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Upper Little Death Hollow

Little Death Hollow is a beautiful slot canyon in the remote Circle Cliffs area of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. While the lower section of the canyon may require technical skill and equipment, the upper section is easily accessible to hikers and features narrow, fluted passageways, petrified wood, and ancient petroglyphs.

The upper canyon route described in this trail guide is suitable for most healthy adults and children. Those wishing to continue all the way through Little Death Hollow may need advanced climbing skills and technical equipment.

Trailhead

The Little Death Hollow Trailhead (37.784024,-111.180456) is located on the Wolverine Loop Road, south of the Burr Trail and east of Boulder, Utah.

From Boulder, Utah:

  1. Drive east on the Burr Trail from Boulder for 18.4 miles.
  2. Turn right onto the Wolverine Loop Road.
  3. Continue for 12.7 miles on the Wolverine Road. (High clearance 4WD may be needed.)
  4. Turn right into the signed Little Death Hollow Trailhead.

The Wolverine Loop Road often requires a high clearance 4WD vehicle. Check with the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center at 755 W Main Street in Escalante, or call (435) 826-5499 for current conditions before beginning your trip.

The Hike

From the Little Death Hollow trailhead, begin hiking on the trail headed south down the wide, open canyon. The trail soon crosses through the wash and follows along the east side of the drainage on a broad, sandy bench. The trail is generally easy to follow but cattle trails in the area may cause confusion at times.

As you walk through this upper section of the canyon, look for petrified wood scattered around the area. There typically isn’t much to be found right next to the trail, but look for the dark piles of rocks near the base of the cliffs, a short distance off the trail. Many of the pieces are still in the form of large, mostly intact logs. Those interested in seeing more petrified wood can visit the Wolverine Petrified Wood Area, just north of the Little Death Hollow Trailhead.

After about 1.5 miles, the trail crosses the wash again as it passes by a large side canyon on the left. Take note of the terrain in this area. On the return hike, it could be easy to start walking up the wrong canyon from this large junction and completely miss the trailhead. After crossing the wash, look for a boulder off the side of the trail that has some nice ancient petroglyphs chipped into it (37.768849,-111.19862).

Beyond the petroglyphs, the canyon begins to narrow significantly. Follow the trail as it winds in and out of the wash bottom and eventually disappears. For the rest of the hike, navigation is simple; just follow the watercourse down the canyon, negotiating small obstacles as you go. Seasonal springs may flow from the ground in some areas and small alcoves and cottonwood trees provide shade. As you pass by a significant side canyon on the left (37.755499,-111.214775), look for a large arch perched high on the left canyon wall.

About 4.5 miles from the trailhead, the canyon enters the first narrows of the hike. From here on, the canyon stays quite narrow, at times only a few feet wide as it passes between dazzling Wingate sandstone walls. Small obstacles are encountered along the way but most hikers should have no problem. Depending on recent conditions, stagnant water may be present. Use caution wading through any pools you encounter, as the water may be very cold, even in hot weather.

After roughly 7 miles of hiking, you will encounter an 8-foot drop over a chockstone that marks the end of easy hiking in Little Death Hollow. In all but the driest conditions, this next section is filled with deep, frigid water. Do not proceed past this point unless you have advanced climbing skills, thermal protection, and are prepared for the significant technical difficulties ahead. Due to the narrow nature of the canyon, GPS devices are unreliable and should not be used to determine the turnaround point. Never climb down anything you cannot easily climb back up.

Hiking distance to the end of the easy narrows and back to the trailhead is approximately 14 miles round trip. Turning around earlier is always an option and still offers a fantastic hiking experience for those looking for a shorter trip.

Rules and Regulations

  • No littering.
  • Pack out all trash, including toilet paper.
  • No campfires allowed.
  • Permits required for overnight use and are available for free at the visitor center in Escalante. Permits can also be self-issued at most trailhead registers, including the register at the Little Death Hollow Trailhead.

Special Considerations

This area can be extremely hot during spring, summer, and fall. Carry plenty of water and wear appropriate clothing.

Little Death Hollow poses a significant flash flood risk. There are few opportunities for escape in much of the narrow section of the canyon. Do not enter the canyon when precipitation is in the forecast. Additionally, the Wolverine Road used to access Little Death Hollow can quickly become impassable with just a little bit of rain or snow. It is best to avoid this area entirely if rain is a possibility.

Credits

This trail guide provided by Backcountry Post.