A perfect trip to Utah will have you seeing a mix of some of the most popular, renowned national parks in the country, and a few paths that are less traveled — but no less spectacular. One of the best places to experience a bit of both is Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The monument is physically mesmerizing, but not overrun with crowds in the same parks like Zion or Arches are. It was the slot canyons in particular that caught my attention for this trip. Never having been in one, I had no idea what to expect from this — as described online — “very skinny canyon.” So, after choosing Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulch to explore, my adventure buddy Doug packed up the car and we got ready to scramble, climb, and stare in awe at some of mother nature’s most peculiar handiwork.

1

It’s dark when we arrive. Well, dark is actually an understatement. It’s pitch black with no moon, and no nearby cities to emit light. We crawl out of the car, stretch our legs, and set up the rooftop tent under the cover of an infinite amount of stars.

2

We wake up to oatmeal and a drive down the bumpy road taking us to Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulch. Finding a day clear of rain after checking the weather (important when venturing into slot canyons), we pack our bags with food and snacks and make our way into the landscape amongst which the slot canyons are hidden.

3

A quick scramble gets us into Peek-a-Boo Gulch. The rock is smooth, and quick slips mixed with good grabs cause laughter from the family behind us as we clamber up the orange sandstone. Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulch will get us on a 3.5-mile loop, a perfect length for most visitors.

4

Our first view of the canyon is jaw-dropping. A seemingly endless tunnel quickly pulls us into the depths, moving away from the family that’s now struggling to get up the short scramble.

5

It’s quiet inside the canyon. As we move further along the path, we quickly find why it’s called a slot canyon. Doug crawls through a natural tunnel of rock that feels soft and cool to the touch.

6

Rock formations flow around us, arching overhead and towering to our sides. These natural wonders allow sporadic peeks at the blue sky above, juxtaposing with the endless orange labyrinth of stone.

7

Peek-a-Boo Gulch calls for occasional rock hopping and scrambling. Doug tiptoes along the ledges above as I scramble below, giggling like kids in a jungle gym all the way through.

8

But the canyon can also command a sense of silence. Sometimes all we can do is stop and stare in awe. We’re alone for this stretch, and a gentle orange glow surrounds us with nothing but the sounds of our padding along the soft dirt.

9

Imagine water flowing for millions of years, forcing itself to carve such an incredible place. We move slowly along these old walls, feeling the smooth remnants left by the force of nature.

10

We immediately realize why it is recommended to do Spooky Gulch after Peek-a-Boo. This second canyon is tighter, and its one-person corridors can get a bit saturated. However, we manage to find a moment of quiet as we take in a narrow strip of sun.

11

Covered in red dirt after a day of adventure, we set up camp overlooking a seemingly endless field. We have a dinner of pasta and wine as we watch the last light of the day painting the landscape in a warm light, knowing now that there are hidden worlds that gouge the earth before us.

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