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Backpacking Death Hollow a Must For Any Backpacker

Death Hollow is one of the backpacking gems of the Mountain West. There are a couple options to do this trail, and unfortunately I have only done one of them. Death Hollow begins off the Hell’s Backbone Road in between Boulder, Utah and Escalante, Utah. It can begin in the upper Death Hollow drainage, which may add 2 to 3 days on your trip, or start on the Boulder Mail Trail. Even though I have wanted to do it from the Upper Death Hollow drainage, I have only done it from the Boulder Mail Trail which starts at the Boulder International Airport.

I had originally planned on doing this trip a couple years prior. Unfortunately, due to late season snowfall, we changed the plan and backpacked somewhere else. That was the trip that I met Dawn. Even though that trip turned out to be as pleasant as a Donald Trump crotch grab, I have still managed to keep in touch with Dawn. Now a couple years later I still hadn’t backpacked Death Hollow and it was Dawn planning the trip this time.

Beginning Death Hollow

The first several miles is over beautiful slick-rock. If it wasn’t for the energy expenditure, the slick-rock hills would be like rolling waves in the ocean. By the time we got to the first resting spot there were only a couple people who weren’t tired. For the most part it wasn’t too rough except when we had to descend into the bottom of Sand Wash and then climb all the way back out again. I was more tired than most because: A) I was carrying Bluey (my daughters two-headed dragon) and, B) I am just fat and out of shape, mostly just B. I managed to negate the weight of Bluey by sneaking some extra weight into Disco’s backpack.

It only took us a couple of hours of backpacking until we came to the “Death Hollow” part of the trail. This part of the trail descends from the rolling hills of slick-rock down a narrow ledge to the stream below. Supposedly Death Hollow got its name when it was used to drive livestock to the bottom for water. On the way to the bottom a cow, horse, goat, fat backpacker or something fell to its death. Ever since then it has been called Death Hollow. Once at the bottom we began to look for a great place to camp near the stream. I found my own slice of heaven right in between a couple patches of Poison Ivy. By Poison Ivy I mean itchy ass plant, not Uma Thurman in a campy Joel Schumacher film.

Backpacking Death Hollow

Day two was pretty relaxed. It was all downhill but it was so gradual that you really wouldn’t notice it. Some of the time we walked in the stream bed. On a few occasions the walls that towered high above us would close in forcing us through a couple narrow sections. These sections never lasted for more than a few feet, but they did add a lot of beauty to the trip. Other times the trail forced us into the loving grasp of lady ivy. At one point we came to a swimming hole. Shortly after the final narrow section, Death Hollow joined the Escalante River and the Escalante River Trail, a trip I had done seven years before.

I was amazed at how much this area had changed. It wasn’t that there were people camped here this time, it was that I could see them. Seven years earlier, it was impossible to see anything that was just a few feet off the river bank. The invasive plant Tamarisk had overgrown all of the embankments. Since then, people had come through and cut all of the Tamarisk out. It looked like a before and after picture in a brazilian wax advertisement.

Backpacking in Death Hollow

Another thing that had completely changed was how clear the water was. Water flowing in the Escalante river was clear. Every time that I had seen the Escalante River it was always a brown sickly color, this time it wasn’t. We took a couple seconds to talk to the other group. They said they were staying the night, and as perfect as the place had become, I didn’t want to sick Disco on them, so we moved on.

We only traveled another mile or so when we set up camp on the left side of the river. We found another great place that was slightly elevated with lots of dead wood and lots of flat space. After we set up camp we gathered around a campfire like we always do. It was at this moment when perfection was ruined and we got to experience a minor desert phenomenon. As we sit there talking we felt a cool breeze push through and heard the sound of water intensify. We looked over to the river and saw a small wave of water a couple inches come rushing down the river. The clear water turned icky brown and rocks that were sticking out of the water were now covered. It hadn’t rained anywhere so we didn’t know what the exact cause was but it was kind of cool to see.

Backpacking in Escalante National Monument

The next morning we packed up and started out on the trail. I was familiar with this part of the trail. I had done it seven years before, but I had also hiked this part several times to see some of the other features. It is mostly up and down sand hills and valleys with numerous river crossings. Now that all of the Tamarisk was out of the way, the trail was easy to follow and it didn’t seem as miserable as the first time.

We knew we only had a couple miles left when an arch appeared on the cliff wall high above the floor. It is only a narrow sliver and it would have been easy to miss. Its not really that spectacular but if its not something you see every day, you can make a picture op out of it. The better picture op is about a mile further, something many people would call an arch but its actually the Escalante Land Bridge.

Most people who are backpacking through miss one of the coolest parts about this land bridge. When you see this land bridge you will want to stop to take some pictures from a distance. However, when you get close to it, the trail will branch off and go up the hill. Leave your pack where the trail starts to go up, and follow the trail up. Just to the left of the bridge where the dirt meets the cliff wall, there are lots of petroglyphs. People have scratched their initials over them and ruined some of them. If you choose to go up, take your camera and common sense. You may be cool, your kids may think your great, you may think your great, but nobody else cares that you were there. The people that care would rather see pictures. There are also Indian Ruins built into the side of the cliff. You can’t reach them and if you are looking you can see them from a distance.

The remainder of the trip is only a couple more miles and a few river crossings to the end. From the land bridge to the parking lot, you can expect to see a lot more people on day hikes. If you have a dog with you this is about the time you want to put them on a leash. There are some more indian ruins in the area. However, I am not sure how many people know about them or how advertised they are. If you want to know more about them shoot me an email.