Hole in the Rock Trail

Hole in the Rock Trail



A guide to Southern Utah’s Hole-in-the-Rock Trail, by Stewart Aitchison

Now available at Escalante Outfitters

In 1879, 230 settlers in southwestern Utah heeded the call from the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) to pull up stakes and move the to distant San Juan River country of Southeastern Utah.  Their six-month long, journey became one the most extraordinary wagon trips ever undertaken in North America, their trail one of peril, difficult, and spectacular vistas.  Beginning in Cedar City, Utah, this trail crosses today’s Dixie national Forest, skirts Bryce Canyon National Park, bisects the Grand Staircase-National Monument. crosses the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and comes close to Natural Bridges National Monument on its way to Bluff, Utah.  In addition to the historical value of the story of these pioneers, this guide includes road logs, maps and hiking trails along the historic trail.  It also points out fascinating natural history along the way, making  A guide to Southern Utah’s Hole-in-the-Rock Trail a significant reference for a variety of readers.

lymanplattePlatte D. Alton Lyman

Although originally appointed as the San Juan Mission Assistant  Leader, Platte D. Lyman became the de facto Field Captain after leader Silas S. Smith returned to Salt Lake City and was unable to rejoin the mission until the spring of 1880.  Lyman still has descendants on both ends of the Hole in the Rock Trail. Most of whom make a pilgrimage at least once in their lives down the Hole in Rock Road outside of Escalante Utah to the start of this epic and historic trek.

This is a short, but excellent guide to Southern Utah’s Hole in the Rock Trail. The author has broken the trail up into a series of segments and for each segment tells the history of that part of the trail, then gives detailed directions on how to see, hike, or drive that section of the trail. It seems that most books focus on the trail from Escalante to Hole in the Rock and then ignore the rest of the trail. Here, the author does a great job of detailing the further challenges that the pioneers faced beyond Hole in the Rock.

Escalante River Watershed Partnership


In response to the changes and challenges unfolding in the watershed, the Escalante River Watershed Partnership (ERWP), a coalition of private and public agencies, groups, and individuals
Escalante River


To restore and maintain the natural ecological conditions of the Escalante River and its watershed and involve local communities in promoting and implementing sustainable land and water use practices. 


In June 2009 a partnership formed to coordinate riparian restoration efforts in southern Utah’s Escalante River Watershed. The partnership, known as Escalante River Watershed Partnership (ERWP), is composed of agencies, local governments, organizations, businesses, non-profits, and individuals who live and work near or on the Escalante River. The ERWP operates under the principles set forth in the 2011 Partnership Agreement. 



Science and Research

The Escalante River Watershed Partnership recognizes the important role of science as a guide to actions aimed at accomplishing its mission.  Toward this purpose, the Partnership has formed a permanent Science Committee.  Roles of the Science Committee include:

  • Assessing the science needs and opportunities of ERWP programs.
  • Identifying important data gaps and finding ways to fill them.
  • Advising other ERWP committees on science issues.
  • Helping assure the quality and effectiveness of ERWP projects.

Several specific science or research topics within the scope of the Science Committee, referenced in the current version of the Action Plan Framework, include:

  • Gaining a more comprehensive understanding of water resources, both ground water and surface water, especially in the face of anticipated greater future droughts.
  • Inventorying and assessing characteristics of springs and seeps (i.e. Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems).
  • Enhancing habitat connectivity for native coldwater fishes.
  • Determining and interpreting geomorphic and climatic influences that affect the invasion and spread of non-native Russian olive trees.
  • Understanding causes of decline in coverage or health of forests in the headwaters of the watershed.

A longer-range science/research goal is to hold an Escalante Science Symposium.  This would be a gathering of  researchers, land managers, and representatives of other pertinent organizations to assess critical science needs, research opportunities, strategies, and questions that would guide the development of the Escalante watershed as a “living laboratory” for basic and applied science.

Such a Symposium would further refine watershed research programs, allowing for a more coherent understanding of landscape dynamics, cyclical changes, and environmental responses to (current and future) ecological processes and disturbances within the Escalante watershed.

