Tucked away in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument you can find a little desert oasis- Lower Calf Creek Falls. This moderate hike embarks from a campground and leads you to a 126 foot waterfall which pours into a deep swimming pool below.
This oasis lies within the most beautiful part of Southern Utah between the small towns of Boulder and Escalante. Calf Creek Falls can be reached by driving the famous US-12 highway which is full of varying landscapes along its route.
If you find yourself driving between the Utah Mighty 5, stopping for a night at the Calf Creek Campground should be on your itinerary if it isn’t already your destination.
Keep reading for a quick guide to hiking Lower Calf Creek Falls, camping at the campground, and more!
Lower Calf Creek Falls Hiking Stats
Distance: 6 miles
Type: Out & Back
Location: Near Boulder, UT
Dogs Allowed: Yes, leashed
Trailhead: Lower Calf Creek Falls TH
Fees: $5 day parking, $15 camping
Note: Fees are always subject to change and must be paid in CASH. Be sure to have cash with you during your visit.
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Where is Lower Calf Creek Falls?
This stunning waterfall is located right off of US-12 just outside of Boulder, Utah. If you’re traveling from Capitol Reef National Park to Bryce Canyon or vice versa, you’ll be passing right by it! This is why Lower Calf Creek Falls is a great addition to your road trip itinerary.
The trailhead begins from the Calf Creek campground area and dead ends at the waterfall. The drive from the highway down into the day parking area and campground is steep and should be traveled with caution- especially if pulling a trailer or driving an RV.
I’ve seen both RV’s and trailers parked in the day parking, but be aware it isn’t exactly set up for large rigs and it will be difficult when busy to fit in somewhere. If you’re parking at a campsite, however, you should be able to fit in just fine.
Upper vs. Lower Calf Creek Falls
Calf Creek Falls is split into two parts- an upper and lower. The Upper Falls are 88 feet tall, an easier trail, and are located a little ways up the highway from the Lower. The hike to the Lower Falls is longer but much more enoyable.
The waterfall is much more impressive also, standing at 126 feet tall! The campground is also located here, so if you have limited time and had to choose between the two, I’d choose the Lower Falls!
Best time to visit Lower Calf Creek Falls
THE BEST SEASON
Calf Creek Falls is open year round, however some seasons are easier to visit than others. Spring and fall are the most comfortable times to visit due to milder temperatures and less crowds. Still, most people favorite summer due to freed up schedules and hot temperatures which are perfect for taking a dip in the cold mountain water.
If you don’t mind the cold weather and maybe some snow or ice, winter is always an option too. I’d suggest bringing traction devices just incase the trail is icy. It is good practice to always have a pair of crampons with you when winter hiking.
As far as the water flow goes, it seems to always be strong no matter the season!
THE BEST TIME OF DAY
Dependent on the season of course, but usually hiking first thing in the morning or starting in the evening is best. This is especially true during the summer! In the summertime Lower Calf Creek Falls gets packed very fast. Even for day hiking you’ll want to arrive well before 8 a.m. to find parking, or opt for a sunset hike.
Don’t forget you’re still in the desert so the sand bakes in the sun all day and there won’t be much shade during the hike. Hiking midday during hot weather is never a comfortable or safe experience.
PRO TIP: I learned the best time in the late spring or summer to hike is the evening. I’ve always ended up with the waterfall to myself and made it back just before dark! There was more shade, the temps were cooling down, and I could hike barefoot!
BEST TIME TO HIKE WITH A DOG
Spring, fall, and winter are the best times to hike Lower Calf Creek Falls with your dog. They will appreciate the more comfortable temperatures and it should be less crowded.
If you do visit during summer, I highly suggest doing an evening hike. Each time I took Monty we began hiking around 4-4:30 p.m. in June when the sun made its way to the other side of the canyon, so it wasn’t beating down on us and there was more shade.
A large portion of this trail is exposed sand. Do not even attempt hiking during hot temperatures with your dog if you can’t carry them for half of the trail! The sand gets way too hot for their paws. You should always have a pair of dog boots handy just incase, but the midday sand will still be too hot even for those.
Hiking Lower Calf Creek Falls
The trail to the Lower Calf Creek Falls begins from the edge of the campground. There should be a paper guide for you to grab which coordinates with the numbered posts along the trail to provide information and make your hike more enjoyable!
Overall the trail is very well groomed and relatively flat. Along with the numbered posts beside the trail there are usually water jugs left for emergency water ONLY.
Always pack more water than you think you’ll need. However, the desert summers are no joke so if you run out and need water, they are there to save your life.
There is a portion of the hike where you’ll be stepping into some pretty deep sand. It can be tough on the calves after a while, so just take it slow and know it doesn’t last for too long. Be careful for if the sun has been beaming down on the sand all day it can be extremely hot!
