Utah has more than its fair share of astonishing landscapes. In fact, there are so many beautiful attractions and parks in this state that even frequent visitors just scratch the surface. State Parks in Utah are often overlooked and lightly trafficked because of the fame of National Parks like Zion and Arches. Escalante Petrified Forest State Park is easily one of the best places to visit in Utah.
Surrounded by over thirty National Parks, Wilderness Areas, State Parks, and thousands of acres of DNR land, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park is in the middle of everything Southern Utah has to offer. As a bonus, this SP has lakeside camping with electricity, miles of hiking with petrified wood-lined trails, desert kayaking, and rare proximity to civilization. With a dizzying array of destinations and activities in the area, Escalante Petrified Forest SP is a perfect base camp.
The small Wide Hollow campground has room for RV's and trailers to forty feet and offers electricity at six sites, hot showers, drinking water, and a dump station. The campsites are all reservable online, and the park is open year round.
The entire park and campground is on the edge of Wide Hollow Reservoir which is the focal point and center of most activities. The lake is stocked with trout for fishermen, and open to non-motorized boats like kayaks, paddle boards, and canoes, which are also available for rent through the Visitor Center.
Two hiking trails explore the unique beauty of petrified wood-covered hillsides, and a unique array of plant and animal life. All of this, as well as the area's history and park's founding are explained through displays and hands on exhibits at the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park Visitor Center.
Many people utilize the State Park as a base camp while exploring the surrounding areas of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The nearby town of Escalante, one of very few in Southern Utah, has welcome shopping, dining, and tourist shops, as well as being the launching point for numerous tour companies and guides.
With an elevation around 6,000 feet, the park experiences a wide range of temperatures year round from 10 degree lows in January, to 90 degree highs in August. Be sure to dress for everything, because nights can get chilly even in the summer.
Escalante is very remote. This is probably your only option for gas, groceries, and eating out in the area, so make sure you fill up and stock up on everything before venturing out to explore the rest. Always carry extra drinking water and blankets in case you have to stay somewhere unexpected. Be thoughtful about where you park, as many low-lying ravines and canyons flash flood when storms arrive.
A significantly more affordable camping option than the nearby National Parks and RV Parks, camping in Escalante Petrified Forest State Park will have you conveniently located near swimming, fishing, hiking, and the numerous guided tours that depart from nearby Escalante. There are 20 campsites in length up to 40 feet. 6 of the sites have electricity, but there are no other hook-ups. The campground has drinking water, hot showers, flush toilets, and a dump station. There is a small dock and boat launch on the lake, and pets are welcome as long as they are on a leash. All sites are reservable online.
Built in 1991, the SP Visitor Center explains the Park's founding and Escalante area history. The unique geography, plant life, and desert creatures are identified along with several great examples of the petrified wood found throughout the park. In addition to petrified wood there are dinosaur bones and ancient seashell fossils on display. Please leave the petrified wood where you find it in the park, as it is illegal to move or take anything home. Plenty of rock shops in nearby Escalante offer specimens for you to take home without disturbing the State Park.
This one mile hike guides visitors through a landscape of gnarled desert juniper, interesting sandstone and lava formations, and petrified wood - lots of it! The petrified wood occurs in a rainbow of colors with bright and waxy-textured rocks that still reveal the shapes of tree roots and trunks half-buried in the earth. The more interested you are in geology, the longer this hike will take. Please leave the rocks alone and do watch out for cactus and sunning snakes.
The 130-acre Wide Hollow Reservoir is stocked with rainbow trout, bluegill, large mouth bass, and black crappie. Since the lake is restricted to non-motorized boats, it is a nice quiet place to catch a bite. The lake often freezes thick enough to allow ice fishing in the winter as well. The dock provides good access to those without a boat, but they do rent canoes and kayaks as well. Check with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources about regulations.
This Utah State Park rents kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards right by the boat launch so that visitors can play and explore on the 130-acre Wide Hollow Reservoir. The lake is a terrific swim spot as well, so the paddle boarding will be extra enticing. The colors of the surrounding desert are amplified when viewed from the water. The reservoir only allows non-motorized access, and this creates a tranquil place for paddling, especially in the mornings before the swimmers arrive.
The town of Escalante is home to many local tour and excursion companies. Shuttles from here depart in all directions to explore the over one million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Artist hikes, photography tours, slot-canyon explorations, and horseback rides only begin to scratch the surface of all that is offered here. Check online for the many different year round options, all departing from Escalante, minutes from the campground.
Even with historically low rainfalls and snow in the region, there is still water in Wide Hollow Reservoir. There are very few places to cool off in southern Utah outside of motel swimming pools, and the remote Lake Powell. Especially after driving here through hours and hours of bone-dry desert, the lake will be incredibly inviting. The shore area is rocky, so consider buying water-shoes to protect your feet. It is not a very private place to swim, so come expecting some splashing youngsters.