Map of the Watershed

Native Fish

The Escalante River is home to six native fish species. Flannelmouth sucker and roundtail chub are primarily restricted to the mainstem Escalante River, below Mamie Creek and Harris Wash, respectively. Bluehead sucker and speckled dace can be found farther upstream and in the lower ends of some tributaries.

Colorado River cutthroat trout and mottled sculpin are coldwater species with more restricted distributions in the watershed. After extensive restoration work, Colorado River cutthroat trout now occupy over 26 miles of stream in four of the main tributary drainages. Mottled sculpin are restricted to the Boulder Creek drainage.

Colorado River cutthroat trout, bluehead sucker, flannelmouth sucker and roundtail chub are managed under Range-wide Conservation Agreements and Strategies (CAS). CAS’s enable management agencies and other partners to work together to conserve these species and their habitat.


Colorado River cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki pleuriticus)


The most colorful of the cutthroat trout, Colorado River cutthroat trout (CRCT) have light to deep red pigmentation along the jaw and belly and black spots along their rear and tail. In the Escalante River system CRCT generally grow from 8” to 14” in length in streams, but can reach over 20” in lakes. They need habitats with cool, well-oxygenated water. CRCT occupied habitat has grown to more than 14% of its historic range because of conservation actions.


Flannelmouth sucker (Catostomus latipinnis)


A large-bodied sucker, flannelmouth can grow to 30”. These fish are usually purple-hued on the back, while their bellies can be cream to yellow. Flannelmouth prefer deeper, slower water, with cover such as roots and overhanging branches, and can be observed in spawning congregations numbering more than 100 fish. Recent information indicates flannelmouth sucker occupy about 45% of their historic range.


Speckled Dace (Rhinicthys osculus)


Speckled dace are a minnow common throughout the western United States and are distributed widely throughout the Colorado River system. They can be found in small, high-elevation tributary streams and large, low-elevation, turbid rivers, as well as isolated spring systems. Speckled dace can grow from 4” to 6”. They are generally a mottled brown or golden in color with males developing orange to red coloration around the fins and mouth during breeding.


Roundtail chub (Gila robusta)


A large member of the minnow family, roundtail chub can grow up to 17” in length and are generally light green to silver in color, but often develop an orange hue around the fins while spawning. They have large eyes and fins and are a muscular fish. Roundtail chub tend to prefer slower, deeper water. Studies in the 2000’s indicated that roundtail chub occupied 18% to 45% of their historic range.


Bluehead sucker (Catostomus discobulus)


Bluehead suckers are a medium-sized sucker that can grow to 18”. Their head is typically bluish-gray with a blunt, bulbous snout. The body can be dark brown to gray, developing an orange stripe during spawning season. Bluehead sucker prefer areas of swift water and rocky river bottoms. An assessment in the early 2000’s indicated that bluehead sucker were restricted to approximately 50% of their historic range.


Mottled Sculpin (Cottus bairdi)


Mottled sculpin have a discontinuous but wide range throughout North America. They have a broad, flat head, large fins, and grow to about 6”. Sculpin are mottled brown/black with males developing reddish brown/cream colors along their top fin during breeding. They use their broad, flat heads and large pectoral fins to aid them in maintaining their position on the stream bottom, where they can better avoid predators. Sculpin require clear, well-oxygenated water and prefer habitats with cover.


Native fish illustrations provided by Ben Sutter, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources 

Pink Prickly Pear Cactus Flower

Natural History Tours

Ellen Peterson and Jane Baack both of California and both educators recently went on a Natural History Tour with Nate Waggoner here at the Escalante Outfitters.  They loved it.  10/10 would recommend.

An Amazing 3 hours of Geology, Paleontology, Archaeology, Flora/Fauna & cultural history tailored to your interests and skill level.  We can range over the Boulder Mountain and through the Grand Staircase National Monument. Natural History Tours are a great way to experience the area and learn something new!


The food is local. The story is global.

