Located in southern Utah, Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch is easily one of the most impressive geological formations in the super underrated Grand Staircase Escalante. Seeing this 150-foot tall arch will not come easy, requiring a 33-mile drive down a bumpy dirt road and a 14-mile roundtrip hike. But the reward is well worth the effort for anyone who makes the trek into Coyote Gulch to see Hamblin Arch! In this article, we’ll detail everything you need to know to plan your hike to Jacob Hamblin Arch, including several trailhead options and our recommendations on which route to choose, plus a few possible modifications.

Hi there! We’re Sarah and Matt, two nomads road tripping across the United States with our cat, Fitzgerald, making a new place our home month to month while working full time and adventuring as much as possible. We spend any free time we can get hiking, camping, backpacking, and exploring new places! We hope that our experiences will help you plan for your next adventure and inspire you to be an outlier!


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    Overview | Jacob Hamblin Arch

    At 150-feet tall and 100-feet wide, Jacob Hamblin Arch is one of the most spectacular landmarks in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, one of most underrated areas in the Southwest! More specifically, the arch is located within Coyote Gulch, a winding, fairly narrow canyon that leads to the Escalante River. While there are several ways to reach the arch, we recommend starting at Hurricane Wash Trailhead for a 14-mile roundtrip out and back hike.

    The hike from the trailhead to the entrance of the gulch is fairly unexciting, traversing sandy, rolling desert hills, but once you are inside Coyote Gulch, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful sights at every turn. The hike to Jacob Hamblin Arch is certainly worth the effort!

    About Grand Staircase Escalante

    The majority of Coyote Gulch, including Jacob Hamblin Arch and Hurricane Wash Trailhead, is located in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah, while the lower section extends into Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

    As one of the largest protected areas of land in the United States, spanning over a million acres, Grand Staircase Escalante in Southern Utah is a hiker’s paradise. Filled with unique geological formations and hidden gems, like the Cosmic Ashtray, Zebra Slot Canyon, and Calf Creek Falls, the opportunities for adventure here are endless.

    We’ve lived in southern Utah for 5 months, and something about Grand Staircase Escalante keeps pulling us back in! It’s absolutely one of our favorite spots in the entire US!

    About Coyote Gulch

    Coyote Gulch is a tributary of the Escalante River and a lush oasis that provides shelter to a variety of plants and animals from the harsh desert conditions that surround it. While backpacking in Coyote Gulch is a popular choice, it’s also possible to visit the gulch as a day hike.

    There are many exciting landmarks to see inside Coyote Gulch, the most popular and impressive being Jacob Hamblin Arch!

    Be respectful to this beautiful place!

    Before we get into it, we wanted to start with a word about preserving Coyote Gulch and the incredible landscapes found in Grand Staircase Escalante. You’ve almost surely heard or read about “Leave no trace“, but it’s especially important in this remote area, as services are limited, the ecosystem is particularly fragile, and there are often no defined trails. Here are a few important things to keep in mind:

    • Do not carve or vandalize any of the rock or plant life.
    • Always stay on the trail. When there is no defined trail, avoid trampling the crypotbiotic soil (that layer of black or white crust over the sand and dirt). Walk through loose sand, previously disturbed land, or across slick rock where ever possible.
    • Pack out what you pack in – do not leave behind trash. Do not take anything with you that you didn’t bring.
    • Use waste disposal bags to carry out any human waste.
    • Be prepared! There are no services on Hole in the Rock Road. Make sure you are prepared to change a tire, carry extra water and food, and have a means of navigation without cell service. Carrying a GPS device, like a Garmin In-Reach Mini, is a good idea to be able to call for help in case of a serious emergency.
    • Know your limits. Research trails ahead of time and don’t attempt any hike that outside your skill level.
    • Never set out on a hike in the desert without extra food and water, and avoid hiking during the hottest hours of the day (afternoon) during the summer.

    Remember to Leave No Trace. Pack out what you pack in, stay on trail, be well-prepared, leave nothing behind, take only photos and memories with you, treat the area with respect and help preserve this beautiful spot for generations to come.

    Jacob Hamblin Arch via Hurricane Wash

    Hike Stats

    Hiking distance | 14 miles (via Hurricane Wash Trailhead)
    Elevation gain | 550 feet
    Total time | 7 – 9 hours
    Epic-ness rating | 8.5
    Difficulty | moderate – hard

    Note: the AllTrails linked above references a 26.7-mile hike from Hurricane Wash trailhead all the way to the Escalante River. Jacob Hamblin Arch is located about 7 miles from the trailhead, making for a 14-mile round trip hike. There is no AllTrails route out and back to Jacob Hamblin Arch from Hurricane Wash. Also, note that the elevation gain on AllTrails is NOT correct – there is a very gradual decline into the gulch, but not nearly 4000 feet worth.

