites off this road.
The interactive map above (under Hole in the Rock Road Hikes) pin points the camping spots in coordination to the trailheads. There are many more than what I’ve included, but some of us are uneasy at the thought of heading out to camp without knowing exactly where to go. So for your ease of mind, you can input these GPS coordinates and try these ones first!
- RV / Trailer Camping (37.71915, -111.52187)
- Camping Spot (37.65356, -111.46056)
- Large Camping Spot (37.54884, -111.42244)
- Tucked Away Camping Spot (37.55156, -111.42651)
TYPES OF CAMPING OFF HOLE IN THE ROCK ROAD
You’ll either be dispersed camping or backpacking. Dispersed camping is first come first serve and typically done in these fashions:
- Car/Van Camping
- Tent Camping
- RV (with no hookups)
- Small trailer / teardrop (no hookups)
If you plan on bringing an RV or small trailer you’ll be able to camp within the first mile of the road, off to the right in the large dirt parking lot. Beyond that I would not suggest bringing an RV or trailer down Hole in the Rock Road.
I say this for two reasons. First, it would not do well on the washboard road, deep ruts, or at areas where a 4×4 is required. You can never guarantee the conditions of this road.
And secondly, dispersed camping is in designated spots only which may be hard to navigate RV’s/trailers and cause a larger negative impact on the environment than need be. Remember the leave no trace principals!
PERMITS FOR OVERNIGHT CAMPING/BACKPACKING
Both the Grand Staircase-Escalante NM and Escalante District of the GCRA require permits for overnight camping and backpacking. Hole in the Rock Road runs between both these areas so you’ll need a permit if you plan on staying the night.
These permits are FREE and are used to monitor the amounts of visitors as well as have a paper trail for search and rescue in case of an emergency. It is important you fill out a permit for your own safety.
You can pick up a permit from any of the visitor centers or fill one out at the trailheads.
Final Thoughts On Hole In The Rock Road
I grew up on dirt roads and camping in the woods, so I was thrilled to find Hole in the Rock Road just outside of Escalante, Utah. It offers much of the same opportunities that I am used to- epic destinations to explore, free camping, and a chance to get away and un-plug from the world for a bit.
Visiting Hole in the Rock Road would be the perfect addition to your Southern Utah itinerary, even if it is just for a day. I do suggest at least 2 days so you have time to fit in multiple of the day hikes, but something is better than nothing!
It is essential that you arrive prepared regardless of how long you plan on staying. I hope this guide has helped you plan ahead so you can enjoy your adventures! And as always, please be considerate of the environment so we can keep enjoying it and remember to leave no trace.
More in Utah:
- 5 Reasons to stop at Toadstool Hoodoos near Kanab
- 6 Best Bryce Canyon Winter Hikes and things to do
- Hike to Observation Point in Zion National Park from Zion Ponderosa
- The Best Zion National Park Airbnb on a Mountain Resort