Blake did this backpacking trip a couple years ago with friends and has wanted to take me back ever since. We also have a big backpacking trip coming up in May so we wanted to do a little training and thought this would be a great warm up for our next big trip. We woke up early Friday morning and headed to do Spooky and Peek-a-Boo gulch again, we’ve done these canyons before and wanted to revisit them. You can read more about those great slot canyons here. We did that hike first to kill a little time; we didn’t want to get too early of a start because the route that we chose was not super long.
We started at the Jacob Hamblin Arch Trailhead, and headed North into the canyon. There is a prominent rock spire that when followed leads right to Jacob Hamblin Arch. Unfortunately, we got a little side tracked and ended up walking about a half mile in the wrong direction. Once we got our bearings and found the spire, we were on the right trail. The trail isn’t heavily marked with cairns, so the best way to stay on track is to walk toward the distant rock spire. After about two miles of walking on flat slick rock and sand we were excited/nervous (me) to begin our descent into Coyote Gulch. This part of the hike proved to be the hardest for me, because I hate down climbing without prominent places to put my hands and feet. The slick rock is about a 200 foot descent and very steep. I was crab crawling for most of the way down, and because I had extra weight with my backpack I was very nervous. At one point, I was trying to crawl right and my backpack was pulling me left. Blake kindly offered to take my backpack because he could tell how nervous I was. He finished the down climb carrying his own backpack and carrying mine. I was so grateful for him and once the backpack came off it was so much easier to climb down.
As soon as we reached the bottom, the incredible Jacob Hamblin Arch was there on the left welcoming us into the canyon. From here, we dropped our packs, grabbed the tripod and headed upstream for some amazing scenery. There is a giant alcove that is breathtaking. Blake had been describing the enormous alcove to me since he did this hike. I never truly understood how immense this room was until I was standing there in awe. I have been in a few alcove rooms during our hikes in Southern Utah, but never one that had so much majesty and grandeur. We headed a little more upstream to another alcove, half the size, that displayed Jacob Hamlin Arch. Once I had collected my fair share of photos we headed back to our bags and continued down stream to find a camp spot. The walls of the canyon were truly jaw dropping; they are enormous and so brightly colors and streaked. We hike about five miles downstream through Coyote Bridge. Blake told me as we were walking down that we would see a natural bridge so I was excited. Later I asked him if he thought we were getting close to the bridge, he answered by saying look up. We had reached the bridge! It’s amazing that all the water in Coyote Gulch flows through this natural bridge. Nature is cool. We found a spot about a quarter mile from the bridge that was far enough off the trail and away from the water. We set up camp and got dinner cooking. For Christmas, we got a hammock which turned out to be the best thing we had on the whole trip. We set it up, got in our sleeping bags and relaxed as we watched the sun go down. That was perfect relief for our sore and tired feet.
Blake woke up early and hiked up the small hill by our camp to watch the sunrise and eat breakfast. I joined him a little later and enjoyed the sun as it warmed us up. Once the sun was shining into the canyon, we packed up our gear and hit the trail. We hiked through the stream and continually commented on the giant walls that surrounded us. When Blake did this hike with his friends, they missed the Fortymile Ridge exit so we made sure to pay close attention to our location. We found the exit and made our way up the sand dune of death. Walking uphill in sand feels like walking up 100 flights of stairs. Our shoes came off as we trudged up the hill. Blake hiked ahead of me so he wouldn’t lose his momentum, and also because I had to stop every 20 feet for a break. I had anticipated this hill so it didn’t end up being that terrible. Blake reached the top before me and then cheered me on as I made my way up.
The Crack-in-the-Wall was the next obstacle. Blake brought webbing and a carabiner to connect to our bags so that he could pull them to the top. A piece of the wall has broken off and created a small slot canyon-like crack that isn’t quite wide enough to carry your bags through. That is why webbing and a carabiner are needed. He tossed the webbing down to me to connect the bags and pulled them up. I then climbed through the crack. After this fun obstacle we were on the home front. The Fortymile Ridge trailhead is about another two miles on mostly sand. There is another small sand dune to climb up to the parking lot. Since it was just the two of us, we only had the one car. We were expecting that no one would be at the top to give us a ride to our car at the Jacob Hamblin Arch trailhead three miles down the road. There was a small group that had just pulled up and we were excited in hopes of a ride. Unfortunately, the people were not very kind. Side note: if you finish the hike and have a car and see people finishing ASK THEM IF THEY WANT A RIDE; BE NICE! Since they didn’t give us a ride, we left our packs and walked as fast as we could on the road to our car. We passed a couple other groups that were walking towards their car and made a deal that whoever made it first would give the other a ride. We got to our car and gave a group a ride. We ended up hiking about 15 miles roundtrip, including the three miles to our car on the road. This is a great backpacking trip that provides unbelievable view of a beautiful canyon. We can’t wait to go back and explore more.