Hiking Willis Creek in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

In May, Drew and I made a trip to Utah to visit Bryce Canyon National Park. While we were there, we planned a short morning hike in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument at one of its smaller slot canyons, Willis Creek. Willis Creek offers a 6 mile round-trip hike, but the slot canyon portion runs for the first mile and a half, so you can shorten the hike and turn around if you’re only interested in hiking the slots.

We stayed in Tropic during our visit to Bryce, so it was a short drive over to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. We rented a sedan and we were able to navigate the 7 mile unpaved drive to the Willis Creek trailhead, but we were lucky (and a little crazy.) We didn’t see a single other sedan in the park and we were fortunate that it was a beautiful day because we would have been stranded if it had rained. The moral of the story is: only visit Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument if you have an SUV.

Upon arrival, we signed in to the trail log, crossed the street to the trailhead, and set out on our hike! You enter into the creek very close to the start. About a quarter mile in you will encounter an area where you may have to scramble or go off trail to fully enter the slot canyon, but it’s relatively easy and kids shouldn’t have any issues. From that point on, the slots are fairly narrow.

We loved walking through the slot canyons and enjoying the unique scenery. While we were in a slot, a group of horseback riders with a guide passed through, which was exciting (but they also left poop along the entire trail–yuck.) We hiked through the narrow slots, which eventually widened to open hiking along the creek. We hiked in the open space for at least half a mile or so before calling it and turning around.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Willis Creek open

Overall, we enjoyed our hike at Willis Creek–it was a simple, short hike that was a great way to start the day and would be appropriate for all ages and abilities. After getting a little taste of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, we’re eager to visit again to explore a bit more!

Tips for visiting Willis Creek:

  • Only enter Grand Staircase-Escalante if you’re in an SUV or truck
  • Check the weather forecast in advance. Rain can cause flash floods in the slot canyon, making it very dangerous to hike Willis Creek
  • Wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet. We opted for our strappy Chacos
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