There are numerous guidebooks and websites that give all the details for hiking and backpacking in Coyote Gulch in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. I did a fair amount of research and talking with people prior to leaving, but there were a few things I never saw mentioned in guidebooks or websites. Here’s my list:
Toilet in Coyote Gulch
Prior to the trip, I called the BLM Field office in Escalante (435-826-5499) to ask about the bathroom situation while backpacking in Coyote Gulch. As this blog explains, the BLM told me that Boy Scouts had burned down the bathroom a few years prior. She told me that we would need to bury our waste 200 feet away from water sources and pack out our toilet paper. No problem. However, when we arrived near Jacob Hamblin Arch and started poking around the area, we noticed the remains of the former toilet, as well as several newer signs in the area that pointed toward a “toilet.” Down the canyon about 15 yards from the charred remains of the old outhouse, tucked against the west canyon wall, is one of the BLM’s finest pit toilets, in perfect working condition. It’s an open-air toilet seat that sits atop a wide metal pipe. There’s a little privacy behind some scrub oak, but there isn’t enough coverage to obscure your view of the canyon. Try that thing in the early morning! It has to be one of the most majestic bathroom experiences known to mankind. The view is spectacular. As of July 2013, the toilet in Coyote Gulch was getting fairly full. I’m not sure what the exit strategy for the waste in the toilet is, but it’s on its way to brimming. It’s interesting to note that the woman at the BLM office didn’t mention the toilet to me. Perhaps she didn’t know about it, or it’s secretly heralded as the world’s greatest outdoor John and she didn’t want to give away any local secrets. Either way, it’s there for those who don’t mind a bit of exposure and a great view from the bathroom.
Water in Coyote Gulch
The drinking water situation in Coyote Gulch is divine. There are two natural springs in the canyon with deliciously fresh and cold spring water. I did not take a water filter and I did not get sick. The first spring is directly east of Jacob Hamblin Arch on the north wall of the canyon. There is a fair amount of foliage around the trickle of water, but it’s easy to find. The second spring is less than a mile from the convergence of Coyote Gulch with the Escalante River. It is also on the north wall of the canyon and has the appearance of a waterfall. We drank directly from both sources and no one in our group got sick.
Ravens and Squirrels in Coyote Gulch
Perhaps this is common knowledge while camping in this area, but I was unaware and it’s worth passing on: The ravens and squirrels are very aggressive in stealing food in Coyote Gulch. They are accustomed to people in the canyon and they know where and how to pilfer and plunder. On a day hike to the Escalante River, the animals near Jacob Hamblin Arch got into several of our packs and stole food. The ravens are very smart; they are able to open zippers and they attempted to peck through one of the compartments on my pack to get to my bagged and sealed food. The critters were especially adept at plundering MREs. When I do this hike again, I will take a lightweight Glad Ware container to store food in. I will lock my pack zippers and wrap my tarp around my entire pack in an effort to thwart thievery. If you take a tent (I don’t recommend it… sleep under an overhang), lock it up. Fortunately, we had enough food to share with everyone and our trip wasn’t ruined. I’ve since heard that the animals’ pilfering is a common occurrence in Coyote Gulch. In fact, on our way into the canyon we picked up garbage along our route that seemed like blatant and obnoxious littering. I was initially irritated with the carelessness of previous travelers, but I’m now of the opinion that animals stole their food and left the garbage; despite our searching, we never saw some of the garbage remains of our food that was stolen.
Other notes from Coyote Gulch
We went during the last few weeks of July. Typically, this is the hottest time of the year, but we had amazing weather. A storm had passed through the area the day before we arrived, keeping temperatures down and providing some non-threatening cloud cover. The rain also turned the Escalante River into a delightful, swift-moving chocolate mess. We floated several hundred yards downstream in it and had a general riot. I don’t think you can plan to be there on a day like that, but you’re lucky if you are.
In our three-day trip from Hurricane Wash to Coyote Gulch and back, we ran into three backpackers who were leaving the canyon and we briefly saw two other day hikers during our entire stay. We essentially had the entire canyon to ourselves.