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Hiking (and Photographing) Little Death Hollow — Part 1

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

A 2-mile-long stretch of tight, but walkable narrows is the highlight of this long hike.

Deep within the narrows, sidelight illuminates boulders washed down in past floods and marks a potential exit from the confining canyon. Clicking the photo will take you to the Little Death Hollow Gallery. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

Like many east-side canyons in the Escalante drainage, Little Death Hollow begins in the Circle Cliffs and cuts west. It intersects Horse Canyon a couple of miles north of the Escalante River and about a mile and a half south of Wolverine Canyon's junction with Horse.

Adding Wolverine Canyon makes for a nice loop hike.

Wolverine Canyon also begins in the Circle Cliffs. It's trailhead is only about a mile north Little Death Hollow's, so the two canyons together make a nice loop hike.

From the Little Death Hollow trailhead, the first three miles follow a sandy wash in a broad canyon. A relatively thin layer of resistant red Wingate sandstone caps canyon walls comprised of soft, multicolored Chinle mudstones. The Chinle erodes easily and tends to undercut the overlying Wingate, causing the red rock to break off in large blocks that litter the talus slopes below while leaving vertical cliffs above.

As the canyon deepens, younger rock is encountered—what is going on?

Walking west, the Wingate layer gets lower and lower as the canyon gets more narrow. That's unusual, because in geology, younger rock layers overlie older ones. Heading downstream. you are losing elevation as the canyon deepens. You would typically be getting into older rock—what's going on here?

In at least one area, a large Wingate boulder on the canyon floor is inscribed with numerous petroglyphs—evidence of the ancient Fremont people who hunted here.

Solution Cavities

Eventually, the canyon is entirely in the Wingate and is perhaps a dozen feet wide. The Wingate walls are pockmarked by numerous holes (solution cavities) of various sizes. In some places, the cavities merge into one another, forming fantastic shapes in the sandstone.

As the canyon fully enters the Wingate layer, the sandstone is eroded into fins and solution cavities (many of which have merged) by the action of water over time. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

Fantastic patterns of erosion resemble written glyphs in another part of the canyon. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

After only a few turns of the sinuous canyon, the Wingate walls are very high and majestic. From this point on, there is little direct sunlight, most light is reflected or indirect sky light. And since the light is reflecting off reddish rock, it is very red in color. In another mile, the canyon will narrow severely.

Shortly after being fully within the Wingate formation, the canyon narrows and the walls are high and streaked with desert varnish. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes


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