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Lower Calf Creek Falls in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Calf Creek Falls is one of the most well known and unique features in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 5.9 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly

Overview:  Calf Creek Falls is one of the most well known and unique features in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The trail follows... more »

Tips:  Lower Calf Creek Falls is a very popular hike, especially on the weekends. If you want to avoid people, mid-week is best. There is a... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Welcome to Calf Creek!

Welcome to Calf Creek! The year-round flow of the creek begins several miles up canyon with large seeps and springs. Water is the key to survival here and this lush riparian habitat supports an abundance of plant and animal life. People have also depended on the life-giving waters of Calf Creek for thousands of years.

2. How the canyon was formed

Water forms canyons. Over millions of years, the creek has carved its way deeper and deeper into its channel. Meanwhile, rain water flowing over cliffs and down slopes along the sides of the canyon erodes sand grains, pebbles, rocks, and boulders, gradually widening the canyon. Major erosion and sediment transport occurs when flash floods from... More

3. Ponds and marshy areas

Sometimes there are ponds and marshy areas along the creek formed by beaver dams. Beavers and industrious, sometimes building large and extensive dams. Beaver dams help control flooding, reduce siltation downstream, and provide habitat for mature fish. Insects, frogs, and birds are attracted to these wetland areas, and a variety of ducks can be... More

4. Gambel oak

Gambel oak is an upland species. In high desert areas it is often found in cool, shady locations. The twigs, leaves, and acorns provide important food for wildlife, especially deer and turkeys.

5. Watermelon farm

You wouldn't know it looking at Calf Creek today, but in the early 1900s a local farmer grew watermelons here along the banks of the creek. They were said to be "the best melons in Boulder." Floods and native vegetation, however, have removed all signs of this agricultural venture.

6. Granary

High on the cliff across the creek is a storage structure (granary) built more than 800 years ago by prehistoric people who lived in the canyons. We call this culture the Fremont. Assorted food items and seeds were stored in these structures. What would it have been like to be a Fremont Indian living in this canyon?

7. Desert varnish

Millions of years ago a huge Sahara-like desert covered this area. Sand dunes hundreds of feet high drifted back and forth. The wind-blown sand of this former desert is now Navajo Sandstone. It is the predominant geologic layer found in Calf Creek Canyon and is a cliff-forming layer usually white in color. The dark streaks on the canyon walls are ... More

8. Old fence

The old fence line is a reminder of the historic use of Calf Creek Canyon by early pioneers. Weaned calves were kept in the natural pasture created by the box canyon above the fence, hence the name "Calf Creek."

9. Pictographs

Across the canyon, near the bottom of the smooth cliff wall, are three large figures painted with red pigment - further evidence that people have used Calf Creek for hundreds of years. (Pictographs are painted images while petroglyphs are carved or pecked into the rock surface.) With their trapezoidal shape, depictions of arms and legs, and... More

10. Another storage granary

Straight ahead on the right-hand wall of this side canyon is another storage granary. The Fremont people grew corn, beans, and squash along creeks and river bottoms, but more often they relied on gathering native plants, pinyon nuts, berries, and seeds. They also fished and hunted deer, bighorn sheep, and other small mammals.

11. Horsetail and Boxelder

Horsetail is a jointed plant found only in wet areas. Pioneers called is scouring rush and used to scrub pots and pans. Boxelder, and member of the maple family, is the predominant tree in the canyon. Reaching a height of 50 feet, it grows rapidly in wet places. It provides bank stabilization for the creek and amble shade for both people and... More

12. Relax and listen.

Stop for a few minutes. Relax and listen. How many different bird calls do you hear? Many bird species find the lush vegetation and abundant water ideal habitat. Look for hummingbirds, ravens, spotted-towhees, peregrine falcons, and American robins. During spring and fall, many birds stop here on their migration routes. Is something rustling in... More

13. The creek

The creek is the life force within the canyon. It provides life-sustaining water for the plants and animals here. Aquatic plants, insects, and fish make their home within the creek itself. Brook brown and rainbow trout can often be seen resting on the creek bottom or darting in and out of hiding spots under vegetation along the creek bank.

14. Wetland ecosystems

Wetlands are one of the most productive and important ecosystems, displaying a greater abundance of plant and animal life than adjoining upland areas. A healthy riparian zone filters and purifies the water passing through it, reduces sediment loads, enhances soil stability, and contributes to ground water recharge and flow. Cattail, common reed,... More

15. The falls

Mist from the falls and shade from the canyon walls keep the temperature cooler here. Look for scarlet monkey flower, Easter flower, and maiden hair fern growing near seeps in the cliff walls. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds of water and wind. Feel the mist on your face. Imagine how different this canyon and your hike would be without the... More