Time: 4-8 hours
Length: 3.2 miles from parking lot to end of Lower Brimstone
Recommended Months to Visit:
Features: Not Technical, Camping, Appropriate for Scouts,
Permits: Free permits are required for overnight trips. Permits are available at several trailheads and at the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center
Hype:Brimstone Gulch is divided into three parts: Lower Brimstone Gulch, Middle Brimstone Gulch, and Upper Brimstone Gulch. Lower and Upper Brimstone canyons are tight, but they're not nearly as tight as Middle Brimstone, which is impassable for most people. The hike from the trailhead to the mouth of Lower Brimstone is about 2.6 miles and takes about 1 hour. Lower Brimstone is about 0.2 miles long and takes about 15 minutes each way
Closest City or Region: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
Coordinates: 37.487312, -111.193398
By Jeremy Dye
Saturday morning we got up at 6:00 to have breakfast and get ready for the day.
Anthony and Zac had done Brimstone on a previous trip, and it took them 8 hours to complete lower, middle, and upper Brimstone Gulch and return to the mouth of the canyon. We figured it would take an additional hour and twenty minutes to get to and from the mouth of the canyon, for a total of about 9.5 hours.
We left the trailhead (37°28'35.57"N, 111°13'13.07"W) at 7:10 and passed by the mouth of Dry Fork Narrows of Coyote Gulch and Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon 8 minutes later. There were tons of fun animal tracks in the sand along the way. We passed the mouth of Spooky Slot Canyon after 19 minutes.
We followed the wash to the southeast and soon entered a slot canyon that doesn't have a name. The USGS topographic map says the whole wash is called Dry Fork Coyote Gulch, so I shall call it Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch Slot.
The narrow canyon opens up in the middle then gets narrow again. Notice the four impressive chockstones (large boulders wedged between the canyon walls).
At the convergence of Brimstone Gulch and Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch, turn left (north). You'll soon come to a huge sand dune on your left. On a previous trip, my brother's group climbed to the top of the dune and rolled down it.
After almost an hour of hiking, we arrived at the mouth of Brimstone Gulch.
When my brother was there before, a large pool of freezing cold water caused everyone in the group except for two people to turn back. Luckily for us, the canyon was completely dry on this trip.
We pressed forward, and it got dark very quickly. At one point, it was almost completely pitch black, with only a sliver of light high above us. I wasn't able to get any good photographs with my point-and-shoot camera, so I had to settle for a video instead.
There was a fledgling bird that couldn't fly well enough to get out of the canyon. At one point, it landed on my leg.
We reached the end of Lower Brimstone about 15 minutes from the mouth. We took a few minutes to eat some snacks and lighten our packs so we wouldn't be burdened trying to maneuver the packs and ourselves through the super-tight canyon.
After some snacks, we proceeded on to Middle Brimstone. Aaron went first. He made it about 40 feet before it got too tight for him to continue upright. I'm a pretty small guy (135 lbs), so I offered to go first. Now normally tight places don't bother me at all. I love squeezing through caves on my belly and stuff like that. But when I tried to squeeze through the 8-inch wide canyon, it compressed my rib cage so I couldn't breathe, and I freaked.
After a minute or so, I was able to overcome my sudden onset of claustrophobia. Anthony went ahead of me, and I crawled after him down lower where it was a little bit wider. After 10 more feet, we came to another part that was too tight to squeeze through. At this point, Anthony chimneyed up to go over the tight spot. And the claustrophobia returned. There was a person in front of me, two people behind me, tight canyon in front and tight canyon in back. I knew it wasn't going to open up for over a mile, and I knew that Anthony's canyoneering book said that Middle Brimstone was impassable. Compound that with me being a little bit sick from drinking too much water all at once and the knowledge that there was no backing out for the next 8 hours, and I had to turn around. I went back to the room where we had lunch and tried to get my cool back, but it wasn't working for me. Since Zac had already done all of Brimstone, he was kind enough to offer to explore a parallel canyon (Little Canyon) with me while Anthony and Aaron did Middle and Upper Brimstone.
Anthony and Aaron had their own story to tell. In short, they made it to the end of Brimstone a lot quicker than they expected. Then snaked their way back to the mouth of Brimstone and got there around 12:30. That's when Aaron realized that he was missing his wallet. So they turned around and, luckily, found his wallet in about an hour. They got back to camp around 2:30, and we met up with them there.