One of our clothing vendors Threads for Thoughts is giving 10% of specific clothing purchases to this organization.  Shop and support.

The International Rescue Committee’s New Roots Program

Each year, the IRC helps thousands of refugees who have been granted sanctuary in the United States to rebuild their lives. An essential part of our broader resettlement efforts, the New Roots program enables refugees to reestablish their ties to the land, celebrate their heritage and nourish themselves and their neighbors by planting strong roots—literally—in their new communities.


Bahati Mama’s: Seeds of Change

A decade ago, thousands of Somali Bantu refugees who had fled civil war in their home country were granted sanctuary in the United States. In San Diego, IRC staff helped arriving Somali Bantu families to find jobs, learn English and enroll their children in school. But starting new lives in a city where the language, the customs—even the grocery stores—were unfamiliar presented numerous challenges.

Somali Bantu leaders asked the IRC for help in finding land where their community could grow their own food, as they had for centuries in Somalia. With our assistance, Somali Bantu farmers won approval to transform a 2.3-acre vacant lot near the IRC’s San Diego office into an urban farm. By the end of the first summer, refugee farmers from around the world were harvesting 1,000 pounds of fresh produce a week. The IRC provided ongoing technical support, helping them to adapt their agrarian skills to the local climate.

Soon after, a group of women who had helped inspire the Somali Bantu community’s quest to farm in San Diego began marketing their produce for extra income. They called themselves the Bahati Mamas, meaning “lucky mamas” in their native language, Kizigua. They say they are lucky to live in a place where they can reestablish their ties to the land and nourish their families and neighbors with what they grow. “We want our children to eat tomatoes, not tomato ketchup,” they say.

Inspired by the leadership and vision of farmers like the Bahati Mamas, the IRC launched the New Roots program to help resettled refugees across the U.S. grow healthy food and share their knowledge and skills with their new communities.

Eggs in a Basket

Breakfast in the Desert

Let’s talk about Eggs in a Basket for a second.  A light flaky pastry crust form into a cute little bowl, that is filled with a heavenly bacon, cheese and egg ambrosia, served warm with a punchy hollan’daze’ sauce.  The perfect start to a day of breath-taking adventure in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.   You follow that with some kick-ass Utah roasted coffee and maybe a cinnamon roll or two and Bam, a Lou Reed style “Perfect Day”.

Eggs in a Basket

Breakfast! Escalante Outfitters serves breakfast every day starting at 7 am!

We serve breakfast everyday, we also serve lunch and dinner soooo come on by and see what all the buzz is about.

Restaurant Menu

Kris & Tony Cafe

Fly-fishing tours at Escalante Outfitters

The region’s only locally owned, operated and fully licensed fly-fishing shop is right here in Escalante.  The bio-diverse wonderland of the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument and the Dixie National Forest on top the Aquarius Plateau and along it’s tributaries provide some of the world’s most scenic fly-fishing.  This equates to thousands of acres of wilderness flecked with high mountain lakes and meandering streams. Anglers could spend a lifetime exploring just the lakes in Dixie National Forest.

Untouched fly fishing opportunities are waiting for you to discover   Our fishing guide will take you to pristine waters and show you where and how to catch trout as magnificent as the lakes and streams they inhabit.   Our guide service caters to the adventure fly fisherman who is willing to explore new waters in search of wild fish as well as beginners who are looking for a unique wilderness experience.

Nate, our guide, has been guiding for 15 years and he is hilarious.

5 of 5 starsReviewed September 27, 2014

My son and I spent four nights in cabin 7 and two days on the water with Nate. It has become our annual fishing vacation with Escalante Outfitters. We had another incredible fishing experience! Nate is truly the hardest working fishing guide we have ever had the pleasure to fish with. After a long drive, short hike and a full day of fishing we stopped for dinner on the way back to the cabin where we ended our 15 hour day at 11PM. It was a great day with many fish up to 26″. Eight hours later we started our second day which brought constant rain, but it was the best fishing day of my life. Beautiful scenery in a mountain lake with my son, a great guide, and an amazing 15 pound Tiger Trout that was caught and released. (Check out the attached pictures if you think I’m exaggerating).

