Poison Ivy in Utah? Upper Calf Creek and Lower Calf Creek Falls Trails

Upper and Lower Calf Creek Falls are pretty impressive waterfalls by any definition but are exceptional for central Utah, making them a popular place to visit in Grand Staircase-Escalante. The lower falls in particular are very accessible via a flat 6 mile roundtrip hike up the canyon. We hiked both trails in the same day, beginning with the less-visited Upper Calf Creek Falls.

The route to the rim of the upper falls is a steep 600 foot descent and a mile of walking; from there it’s possible to drop down to the creek level below the waterfall or walk the rim to pass the pools above the falls that feed the 90 foot cascade. The trail is mostly the white sandstone of the plateau, littered with small boulders of volcanic rock. In fact, wherever you look there are endless expanses of off-white Navajo sandstone, broken up by patches of dry grass and stunted juniper. We actually camped here and were treated to views of the morning sun warming the creamy rock.

For our hike we descended all the way down to the bottom of the falls to start in order to get a good view of the cascade. It was surprisingly lush and green near the base in contrast to the dry, barren rock and there were huge, tall clusters of poison ivy. I have never imagined using the word “beautiful” in the same sentence as “poison ivy” – unless maybe I was saying something like, “I executed a series of beautiful maneuvers in avoiding the patches of poison ivy” – but this poison ivy really was beautiful. So beautiful that I actually didn’t even recognize it. Luckily I didn’t go touching it.

We ascended and walked the rim towards the pools that feed the falls, even discovering a small waterfall tumbling off a lip of the sandstone. My favorite thing though was being able to stand within feet of the top of the falls and look down the canyon. After we returned to the trailhead we drove around to the access point to the lower falls, which is 3 miles downstream from the second waterfall, which necessitates a hike up the canyon. The creamy white sandstone walls and formations of Calf Creek Canyon are quite stunning and make for a beautiful hike. Gnarled oaks, yellowing cottonwoods, and fantastic stripes of minerals on the canyon walls complete the picture. The 130-foot lower falls are larger than the one upstream and the pool at the bottom is also more expansive but I might be more fond of the upper falls – though it’s a tough call. I should note too that the lower falls also have sandy beach and a nice grouping of large cottonwoods at the base that would provide a lovely shaded area for a picnic in hotter weather.

Tom crossing slickrock, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Tom crossing slickrock, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Scrub oak near the water, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Scrub oak near the water, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Poison ivy under the sandstone cliffs, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Poison ivy under the sandstone cliffs, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Poison ivy, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Poison ivy, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Tom at Upper Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Tom at Upper Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Upper Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Upper Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Upper Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Upper Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Beautiful but evil: More posion ivy, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Beautiful but evil: More posion ivy, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Walking the rim near the top of the falls, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Walking the rim near the top of the falls, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Looking down from the top, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Looking down from the top, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Top of the falls, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Top of the falls, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Pools above the falls, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Pools above the falls, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Tiny falls above, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Tiny falls above, Upper Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Canyon on Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Canyon on Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Pictographs across the canyon, Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Pictographs across the canyon, Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Gnarled oak branches, Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Gnarled oak branches, Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Desert varnish, Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Desert varnish, Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Butte on the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Butte on the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Canyon walls, Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Canyon walls, Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Me standing in front of Lower Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Me standing in front of Lower Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Walking around Lower Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Walking around Lower Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Tom and I at Lower Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Tom and I at Lower Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Sunrise the next morning near Upper Calf Creek Trailhead, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Sunrise the next morning near Upper Calf Creek Trailhead, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Sunrise the next morning near Upper Calf Creek Trailhead, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Sunrise the next morning near Upper Calf Creek Trailhead, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

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