Peek-a-Boo Canyon, Dry Fork Narrows and Spooky Gulch are three easily accessed slot canyons from the Dry Fork Trailhead off Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Don't miss them if you made it this far into Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
After a great start with Zebra and Tunnel Slot Canyons, I continued down Hole-in-the-Rock Raod for more infamous canyon experiences. Referencing the fantastic book, Hiking the Escalante by Rudi Lambrechtse, I discovered extensive non-technical canyoneering hikes in the area and this one at the Dry Fork Trailhead couldn't be missed. This includes Peek-a-Boo Canyon, Dry Fork Narrows and Spooky Gulch.
Getting to Dry Fork Road and Spooky Canyon, Peek-a-Boo Slot and Dry Fork Canyons
As of June 2019, Hole-in-the-Rock Road is definitely passable by 2-wheel drive cars all the way to Dry Fork Road but with a few caveats. (Call the inter-agency center for up to date details) After the turnoff for Zebra Gulch, the road becomes exceptionally washboard. I noticed at least one person changing a flat; not exactly uncommon out here. The road was in otherwise good shape but very slow going.
From the beginning of Hole-in-the-Rock Road as it turns off from Utah Route 12, its 26 bumpy miles to Dry Fork Road. Low clearance vehicles should drive the road to the first bend and park in an unmarked parking area on the right. Past this point, the road is sandy and rocky- high clearance only. The 1.0 mile from the 2-wheel drive parking area to the actual trail-head is an easy hike but tough drive.
Hiking into Dry Fork and the Dry Fork Narrows
Half the adventure is getting to the trailhead! Now that I made it, I filled up on 3 liters of water and set off. There's a small sign in sheet at the trailhead.
Like so many adventures in Utah, this is more of an informal route than a trail. The popularity of the canyons hasn't lead to a single established trail. I relied heavily on my GPS. From the 4 wheel drive parking area, I descended steep slickrock, finding a switch-backed route using several cairns. I picked up a route in the sand that eventually lead down a side canyon into Dry Fork. An ammo box at the bottom served as a register and I knew I found the right place. Here's a map of that route and the canyons that awaited:
Dry Fork Narrows/Slot Canyon
Once reaching Dry Fork, there were three options. I liked the progression of Dry Fork Narrows first, then Peek-a-Boo Canyon, then Spooky Slot. It starts from least claustrophobic to most or least slot-like to most.
Dry Fork Narrows is immediately to the left. I walked up the canyon which progressively narrowed. Gazing upward, it amazed me how these canyons form. Steep walls and a fairly flat bottom formed a nearly perpendicular box. This canyon wasn't as sinuous as other slots but just as entrancing.
For roughly 0.5 miles, the canyon remains narrow. About 3/4ths of the way through it became very muddy and a bit of a scramble. I encountered some sort of desert toad in the water at one point. But what really halted further travel was a Midget Faded Rattlesnake. They are common enough in this area that most guidebooks reference encounters similar to the one I had. So I turned back!
Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon
Peek-a-Boo Canyon was fantastic! Extremely narrow and with all kinds of unique natural features like arches and natural bridges. From the entrance of the Dry Fork Slot, I walked down Dry Fork for about 10-15 minutes until the obvious entrance of Peek-a-Book appeared on my left.
Its a hands-and-feet scramble to get into Peek-a-Boo. Somebody's cut some finger holds and steps into the canyon so people can get in (not sure if I agree with that practice). In either case, its not terribly difficult by rock climbing standards
Some further, less exposed scrambling lead me to a pair of natural bridges which were phone to gaze upon and photograph. How much time did it take for them to form?
This pattern of rock-hopping and stopping to admire natural features continued for about 45 minutes. After about a third of a mile of this, an easy exit appeared on the right. I dropped my pack here and continued exploring up canyon. I regretted I did this as I found the actual end (or beginning) of Peek-a-Boo Canyon after another 30 minutes of slithering through the slots. The guidebooks were confusing about where to exit.
I tried finding a clear route from the exit of Peek-a-Boo Canyon to the entrance/exit of Spooky Gulch but was unsuccessful.
Of the three I did, Peek-a-Boo was the tightest and longest squeeze. I found and overland route from Peek-a-Boo canyon's exit to the entrance of Spooky Canyon at Dry Gulch. It quickly got tight.
Walking Spooky Gulch was like being underground. It was dark, a bit damp and disorienting. The book says 10 inches of horizontal space here. I'm glad I dropped my daypack at the entrance. Also, I'm glad I set a time with somebody off site just in case I got stuck. Lots of people travel this cave but the need for safety measures persist.
It took about an hour to go from one end of Spooky Canyon to the other. I didn't bring a flashlight but there's a section with rock fall that creates near total darkness. Bring a light source! Some sections also required more significant scrambling so be prepared for that too.
The exit point of Spooky Gulch wasn't so difficult to find and I made an overland loop back to the entrance to save time. Some people simply hike back through the gulch I noticed.
Guidebooks mention nearby Brimstone Canyon as another slot nearby. This particular section of Grand Staircase-Escalante probably has the highest concentration of individual slot canyons in the whole region.
I returned the way I came, constantly looking at the map and GPS to ensure I was on the right route. In spite of the area's increasing popularity, even experienced hikers like myself get lost from time to time! Enjoy yourself but be prepared!