Since I began hiking to Lower Calf Creek Falls in the evenings I’ve been able to do this trail there and back barefoot. It is always a nice break stepping out of those sweaty hiking shoes and letting the toes breath. If you know you’ll want to wade into the water consider brining along some Chaco’s for your hike.
Sometimes there is a point when you wonder “am I there yet”? and I feel like no matter how many times I hike this trail I question that. For some reason this trail seems longer than it really is. Maybe it is the excitement for the waterfall, who knows. Just know that once you see the waterfall off in the distance you are very close!
The area quickly becomes lush green and if there are other groups at the waterfall running around you’ll be able to hear their screams echo. The trail will dead end at the waterfall, leaving you nowhere else to go, and this is how you’ll know you’ve arrived.
If you get lucky you may be able to snag one of the very few spots to string up your hammock and take in the view. The mountain water is always freezing cold but worth wading into. The water quickly gets deep especially at the base of the waterfall thanks to the powerful rushing water from above.
Once you’re ready to head back to the campground you’ll just follow the same trail out and end up right back where you started!
Camping at Calf Creek Campground
Amenities: Toilets, Picnic Table at each site, and fire rings.
Type: Tent, Car, Van, Hammock, small trailer
Reservations: None, first come first serve
Number of sites: 13
Fee: $15 / cash.
If you plan on camping (which I highly suggest), you’ll want to arrive very early to snag a camping spot, even during the week and especially during peak seasons. Lower Calf Creek Falls has gained a lot of popularity recently, so even if it is offseason I’d still plan on arriving early.
The Calf Creek Campground only has 13 camping sites and they are first come first serve. Some of the sites are under direct sunlight while others are spoiled with trees and shade. Most likely you’ll just have to take what you can get, so plan for either!
There is a camp host on site for ease of mind if you have any issues or questions about the area.
Reminder: This area is down in a canyon, so even during summer it can get very cold at night. Keep this in mind when packing for your trip!
Tips for visiting Lower Calf Creek Falls
- Arrive early
Being an early bird helps increase your chances of securing a parking spot or camp site during the peak seasons. Getting an early start to your hike, depending on the season, can also help you beat the heat and crowds.
- Consider hiking for sunset
Not everyone is comfortable hiking back with a trusty headlamp, but if you are, try this one for sunset. The temps will be cooler in the summer evenings, the sun won’t be beating down on you, and your chances of having time alone at the waterfall are much higher!
- Pack plenty of water
This is still the desert, so it is highly suggested that you pack 2-3 liters per person for this hike. Using a hydration bladder makes it easier to sip water as you’re moving, plus it reduces the amount of water bottles you’ll need to bring along.
- Bring a hammock and snacks for at the waterfall!
My favorite thing to do at Lower Calf Creek Falls is to string up my hammock and relax while eating snacks. The water is so loud, there is usually a nice breeze, and the view isn’t half that bad either. Rise Bars are my favorite protein bars to bring along on hikes!
- Pack layers if you plan on camping
Nighttime can get very cold in this little canyon, even during the summer. Pack layers if you plan on camping and check the weather before visiting. I always bring along a packable jacket with me no matter where I go!
- Use appropriate hiking backpack and shoes
The hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls is 6 miles round trip, so having a good hiking backpack to carry your supplies will make this trek easier on your back and keep your hands free.
While you’ll be hiking on some rock, a lot of the trail is soft and sandy. You can wear your favorite hiking shoes if you prefer, but here I like to switch to water friendly shoes such as my Crocs or Chaco’s.
- Remember to Leave No Trace
Part of responsibly recreating in the outdoors is knowing and following the Leave No Trace Principals. It is imperative we all follow the principals so we can continue to visit these destinations and keep the environment in tact for future generations to enjoy.
Learn more about Leave No Trace.
Final thoughts on Lower Calf Creek Falls
This is one area I like to put on my bucket list every year. I’ve always had a great time hiking and camping at Lower Calf Creek Falls so it will continue to be a destination of choice for me.
Once I learned that hiking in the evening with my dog was more comfortable, I began to have more relaxing and fulfilling experiences at the waterfall. With places being so busy nowadays it can be very difficult to have a place to yourself. Here, even if there are 1-2 other small parties at the same time, you still have enough room to spread out.
Of course to get the full experience I always suggest camping! You can go for your hike then return to your campsite to make dinner, light a fire, and enjoy the bright stars above.
More in Utah:
- Complete Hole in the Rock Road Hiking and Camping Guide
- 11 of the Best Salt Lake City Hikes
- Big Horn Canyon in Escalante- a must see dog friendly slot canyon
- Hike to Observation Point in Zion National Park from Zion Ponderosa
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