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Hiking Utah
Tribune Reporters
By Nate Carlisle, Jason Bergreen, Erin Alberty and Brett Prettyman

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Get your heebie jeebies in Spooky Gulch

For a hike that will raise the hair on the back of your neck, head to Grand Staircase-Escalante for a trip to Spooky Gulch.

I think this slot canyon is so named because of its goulish rock blobs and overall darkness. But for most visitors, the big fright involves tight spaces.

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My husband, dog and I took to the narrows this weekend during our "babymoon" to southern Utah. As it turns out, 36 weeks pregnant is not the ideal time to attempt Spooky Gulch.

Squeezing through Spooky Gulch.

I got through most of the slot, but I had to walk on my knees a few times and experiment with my belly angle to fit through the tightest spots. My husband, who is tall, had his own problems where the walls tapered upward toward his chest.

Spooky Gulch is dark and narrow.

It was fun for us, but it took a bit of mental discipline to keep my mind from straying to thoughts of stuck-ed-ness. Despite our cloudless day, the mere thought of a flash flood made me lonesome for an exit. I began to imagine how it would feel to need to get out of the canyon quickly — but first have to wriggle against the rock just to advance 18 inches, then turn and wriggle again. The walls take on a sinister life of their own when you start thinking like that, and I can easily see how panic could befall anyone predisposed to claustrophobia.

Physically squeezing through could be a problem for very large people, but for most of us the risk is fear itself. Think about whether you will have fun or just terrify yourself.

If you can have fun with it, Spooky Gulch is a real trick and treat.

Sitting in a cove of Spooky Gulch.

To get there, go about 25 miles down Hole In The Rock Road from Highway 12, take the signed Dry Fork spur road at the left and park near the trail register (or just before if your car doesn't have good clearance). Follow the trail signs and cairns to the sandy floor of Dry Fork. The mouth of Spooky Gulch is about 1.25 miles from the trailhead on your left, near a sandy wash. Peekaboo and Brimstone slot canyons are in the same area.

— Erin Alberty

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