Lower Calf Creek Falls

Torrey, UT

After a rainy weekend, Monday dawned with clear skies and warmer temperatures.  So we took advantage of the nice weather and drove south on UT-12 (one of the most scenic roads we’ve seen) over Boulder Mountain to hike the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail.  The road up over the mountain reaches 9600 feet of elevation, so there is still plenty of snow around.

There’s no hint of spring in the aspen trees

A few miles south of the little town of Boulder the road goes over a huge area of slickrock.  At one point the road goes across a narrow fin with steep drops on either side.  The photo below shows that narrow section but doesn’t begin to show the steep drops on either side.

The slickrock goes for miles

Eleven miles south of Boulder is the turn off for the Lower Calf Creek Recreation Area, which has a small campground, a parking area for day use, and the trailhead for the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail.

The trail is about 6.5 miles roundtrip and is fairly flat, as it runs along the creek.

A trail guide pamphlet is available at the trailhead.  It gives information on interesting spots along the trail identified by numbered markers.  One of the spots is a granary left by ancient Fremont people who inhabited the area from 700 to 1300.  We needed binoculars to spot it, as it is quite high up on a rock wall.

We have no idea how people got up there to store their grain.

A mile or so further up the trail we came to a spot where three large figures are painted on the rock wall with red pigment.  These images are typical of Fremont-style rock art with their trapezoidal shape, depictions of arms and legs, and elaborate head dresses.

The trail ends at the base of a beautiful high waterfall.

We sat for a while next to the pool at the base of the falls and enjoyed lunch with the cool mist from the falls keeping us comfortable.  We didn’t test it but the water had to be very cold.  But one man must have felt the need to demonstrate his courage (or stupidity) by taking a dip in the frigid water.

We returned back to the trailhead and drove a few miles back north on UT-12.  About five miles south of Boulder we turned west on to Hell’s Backbone Road.  Hell’s Backbone Road is a 38-mile gravel road that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, and connects the towns of Boulder and Escalante.   Fourteen miles up the road is Hell’s Backbone Bridge, which we had heard about and wanted to visit.   A 1,500-foot drop is on either side of the short span.   Near the bridge are spectacular views of the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness.

Box -Death Hollow Wilderness

From the bridge we could look down below and see a portion of the road.  On the return trip back down we found that spot and stopped to look up at the bridge above us.

The bridge is in the “V” in the middle of the photo

Returning to UT-12 we continued driving north to Boulder, where we planned to have dinner at the Hell’s Backbone Grill, a gourmet restaurant which is on the grounds of the Boulder Mountain Lodge.

The grill serves food with vegetables from their own no-harm organic farm, and Boulder-raised grass-fed local lamb and beef.  Our friends, Larry and Annette, took us to this restaurant three years ago and this is our third visit.  We both had the Spicy Cowgal Chipotle Meatloaf, which was outstanding!

The drive back over Boulder Mountain just before sunset provided beautiful vistas of the mountains and valleys to the east.

And that concluded another outstanding adventure in central Utah.  It’s a tough life but somebody has to live it!

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24 Responses to Lower Calf Creek Falls

  1. Mary says:

    All my favorites from that area. We boondocked a few times down Hells backbone road, love it there. And the grill…always so delicous.

  2. Lenore says:

    Oh…such a spectacular area. One of our favorites. So glad you’re doing it up so fully.

  3. Laurel says:

    We love that drive on UT-12 — you’re right, it’s one of the most scenic anywhere. And Calf Creek Falls is such a sweet hike! It’s been a few years since we’ve been there (pre-blog) but it’s definitely on our list for a return trip. Hell’s Backbone Grill has also been on my list FOREVER, so thanks for the photo of the yummy meal! :-))

  4. The waterfall is just gorgeous! I think Utah is going to be on the list to visit on our way back from Maine.

  5. libertatemamo says:

    Love, love, love that area of UT. Have never done that particular hike. Wow! It’s gorgeous!

    Nina

  6. girlonahike says:

    Love Lower Calf Creek Falls….but Upper Calf Creek is better, especially during of after a rainstorm! I highly recommend hiking that one if you have time. – Alicia @ http://www.girlonahike.com

  7. Sue says:

    I can see why this part of Utah calls you. Thanks for taking us the bridge, this is a place NOT on my list! Your dinner looks yummy. I’ve heard you sing its praises, I can see why! The hike next to the water looks right up my alley, especially with the bonus of a waterfall at the end.
    We’re out of the rocks now and into green, green grass. Sasha love it!

  8. Jeff says:

    Now that’s a waterfall! Beautiful end to the trail.

  9. We enjoyed the Lower Calf Creek trail and am surprised the amount of water in the falls looks about the same as when we were there in October.
    I had to laugh about you saying UT-12 is one of the most scenic roads you’ve ever been on. We felt that way when we were there and seeing all the fall colors and breathtaking scenery. But now that we’ve been driving along CA-395 for a few weeks we think this must be the most scenic. Then again, I happen to think just about every hike we do is my favorite, until the next one comes along 😉 And you’re right, somebody’s got to do it. Glad to be part of that “somebody”!

  10. Jim and Barb says:

    Those falls look incredible. Barb and I have been on a “waterfall tour” here in BC. Our next post is loaded with them!

  11. What a great place and waterfalls. Love the backbone. Thanks for taking us along.

  12. Jodee Gravel says:

    I appreciate that the photo doesn’t show the steep drops on both sides 🙂 The Fremont art and the waterfall are amazing!! What a pretty hike. Now that bridge……just because you could look down doesn’t mean you should 😦 But as is so often the case, the views are spectacular!!

  13. colibabas says:

    Utah is an incredible State…our favourite!
    Safe travels

  14. Gay says:

    What a beautiful hike…waterfall ending and all! And to top it off, a yummy dinner. I can’t wait to visit that part of Utah!

  15. pmbweaver says:

    Those three large figures are pretty cool.
    Courage…no; stupidity…yes
    That waterfall is beautiful. You would have to tear me away from that spot.
    The drive to Hell’s Backbone Bridge is gorgeous. Your photo is fantastic. So is that plate of food.

  16. Agree, that Hwy 12 drive is one of the most beautiful drives in the US!

  17. LuAnn says:

    Incredibly beautiful country and that meatloaf is mouthwatering!

  18. Had I read this before our hike I would have spotted the granary. We kept looking but could not see it. This was a great hike especially that the birds were abundant.
    And thanks to your recommendation we also enjoyed a good meal at Hells Backbone Grill. I ordered the same meatloaf but got a salad instead of steamed vegetables.

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