“We can’t wait for our next trip with Nate and stay at Escalante Outfitters! Besides the great fishing and excellent packed lunches from the kitchen, you can’t find better blueberry muffins, caramel cinnamon rolls, or pizza anywhere. It’s hard to believe we could hike and fish all day long and gain weight too! It doesn’t get any better.” Bill and Adam Howe


“I’ve had the opportunity to fish with guides over the years from Florida to Washington and Hawaii to Canada, and I have three words to summarize our experience with Nate this past week…BEST GUIDE EVER. He worked harder then any guide I’ve been with. My experience for a full day trip was always 8 to 9 hours. Not with Nate, a full day was 12 hours or more. He carried our gear in, gave great instruction, and assisted us every way possible to ensure we caught fish. And let me tell you, we caught fish! The lunches he provided were large enough to serve as our dinner as well. The fresh baked goods were outstanding and I’ve never had a bigger or better BLT! We spent 5 nights in a cabin and they were exactly as advertised, very neat and clean with fresh towels provided each day. Yes they were cozy and comfortable, but we spent little time in them. The pizza was outstanding and when I had to connect with the rest of the world they had great Wi-Fi service. I had never been to Southern Utah before, but my son and I can’t wait to get back for a stay with Escalante Outfitters”. Bill and Adam Howe

5 of 5 starsReviewed August 7, 2014

My wife and I booked Nate twice for high mountain lake fishing for trout. He is more literate and more committed to working hard than any guide we have ever had! His energy is contagious, storms nonplus him, and he makes no excuses, ever. His patience, positivity and intuitive teaching skills help you build skills, even in your 50’s. We have recommended Nate to many people already. Together with Bing (the packhorse) and his great dogs, he is a personality but he is “normal” by small town comparison. Really a great guy, with a cute son and wife, too. He was a highlight of our time in southern Utah… Dan & Cheryl


“I’ve had the opportunity to fish with guides over the years from Florida to Washington and Hawaii to Canada, and I have three words to summarize our experience with Nate this past week…BEST GUIDE EVER. He worked harder then any guide I’ve been with. My experience for a full day trip was always 8 to 9 hours. Not with Nate, a full day was 12 hours or more. He carried our gear in, gave great instruction, and assisted us every way possible to ensure we caught fish. And let me tell you, we caught fish! The lunches he provided were large enough to serve as our dinner as well. The fresh baked goods were outstanding and I’ve never had a bigger or better BLT! We spent 5 nights in a cabin and they were exactly as advertised, very neat and clean with fresh towels provided each day. Yes they were cozy and comfortable, but we spent little time in them. The pizza was outstanding and when I had to connect with the rest of the world they had great Wi-Fi service. I had never been to Southern Utah before, but my son and I can’t wait to get back for a stay with Escalante Outfitters”. A & B.

The Outfitters offers half day, full day, and over night fly fishing trips on Boulder Mountain and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. We provide all the gear and lug it for you!

Book Today!

Sustainable assets

I love these dang pants. They make my butt look good. I mean you would think it would be easy, right? However, it seems lately that the fashion world thinks the ideal female form is that of a 12 year old boy. So booya prAna for making a dang pair of pants that feature my assets perfectly. Vanity and shallowness aside they are also very functional, the gusseted inseams means slot canyons like Peek-A-Boo and Spooky are well… a breeze. The quick drying fabric comes in handy when you have to do a waist deep wade, it was literally just minutes before they were dry. Spring hiking in cotton is such a terrible idea. (We sell quick dry undies too!) It is nice to have a functional pair of pants that don’t make you look like a tourist in your vacation facebook posts.

Gear & outdoor clothing at Escalante Outfitters

Gear & outdoor clothing at Escalante Outfitters

Low rise relaxed fit prAna Performance Jasmine Knickers in Cargo Green.