    Highlights

    • Jacob Hamblin Arch is huge and one of the most impressive features in the area
    • Aside from the arch, hiking in Coyote Gulch is a bucket list experience on its own
    • Remote location means limited crowds

    Lowlights

    • Reaching the trailhead requires a long drive down a washboard dirt road
    • Several miles of trail before entering Coyote Gulch are fairly boring
    Hiking in Coyote Gulch in Grand Staircase Escalante, Utah

    Alternative trailhead options

    There are 4 possible trailheads to reach Jacob Hamblin Arch (as shown on the map below), and the distance of the hike varies depending on which you choose. The type of vehicle you drive will limit your trailhead options. Below we briefly describe each trailhead to help you decide which is best for you:

    • Hurricane Wash: The most popular trailhead, located 33 miles down Hole-in-the-Rock Road and typically accessible with a 2WD vehicle. From Hurricane Wash, it’s a 7 mile hike to Jacob Hamblin Arch (14 miles roundtrip).
    • Water Tank/Sneaker Route: Located 35 miles down Hole-in-the-Rock Road plus 4 miles down a spur road, this is the shortest route to Jacob Hamblin Arch (4 miles roundtrip), but requires a 100 foot rappel down a steep canyon wall into Coyote Gulch. Note that you will need to turn left upon entering the gulch to get to the arch.
    • Red Well: Although technically the closest trailhead to the main road (i.e. least time driving on a dirt road), we don’t see any advantage to hiking from Red Well. The spur road to the trailhead is rough, the trail can be difficult to follow and the hike to Jacob Hamblin Arch is 8 miles (16 miles roundtrip).
    • Crack-in-the-Wall: Reaching Jacob Hamblin Arch from Crack-in-the-Wall trailhead will require a nearly 10 mile hike (20 miles roundtrip) that involves a tight squeeze through a literal “crack in the wall”. It will allow you to explore the entirety of Coyote Gulch, but we don’t see any reason to pick this trailhead over Hurricane Wash or the Water Tank if your main goal is the see Jacob Hamblin Arch. This is also the farthest trailhead from the main road, meaning it will take you longer to drive there and the road gets very rocky and sandy. You need a high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle to reach the Crack-in-the-Wall trailhead.

    Main takeaway: If you feel comfortable driving on rough terrain and the idea of repelling 100 feet into Coyote Gulch sounds like fun, start from the Water Tank/Sneaker Route. Otherwise, start the hike from Hurricane Wash trailhead.

    We hiked from the Hurricane Wash trailhead, so this is the trail we will focus on for the remainder of the article.

    Map of trailheads for Coyote Gulch in Grand Staircase
    Note: distances indicate mileage from trailhead to the entrance of the gulch

    Modifications to the hike

    If you choose to hike from the Water Tank/Sneaker Route rather than Hurricane Wash, you could add a few other sights in Coyote Gulch onto your day hike.

    Each landmark is displayed on the map below, and we’ve listed the hike stats for a few possible hike options below:

    • Jacob Hamblin Arch via the Sneaker Route | 4 miles
    • Jacob Hamblin Arch via the Sneaker Route, plus Coyote Natural Bridge | 10.5 miles
    • Jacob Hamblin Arch via the Sneaker Route, plus Coyote Natural Bridge + swimming hole | 13 miles
    Map of things to see in Coyote Gulch in Grand Staircase
    can’t miss landmarks inside Coyote Gulch

    How difficult is the hike to Jacob Hamblin Arch?

    The hike to Jacob Hamblin Arch from Hurricane Wash is long, but the elevation gain is minimal so we’d rank it as a moderate to hard hike. One of the most challenging aspects of the hike is that some sections of the trail involve deep sand, particularly near the entrance to Coyote Gulch, which will cause you to move more slowly than you’d expect.

    Additionally, once inside the gulch, you will criss-cross back and forth over the stream several times. In most sections, large rocks have been placed to provide a passage across the water, so definitely bring a pair of hiking poles to help with stability.

    Hike Tip | Alternatively, pack a pair of sandals or water shoes and embrace getting your feet wet! We ended up hiking the majority of Coyote Gulch in our Chacos and found it much more enjoyable to walk right through the water than trying to balance on a series of stepping stones.

