Upper Calf Creek Falls

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 2.4 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 5917 - 6519 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 1 hr. 15 mins.
Trailhead: Highway 12 MM 80.8
Fee: none
Attractions: Waterfall, potholes




View Upper Calf Creek Falls in a larger map

The Upper Calf Creek Falls trail is located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument between Boulder and Escalante, Utah. The trail to the upper falls sees only a fraction of the hikers as that of the more popular Lower Calf Creek Falls that is located about 2.5 miles downstream. With over 600 feet of elevation change, spread out over 1.2 miles, the Upper Calf Creek Falls might seem to require substantially more effort to hike. The difference is a lot of effort in a short distance (Upper Calf Creek Falls) compared to a moderate effort over a longer distance (Lower Calf Creek Falls). Fewer hikers can make the upper falls more preferable to those seeking a little more solitude.


The unmarked turnoff is located between mile markers 80 and 81 but closer to 81. This is about 5 to 5 1/2 miles south of the town of Boulder. Notice the large rock in the picture that looks like a striped hampshire pig.


After turning off of Highway 12 follow the dirt road a short distance through the trees to a turnaround area with a No Camping sign. Park here and find the trail leading toward the edge of the hill where there is a register. While camping isn't permitted near the trailhead it does appear to be allowed elsewhere if you have a permit. For more information visit the GSENM website.


The first part of the trail drops off the mountain down a section of slickrock. This is the steepest part of the hike. The path looks like it was swept with a broom through the lava rocks that cover the slickrock. At the base of the slickrock the trail alternates between sandy dirt and more slickrock but at that point the elevation change is less severe.


Just under 1 mile from the trailhead there is a fork that splits the trail between the base of the falls and the top. This post follows the trail to the top of the falls and then returns to this point and follows the lower trail.


The water cascades through several pools before making a final plunge over the cliff. The overall height of the falls is 88 feet.


Note the deep potholes within several of the pools. We heard the pools at the top of the falls are popular with the locals. On this day though we had the place all to ourselves.


A giant cave can be seen just west of the base of the falls.


Upper Calf Creek Falls has less of a flow of water than the lower falls has. That may mean there are more seeps further downstream that supply the lower falls and that some of the water is traveling underground at this point or that there is some other tributary feeding into Calf Creek between the 2 falls. Our map doesn't show any other streams between here and there.


Thick areas of poison ivy limit where you can safely wander at the base of the falls. The oils from the poison ivy get onto the rocks and anything else that the plants touch and once there they can persist for 4-5 years. Be very careful what you touch even in the winter when the leaves have fallen. We have seen people contact poison ivy from sitting on a bench where someone that had the oils on their clothes had sat.


This picture shows the trail down the mountain looking up from the bottom of the slickrock. If you are accustomed to mountain hiking then 5 or 6 hundred feet of elevation gain isn't all that much. The distance is short so the climb back up to the trailhead goes by pretty quick.


The less traveled Upper Calf Creek Falls trail has its merits. The scenery is appealing and the tranquil setting of the pools at the top of the falls, on this day at least, was enjoyable. There are a lot of trails to hike and places to visit in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. We found that the Upper Calf Creek Falls was worth the effort. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.