“The prAna Jasmine Knicker is a performance knicker that can be worn around town before heading to the hills. Stretch fabric and a gusseted inseam allow for a complete range of motion that’s ideal for bouldering and longer ascents, while water resistance shrugs off puddles and surprise showers”. (swiped this description from the prAna website)

prAna is a company that is in line with Escalante Outfitter’s mission in that they use environmentally conscious materials and practices for all of their clothing. The clothing lines we carry focus on these same ideals.  Functional for what you will use it for but good for the world in which you are using it.

We also carry a great selection outdoor clothing and natural accessories  from these to vendors as well, check them out!

Thread 4 Thoughts
Recycled and organic products manufactured sustainably
The recycled polyester in this line is made from used water bottles, additionally recycled polyester uses 90% less water in the manufacturing process, than traditional polyester. The cotton is organic and again uses much less water than conventional cotton. The majority waste water created by this company is recycled and not dumped directly into any watersource. The workers are paid a fair wage, have a maximum of 40 hour work week and are paid overtime. Safety standards exceed the regional requirements and all workers work with good lighting with windows & fresh air.


Sustainable Farming Practices

Unique Batik
Fair Trade Products
Unique Batik is a Fair Trade wholesaler and online retailer based in Raleigh, NC. In business since 1991, Unique Batik now partners with artisans (individuals, families, and co-ops) in Guatemala, Ghana, Thailand and Pakistan. A proud member of the Fair Trade Federation, Unique Batik guarantees its artisans fair wages, long-term relationships, and safe working conditions that are free from discrimination and forced child labor. This allows the artists to make a living, stay in their home communities and carry on cultural tradition.

Weaving by hand in the traditional style

Weaving by hand in the traditional style


Near the Petrified Forest an Escalante Spring

The sky this morning was like a poem, half remembered but so beautiful I knew words weren’t gonna capture anyway.  There was a long strip of pink on 50 mile mountain, beaming over the rim of my coffee cup.  Then there was an orange cotton candy explosion to the east, taking up half the sky with its ridiculous drama.  The little bits of remaining snow had a faint pastel glow.  The whole town had a quiet, magical feel for about an hour. The lingering bit of winter’s nip just adding its flavor to the morning. Spring is springing and the sky is singing and I am sitting on the porch of the Escalante Outfitters, starting a list of a few of the easy little side trips I am going to try and squeeze in on my work days.

Petrified Forest (still haven’t done it yet, gonna though this year I swear)

Mossy Cave (with my mom) Bryce Canyon

Cottonwood Narrows Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument

Lower Calf Creek Falls Escalante Canyons

Willis Creek Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument

Willow Gulch (water shoes) Grand Staircase National Monument

These are some of the easy but beautiful hikes in the Escalante region.  Good for people who aren’t ready for a 10 mile trek, but who would like to see the varieties of landscape and geologic wonders that abound in these parts.  You don’t need a park pass for Mossy Cave as it is just off the road side between here and Bryce Canyon.  It has some cool hoo-doos, great colors and a little arch.  But the best bit is the cave which in the winter has large ice stalagmites and in the spring has a neat dripping roof covered in moss.

The Petrified Forest is right next to town and it is funny how many locals haven’t been yet.  Sorta like New Yorkers who never go to Ellis Island, I guess.  Well I am going to go even though I have been warned that it is not the terrifying forest with large upstanding stone trees that one might expect from the name Petrified Forest.

Mossy Cave near the Petrified Forest

Mossy Cave near the Petrified Forest State Park


Boulder Mountain Fishing

The summer is finally upon us and the fishing is going strong. We have been fishing all over the mountain, from the canyon streams to the mountain lakes at 10,000 feet.  The only waters that aren’t open are the cutthroat spawning grounds, but those fish should move off the redds by the beginning of next month. The bugs on the lakes are also popping off.  At the beginning of the week we ran into a thick mayfly hatch on one of the lower lakes and voracious rainbows were hitting spinners at the edge of the sedges. Yesterday, I was having a hard time pumping up the float tubes because damsel flies kept climbing up my pant legs. The nymphs and adults are everywhere. Check out the tiger trout caught last week. The fish below was 22 inches long.