    Hiking in Coyote Gulch in Grand Staircase Escalante, Utah

    Things to know before you go

    • Dogs are NOT permitted in Coyote Gulch.
    • There is no cell service in the area. We recommend downloading trail maps in advance and carrying a GPS device.
    • Be prepared for driving on Hole-in-the-Rock-Road. This is a remote area and you won’t be able to call for help should you experience vehicle problems.
    • Permits are required for overnight use. Day hiking does not require a permit.
    • Much of the hike involves walking through water. Pack a pair of water shoes or sandals.
    Hiking in Coyote Gulch in Grand Staircase Escalante, Utah

    Details | Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch

    In the section below, we’ll detail the hike to Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch via the Hurricane Wash Trailhead. We’ll also touch on a few other landmarks that could be added onto the hike.

    Our experience

    We hiked to Jacob Hamblin Arch as part of a backpacking trip, starting from the Hurricane Wash Trailhead. In fact, we spent the night camping with views of the arch just outside our tent window! If you have a little extra time, we highly recommend a Coyote Gulch backpacking trip to explore even more of the gulch.

    We explored the entire length of Coyote Gulch, and Jacob Hamblin Arch was definitely the highlight!

    Getting to the Hurricane Wash trailhead

    The Hurricane Wash trailhead is located 33 miles down Hole-in-the-Rock Road and roughly an hour and a half from Escalante, Utah. The exact driving time will depend on your vehicle and comfort-level driving on washboard dirt roads. It took us about an hour once we turned onto Hole-in-the-Rock Road to reach the trailhead.

    Typically the Hurricane Wash trailhead is accessible by high clearance 2WD vehicles. If it has recently rained, we would not recommend driving down Hole-in-the-Rock Road no matter what type of vehicle you have. At the time, we had a 2WD Jeep Cherokee and managed just fine.

    The road continues to deteriorate the farther down you go, so if you plan to start from the Water Tank/Sneaker Route trailhead, 4WD is probably a good idea. You will definitely need 4WD and high clearance to reach the Crack-in-the-Wall trailhead.

    Starting the hike

    You won’t actually enter Coyote Gulch until about 5 miles into the hike. That makes for a somewhat un-exciting start to the hike, as you make your way across the desert. However, the trail is fairly flat and slightly downhill, so the time passes by pretty quickly.

    Although this section is definitely the least exciting part of the hike, there are some cool things to see along the way.

    Entering Coyote Gulch

    At about 5 miles into the hike, the canyon walls start to rise up on either side of you as you finally enter Coyote Gulch. The sandy wash in this section gets very deep and makes for slow-moving. Once you enter the gulch, the sand is more packed down from the nearby water, which makes hiking much easier!

    Before entering Coyote Gulch, you will arrive at a fence with a small gate. Open the gate and pass through, making sure to close it behind you (the gate is meant to keep the cows out of the gulch).

    Here, you’ll enter into an incredible oasis of lush plant life hugging the banks of the stream that carves Coyote Gulch. The gulch widens and the massive walls on either side just seem to keep getting taller and taller!

    Entering Coyote Gulch in Grand Staircase Escalante, Utah
    cattle guard at the entrance to Coyote Gulch

    Jacob Hamblin Arch

    Once inside Coyote Gulch, continue for about 2 miles until you reach Jacob Hamblin Arch, making sure to take in the beauty of the gulch along the way. When you arrive at Jacob Hamblin Arch, there will be no question that you have found the right spot!

    The arch is so enormous that photos can’t do it justice. The sun reflecting off the pink-orange rock makes the arch appear illuminated, and the area immediately surrounding the arch is absolutely beautiful, featuring massive striped canyon walls and a green oasis.

    Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch

    Optional add-on: Coyote Natural Bridge

    If you’re up for extending the hike, continue about 1.5 miles further into Coyote Gulch to Coyote Natural Bridge. Though less impressive than Jacob Hamblin Arch, hiking to Coyote Natural Bridge is a great way to explore more of Coyote Gulch!

    Coyote Natural Bridge in Coyote Gulch

    Optional add-on: Swimming Hole

    Tucked away behind a forest of wetland brush, lies a peaceful swimming hole, perfect for cooling off after a long hike. If you’re hiking from Hurricane Wash, you most likely won’t have time to make it to the swimming hole. From the Water Tank/Sneaker Route trailhead, it’s about 13 miles roundtrip to the swimming hole and back.

    The return hike

    Once you’ve soaked in the beauty of Jacob Hamblin Arch, return the way you came back towards the trailhead. Be sure to keep an eye out for the left turn back towards Hurricane Wash. The gulch continues straight towards the Red Well trailhead, so it can be easy to miss. A kind soul had left a note in the sand pointing the way, but you may not be so lucky!

    Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch

    Logistics | Planning your trip to Grand Staircase

    In this section, we’ll help you plan all the details for your trip to Grand Staircase, from when to visit, to where to stay and what to pack.

    When is the best time of year to hike in Coyote Gulch?

