Trail Report- Willis Creek at the Grand Escalante Staircase National Monument

The Quick and Dirty:

Location: Grand Escalante Staircase National Monument
Distance: 4.8 miles round trip but we only did about 2.5 to 3 miles
Terrain Type: Slot Canyon, water resistant shoes recommended for portion of the hike
Difficulty:  Easy during summer and difficult to finish the entire hike when the slot canyon is frozen in the winter time.
Best Time: Early summer to late fall, we did this hike in late December and were not able to complete the entire trail.
Special Conditions: 6.3 miles off-roading, 4WD and high clearance vehicle recommended during wet seasons. Avoid the trail when there is heavy rain or flash flood warning. Be sure to check the weather before you head out!
Duration: The trail took us a couple hours because we were only able to access the first mile and a half due to thin ice.

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Willis Creek is located at the western portion of Grand Escalante Staircase National Monument right next to Bryce Canyon National Park. Known for its famous slot canyons, we set out on our second day of our winter vacation to hike Willis Creek and Lick Wash trail. This post only talks about Willis Creek, I will discuss Lick Wash trail in my next post.

The drive to Willis Creek from Ruby’s Inn near Bryce Canyon National Park took about 30 minutes with 6.3 miles of off-roading. Thanks to great driving directions given by Your Hike Guide, we had no trouble finding the trail head. We did this drive with our 2WD Honda Accord on a dry and beautiful sunny winter day. We were very fortunate with the road conditions and had no problems in the off-road portion of the drive. However, there was no way we could have made the drive if the trail is muddy or flooded.

We got to the trail head around 11AM. It was a beautiful sunny day and the water in the slot canyon was still frozen at the start of our hike.

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Entrance of the first slot canyon

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Sliding into the slot canyon, at this point the ice is still froze solid and holding our weight.

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Coming out of the slot canyon, into a frozen river

We were only able to travel a mile and a half into the trail. When we got to the entrance of the second slot canyon, the ice became too thin to walk through. Even though our hiking boots were water-proof, we did not want to risk getting our feet wet. By the time we turned back, a fair amount of  ice has melted, making it difficult to walk on without cracking.

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Thin ice during our walk back to the trail head.

Even though we were not able to finish the entire hike, we were so glad we were able to hike a portion of this trail. The slot canyons looks completely different in the winter time, the frozen ice really gives it a more dramatic look!

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