Willis Creek Hike

Willis Creek Hike is our favorite family friendly hike in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This hike is flat, easy, relatively short, and very beautiful. Also, unlike many hikes in the monument, there is only a 6 mile rough road drive to get to the trailhead. 🙂

Willis Creek is a slot canyon that follows a small stream and never gets too narrow. It is beautiful and shady and there is a good chance to see wildlife along the way. From the trailhead (see directions for finding the trail below), cross the road, or simply walk down the road to where you see the water flowing, and start along the creek.

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You will park next to this sign and then cross the street to the trailhead.
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Once you cross the street you will see this post and the trail heading down to the creek.
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It isn’t very far before you reach the creek and you will be walking in or next to the water.

Our boys really enjoyed hopping back and forth across the water, and there are stones strategically placed to help you stay dry. The water never really gets more than 3 inches deep anyway (at least in early June) so you don’t have to worry about water shoes or swimsuits.

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It is really fun for all ages to walk along the creek.
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We loved watching for animals and birds along the trail. Most of the trail is through different slot canyons, but sometimes it is out in the open like this.
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The slots are nice and shady. The walls are carved into interesting shapes.
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We have a lot of jumping pictures from this hike. The boys loved hopping the creek every 2 minutes.

As you go along, the canyon will narrow down and widen out several times, never getting narrower than about 6 feet wide, but remaining beautiful for the whole hike. Eventually, you come to a pretty little waterfall. It only cascades about 10 feet down, but the water has carved the sandstone away beautifully, and you can enjoy the coolness of the creek and the shade. This would be a good place to stop and turn around if you’ve had enough.

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About halfway through the hike you will come to this waterfall.
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We hiked down on the left side of the waterfall, but a family behind us went right. Both ways seemed okay.

We don’t give a hard distance for this hike because it is up to you how far to hike along Willis Creek. We continued on past the waterfall and it remains a pretty hike all the way to the arch where we turned around. Because of the water there is the potential to see wildlife. We spotted a gopher snake drinking from the stream. It was amazing to watch him slurping water. Later on we saw a canyon wren, which seemed to be laughing at us. There call is like a high, shrill twitter. You can see both of these animals in our video below.

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This slot canyon isn’t super narrow, but there were some places where we could touch both walls at once.
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Even though it isn’t as narrow as Spooky & Peek-a-Boo, it was beautiful and a lot easier hike.
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There were also places to climb and explore. This is an awesome kid hike.
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We spotted this snake drinking in the river bed. It was SO COOL!

Eventually, the trail opens up and there is a small arch in the left wall. We figured this was a great place to turn around. Dad did hustle farther up the trail and noticed that it splits, and there are two ways to go, at least it seems that way. We didn’t explore further than the arch. The total distance to the arch is 1.5 miles or 3.0 miles roundtrip.

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This is the arch that shows up once you come out of one of the narrows. Then the hike is out in the open before it splits into two trails. This was around 1.5 miles. Then we turned around.

This hike is the perfect hike for your family in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. If you are interested in other Family-friendly slot canyons, check out our post with a list of great slot canyons in Utah for families.

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From Cannonville, head south on Main Street for 2.9 miles (this road goes right past the Grand Staircase Escalante Visitor’s Center). Turn right on to Skutumpah Road, which is a dirt road. Continue 6.0 miles on this dirt road until you come to the Willis Creek trailhead sign shown at the top of this post. Parking is on the right and the trailhead is to the left. The road out to Willis Creek is rough. We made it in our van, but take things slow and be careful. We have heard that the road is rougher now, but haven’t been since 2019 to check it out.

This is the sign to watch for. It marks the turn-off for Skutumpah Road, which leads to Willis Creek.
This is the sign to watch for. It marks the turn-off for Skutumpah Road, which leads to Willis Creek.

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  1. Chris

    Great site! We are planning a Utah trip with three littles. It is our favorite area and this will help us explore it with our kiddos.