    The best time to hike to Jacob Hamblin Arch is during the spring (March through early May) or fall (late September through early November), when temperatures are mild and storms are less likely. At night, temperatures can still drop down to the 20’s and 30’s, but expect pleasant daytime temperatures in the 50’s to 70’s.

    Avoid visiting Grand Staircase during the summer if possible, as sweltering daytime highs frequently peak above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The hike into Coyote Gulch offers no shade, so dehydration and heat exhaustion are serious risks. Additionally, summer storms can bring heavy rain that makes Hole-in-the-Rock Road impassible.

    During the winter, southern Utah can get quite cold, with lows in the teens. Snow is not uncommon, so the roads and trails may be icy and snow-covered.

    Weather Conditions in Coyote Gulch

    Flash floods can occur with little warning in Coyote Gulch, and the last place you want to be stuck during a flood is in a deep narrow canyon. Be sure to check the weather before you go, and do not attempt this hike if the forecast calls for rain.

    Hiking in Coyote Gulch in Grand Staircase Escalante, Utah

    Where to stay before hiking Jacob Hamblin Arch

    There are a few options for where to stay before and/or after hiking to Jacob Hamblin Arch. We highly recommend dispersed camping on Hole-in-the-Rock Road but will provide a few additional options if primitive camping isn’t your thing.

    Dispersed camping on Hole-in-the-Rock Road

    Since the hike to Jacob Hamblin Arch is long and the drive down Hole-in-the-Rock Road takes around an hour, you will want to get an early start to make sure you have enough time to finish the hike. Luckily, dispersed camping is permitted along Hole-in-the-Rock Road, offering plenty of top notch spots to camp!

    Dispersed camping spots on Hole-in-the-Rock Road are relatively easy to access, offer plenty of space and nice views and some even come equipped with fire rings.

    Established campgrounds nearby

    If you’d prefer to have the “luxuries” of a campground, like running water and restrooms, Calf Creek Campground is located about 20 minutes from the start of Hole-in-the-Rock Road. There are 13 sites available on a first-come-first-served basis for $15 per night. The campground offers basic amenities like fires rings, picnic tables, and bathrooms.

    • You can read more about camping at Calf Creek campground here.

    Hotels and lodging in Escalante

    Alternatively, the town of Escalante, Utah is located about 10 minutes from the start of Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Escalante offers a variety of lodging options, including Airbnbs, hotels, bed & breakfasts, glamping, yurts, and homes for rent.

    Jacob Hamblin Arch as a backpacking trip

    Camping is permitted inside Coyote Gulch and makes for an incredible backpacking trip! Permits can be filled out at the trailhead and advanced reservations are not needed.

    We’ve written all about the experience and everything you need to know to plan your own backpacking trip here:

    Backpacking in Coyote Gulch

    What to pack for hiking to Jacob Hamblin Arch

    Before you begin your Jacob Hamblin Arch hike, make sure you are prepared with the following essentials:

    • Hiking poles (Hers: Black Diamond Distance Z poles, His: Black Diamond Distance FLZ poles ) | Very helpful for extra stability on the stream crossings!
    • Chacos or water shoes | To make life easier once inside the gulch, kick off the hiking boots, throw on a pair of water shoes and hike right through the stream.
    • Towel (PackTowl lightweight towel) | This compact, lightweight towel is perfect for drying/cleaning off after wading into the stream in Coyote Gulch.
    • Plenty of water and water filter (Katadyn BeFree) | We love bringing along our Katadyn water filter, even on day hikes, because it allows us to carry less water and is good to have in case of emergency. Fill up in the gulch to ensure you have plenty of water for the hike out!
    • Sunglasses (Goodr) | At only $25, Goodr sunglasses are cheap, durable and non-slip (perfect if you’re the type of person that tends to loose sunglasses, like me!)
    • Backpack with bladder (Hers: CamelBak Helena 20L, His: Camelback Rim Runner 22L) | We both use a similar Camelback backpack for day hiking – they’re comfortable, lightweight and just big enough to hold the essentials without weighing you down. Plus they both come with a 2L bladder.
    • GPS Device (Garmin InReach Mini) | Since Hole-in-the-Rock Road is so remote, carrying a GPS device in case of an emergency or car trouble is a good idea.
    • Sunscreen and chapstick | So important to keep your skin and lips protected during a long day hiking in the desert!
    • Headlamp (Black Diamond Storm 400) | This is a long hike, so its always good to pack a headlamp in case you finish later than expected.

    P.S. Looking for a complete list of what to pack for a day hike to Jacob Hamblin Arch? We’ve compiled our complete list of essentials here:

    Other hikes nearby

    Planning a trip to Grand Staircase Escalante? Be sure to check out our other resources on great hikes and things to do in the area:

    Questions about hiking to Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch? Drop them in the comments below and we’ll do our best to help!

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