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Spooky and Peek-a-Boo Canyons

Updated: Mar 27, 2021

A casual comment made by an acquaintance on Halloween reminded me of a couple of beloved canyons in Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument.

A stone "window" in the middle of Peek-a-Boo canyon. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

A loop hike through Spooky and Peek-a-Boo slot canyons is one of the most popular hikes in Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. And rightly so.

The trailhead to the canyons is found on a small side spur about 26 miles down Hole-in-the-Rock road. There is a parking lot and from there it is about a five mile round trip up Peek-a-Boo and down Spooky.

Starting at the parking area, you drop into the Dry Fork of Coyote canyon which runs roughly north to south. Spooky and Peek-a-Boo are tributaries of the Dry Fork. They run east-west, are roughly parallel to each other, and are very narrow.

Peek-a-Boo ends in an 8-10 foot drop into a usually dry pool in the Dry Fork of the Coyote. For obvious reasons, no one enters the slot canyon in the rain, but the waterfall at the last pour off and the swelling pool at its base can be fun to watch after rains. The pool can linger for many days, making it a challenge to get into the canyon.

Once in the canyon, arches and sloping walls form a kind of stone chamber before sloping upwards in narrow twists and turns. It is not a technically difficult canyon, but it does require some athleticism.

For instance, in the photograph above. the window is actually quite small, so the route goes in front and to the left of the window, passes behind it, then twists its way up to another level. It's a bit of a squeeze, but not difficult. Children love it.

Stone "chamber" at the end of Peek-a-Boo canyon. The light area just beyond the overarching rock in the background marks the pour off at the end of the canyon. The windows and arches in this short and narrow canyon are the inspiration for the canyon's name. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

In less than a mile, the canon can be exited and there is a short cross-country route to the head of Spooky canyon.

Spooky, like Peek-a-Boo, is not a technically difficult canyon, but it is deeper, and darker, and narrower. People who are heavy may not be able to make it through. Even for thinner people it's a tight fit. I found myself having to turn sideways, drag my pack on the ground behind me. and even exhale in a couple parts in order to pass through.

I've taken my children there a couple of times. They loved it, but remember the "spooky" stretch of tight narrows where one wall—about face high—was covered with hundreds, if not thousands, of daddy longlegs spiders.

Nowadays, the route is very well trafficked. It has become mandatory to go up Peek-a-Boo and down Spooky because two people could not pass each other if going in opposite directions.

One segment of the long narrows in Spooky canyon. The canyon floor is narrower than the width of a shoe, and only small children can walk through without going sideways. My camera bag and the tripod are wedged between the canyon walls behind me as I photographed with a large format camera. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

Of course, that makes it a challenge to photograph the canyons today.

These photographs were taken in the late '80's—before Grand Staircase - Escalante was a National Monument and visitation was much lower. I used medium and large format film cameras mounted on a tripod. With the canyons' increasing popularity, I don't think I could do the same thing today—unless, perhaps, it was in winter and the crowds were gone. But even then, I wouldn't be dragging such a large camera pack anymore.


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