Thursday, May 10, 2018

Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail)

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Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Pine Creek Canyon is a hidden gem in the Escalante area - a pristine creek, tall canyon walls, half mountain-half desert, no cows, all downhill, plenty of shade, and towering Ponderosa trees. Located in the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness, this canyon is also known as "The Box", which is funny since it's not really a box canyon but steep-walled, open-ended drainage carved by Pine Creek millions of years ago.

On a hot summer day when it's too hot to hike off Hole in the Rock Road and hit the desert trails, Pine Creek offers a cooler, shadier trail that is perfect for humans and dogs. It's also within an hours drive of Escalante, UT so when you're done you can easily grab a burger from my favorite spot, The Circle D Eatery. The great thing about this trail is that is a point-to-point hike. Make sure you have two cars, one for each trailhead, so you can see the entire canyon and all that this area has to offer. Be advised that there are endless stream crossings, so wearing closed-toe water shoes is important (also to ward off cactus along the trail). If you follow the same route I describe, you'll also be hiking downstream and downhill the entire way. Such a relief to our usual uphill hikes!

The best time to hike this trail is late Spring, after the spring run off slows down, or late Fall once the temperatures have cooled off. In Winter the trail would not be accessible since the forest roads are not maintained. Summer would be ok, however, you'll want to start early in the morning since the last half of the hike is exposed and the sand will be really hot for dogs. We hiked this in late April, and it was perfect (but we also had a very dry winter). Call the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center to ask about current conditions and road closures before hiking here (435.826.5499).

From Escalante, UT head north on N 300 E. This road turns into the Posy Lake Road. Turn right at the "T" on Pine Creek Road. Follow this as it passes by some ranches, and eventually turns into a well-graded dirt road. Drop your first car off at the Lower Box Access dirt parking lot. Continue up what is now the "Hells Backbone" road. Stay on this road (FR153) until you see the road split, and stay right for the Blue Spruce Campground & Upper Box Access. Once you turn, drive another 4.5 miles until you see the brown sign for Upper Box. Parking is along the road and the trail also starts on the right side (east) of the road. If you drive over Pine Creek, you went too far.

Here is a driving map

Distance: 9.2 miles point-to-point
Elevation gain: 1,379 descent
Time: 5-7 hours
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? Yes, but it may be too long for younger kids
Fees/Permits? None

Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Park one car here - this is the car that you will end your hike at.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
As you drive up Hell's Backbone Road, keep an eye out for this large brown sign. Turn right for the Blue Spruce Campground (though you won't drive all the way to it). Stay on FR153.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
The only sign for where the trail starts. 
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
From the sign, immediately hike down the open grassy field towards the creek. You can see a very faint trail here.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Signing the trail register.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
It was so refreshing to hike in a shaded canyon as opposed to hiking in sand and slickrock like we did the past three days.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
You'll quickly come upon the gate.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Walking by rock faces.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Pine Creek has really amazing rock walls. They only get taller as you hike down stream.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Heather tried to stay dry, but eventually she gave in and walked through all the water. This water is much colder since the source comes from a higher elevation, so wearing neoprene socks helped keep our feet warmer (& prevented blisters!).
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Sometimes the grass gets tall and there is some overgrowth, but it's not so bad that you need to wear pants.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
The trail crossed the stream more times than we could count - maybe 50 times?
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
More intersting rock.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Look how clear the water is! The dogs were really happy to play in the stream plus drink fresh, cold water.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Remember how I said there must have been 50 stream crossings? They never seemed to end. It was a welcome sight for us! We were able to keep cool most of the hike.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Eventually the canyon walls get even taller, and the views open more.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
There are also several nice campsites along the trail that would make for a perfect overnight trip.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
The picture doesn't do the canyon walls justice - they had to be close to 1,000 ft tall.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
The trail is pretty easy to follow - we never felt like we lost the trail or couldn't find our way.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Lots of pine trees, of course!
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Some sections were dryer than others for the first half, so you'll definitely want to bring sunblock, a hot, and maybe even a lightweight long sleeve shirt.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
We had to climb over a handfull of fallen trees. Again, they weren't hard to maneuver.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
OUCH! Poor Mama-dog caught a cactus on her front paw.

There are quite a bit of cactus right along the trail so keep an eye for those, and make sure you carry a first aid kit for yourself and a doggy first aid kit.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
After you cross the very small Deep Creek coming in from the West, you are halfway. After that the trail turns sandy and much hotter (especially later in the day).
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
We were all starting to get pretty hot, even with the creek nearby.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Ahh, a place to stop in the creek again. You'll want to make sure you bring a water filter, such as the Mini Sawyer, in case you run out of drinking water in your camelbak. By the time we got back to the car my bladder was empty, and I should have refilled earlier.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs

Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
A hallway of pines!
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Heather is moving to Page, AZ soon - you can follow all of her new adventures at Explore with Heather!
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
You know you are getting close to the exit when you see the canyon come to a "V" shape ahead. The sand was getting hot, and Charlie would run up to the next stream crossing to cool off.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Pass through the gate.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
The old parking lot for the lower access - this parking lot has recently been closed and you now need to park your car 0.3 miles up the road. You should have your car waiting there.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Walking out along the old dirt road.
Hiking Pine Creek (The Box Trail) in Escalante, Utah, Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
YAY!!!! Finally we made it back to our end point! It took us just over 4 hours with one 10 minute break. We had ice cold beer waiting for us in our ORCA cooler, and I immediatley switched to my Chacos and pulled out my camp chair. So nice! I really loved this trail, can't wait to do it again.



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2 comments:

  1. Thank you for the shout out! Loads of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona trail guides coming up!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good you had so many cold stream crossings with the heat. Hiking downhill is always the best. Love that gravity thing!!

    ReplyDelete