Willis Creek

We awoke to another beautiful morning on Wednesday. We weren’t in a hurry to leave, so we enjoyed the morning and slowly packed up our site. I wasn’t certain we’d be able to do the morning hike I had in mind due to the road conditions, but I knew we could definitely hike at Red Canyon before hitting the Interstate to go home.

My original plan was to hike Willis Creek, a well-known destination in the area, popular for its ease and beauty. I had even talked to the barista in Tropic about it the day before – the coffee shop had a large photograph of one of the canyons. The only obstacle was Skumtupah Road, another potentially mushy dirt road. If we could get to the trailhead, we’d be able to do the hike.

We had attempted the beginning of Skumtupah the day before but a very steep muddy incline and rain clouds in the near distance changed our minds. With a nice bright morning and the chance of rain slated for the afternoon, we thought we’d give it a go.

We didn’t have any trouble getting to the trailhead, in fact, Zach leaned into a few slick spots in an effort to dirty the car a little more. When we arrived at the parking area, we were surprised to find that we were the first car there. Zach signed the trail register and we got started. This time we knew well enough to bring our Chacos. Usually a ribbon of water, we correctly assumed the creek would be flowing a bit more after the recent rain.

The trail began across from the parking area and quickly led down to the creek. More than a trickle of burnt-orange water flowed through the creek bed, and we transitioned to our Chacos to make things easier. As the canyon thinned, we needed to wade in and out of the creek, moving from bank to bank. It became quickly apparent that Truman did not want to wade through water for the majority of the hike. It wasn’t warm enough to counteract the cool water. We let him ride in his pack.

And just like that, the canyon opens up

Willis Creek never slims into a slot canyon, but it has gorgeous narrows sections. The hike’s appeal was evident – it was simple to follow the canyon as it narrowed and widened, and it was breathtaking.

We had the creek completely to ourselves as the first hikers of the day. It was glorious. At a certain point we were passed by three horseback riders on their way out – an experience offered by an outfitter in Tropic – but otherwise we were alone. The hike was incredibly peaceful, and I felt redeemed for the hikes we couldn’t do in Escalante and Kodachrome.

We turned around at the junction with Averett Canyon instead of going the full length to the Sheep Creek confluence. It would be nice to return another time and go the full 4.4 miles, but we were satisfied with 2.5 for the morning.

On our way out we passed a couple, a solo hiker, and a family of four – still not as many as I would imagine on a hot summer day. It was a little deflating to see the family’s rented minivan in the parking lot next to our Subaru and two Tacoma trucks. It must have been a helluva ride up.

Parting view as we hiked back up to the parking lot

As we drove away, sinister clouds floated in the distance and we wondered if they carried rain. Of course, we didn’t find out because we were headed west on the way to our last stop of the trip, Red Canyon.

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