Water is a precious commodity in the desert southwest, which is defined by its aridity. This landscape is sculpted by wind, sand, and the occasional burst of running water, bursting through the landscape after thunderstorms or melting snows. It is hot and dry. These facts alone make the prospect of visiting a perennial waterfall deep in a desert canyon appealing.
Lower Calf Creek Falls is one such waterfall. Located three miles up Calf Creek Canyon from the Calf Creek Campground, it plunges 126 feet over a sandstone precipice into a blue-green pool, feeding a stream that flows year-round. Seeing the falls is half of the fun, however. There are some great things along the trail to see as well!
The trail starts at the Calf Creek Campground, just to the west of the vehicle crossing of Calf Creek. The trail is well maintained, generally sandy, with a few rocks scattered here and there. Just past the trailhead is a trail register with trail guides. The guide lists information and facts from signposts along the trail (15 in all).
The trail follows the west wall of the canyon, which is quite broad in the lower portion due to the less resistant Entrada formation forming the base of the cliffs. Several small arches and alcoves dot the walls on both sides of the canyon. Climbing a treacherous grade UT12 snakes across the eastern wall, visible in various road cuts, connecting Boulder and Escalante.
Calf Creek is visible in the reed-filled canyon bottom as you proceed northward along a sandy buff. About a mile up the trail you come to stop number six. Across the canyon, near the top of the cliff sits a Fremont granary. It is small and well concealed, so it takes some sharp eyes to spot it. Not much further up the trail, at stop eight, on the east side of the canyon are some enormous Fremont humanoid figures. These guys have to be about ten feet tall, they're impossible to miss and really take your breath away!
Just past the Fremont pictographs the trail climbs further up the western slope. This gives you a view down onto a beaver-created pond at the bottom of the canyon. The trail dips into a western side canyon, where another Fremont granary sits, and then rounds the corner and continues heading north. Here the canyon narrows as the Entrada disappears beneath the stream bed, and the more resistant Navajo sandstone forms the cliffs. Finally you descend off of the sandy bench and down to the floodplain level. The creek burbles next to you and you finally get into some shade; oaks and cottonwoods line the trail. Keep an eye out for Brown, Brook, and Rainbow Trout in the creek. They're wary, though, so you need to spot them before they spot you!
Before long, the sound of the falls echos off of the canyon walls, and a few more bends in the trail finds you at the base of a Navajo escarpment. The water pours off 126 feet above the creek bed and plunges in a fan to the deep plunge pool. On a hot day this is a perfect place for a swim. Don't expect to be alone, however, as this hike and the falls are very popular with locals and tourists alike. Once you've seen all that you want to of the falls, return to the parking area via the same route.
A word of warning. While the trail is dog friendly (must be leashed), there is no shade until the last 3/4 mile, and the sand and stone can be very hot, and access to the creek to drink and cool off is limited during the first 2/3 of the trail. Please bring enough water for you and your dog, and start early. - Mar 19 2009 Rob del Desierto