Mountain bikes are allowed on all roads in the monument, but not on hiking trails. Mountain bikers are not allowed to travel cross-country off roads, or to make their own routes across slickrock; however, there are hundreds of miles of primitive road in the monument, with dozens of loop routes available for cyclists on multiday trips.
In addition to following the scenic Burr Trail from Boulder to Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef National Park, cyclists can loop off this route and follow the Circle Cliffs/Wolverine Trail. This 45-mile loop traverses the headwaters of several massive canyons as they plunge to meet the Escalante River.
Hole-in-the-Rock Road is mostly a one-way-in, one-way-out affair, but cyclists can follow side roads to hiking trailheads and big vistas over the Escalante canyons. Popular side roads include a 10-mile round-trip road to the area known as Egypt and the Fifty Mile Bench Road, a 27-mile loop from Hole-in-the-Rock Road that explores the terrain above Glen Canyon.
Left Hand Collet Road, a rough jeep trail that a mountain bike can bounce through easily enough, links Hole-in-the-Rock Road with the Smoky Mountain Road system, with links to both Escalante in the north and Big Water in the south.
Other popular routes in the Big Water area include the Nipple Butte loop and the steep loop around Smoky Butte and Smoky Hollow, with views over Lake Powell.
Cottonwood Canyon Road, which runs between U.S. 89 and Cannonville, is another long back road with access to a network of less-traveled trails.
Request more information on mountain biking from the visitor centers. They have handouts and maps and can help cyclists plan backcountry bike adventures. This country is remote and primitive, so cyclists must carry everything they are likely to need. Also, there are no clean water sources in the monument, so cyclists must transport all drinking water or be prepared to purify it.
Most of the year, shallow water and rocks make boat travel impossible on the Escalante River, but for two or three weeks during spring runoff, which peaks in early April and late May, river levels rise high enough to be passable. (In some years there may not be enough water in any season.)
Contact the information center in Escalante for ideas on when to hit the river at its highest. Shallow draft and maneuverability are essential, so inflatable canoes or kayaks work best (also because they are easier to carry out at trip’s end or if water levels drop too low for floating). Not recommended are rafts (too wide and bulky) and hard-shelled kayaks and canoes (they get banged up on the many rocks).
The usual launch is the Highway 12 bridge; Coyote Gulch—a 13-mile hike—is a good spot to get out, as are Crack in the Wall (a 2.75-mile hike on steep sand from the junction of Coyote and Escalante Canyons to Forty-Mile Ridge Trailhead; four-wheel drive needed; rope required to negotiate the vessel over the canyon rim) and Hole-in-the-Rock (a 600-foot ascent over boulders; rope suggested).
You could also arrange for a friend to pick you up by boat from Halls Crossing or Bullfrog Marina. River boaters must obtain a free backcountry permit from either the BLM or the National Park Service.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition