This loop starts by parking at the Willis Creek Narrows Trail
. This is a surprisingly busy TH given the easy accessibility of the Willis Creek Narrows Trail
. From this TH hike 1.8 miles down to Bull Valley Gorge
. It is marked by a sign and you'll know it when the bridge is reached. Before crossing the bridge, on the right, is a trail that follows the gorge upstream to allow access down into the slot.
Once on the creekbed, the trail/wash quickly drops below the rim. Navigating and climbing is required, though most are manageable, with trees frequently acting as convenient ladders.
This is an ominous and awe-inspiring stretch. The walls are worn smooth and the sky is a tiny sliver above your head, often filled with boulders (near the bridge, make sure you look up to see the car that is stuck up there. That was someone's really bad day).
The turn-around for most people who do this as an out-and-back is a large boulder, backfilled with sand and stone, and a 8ish foot drop on the downstream side with no real easy way to descend. There is a tree on the left side but it is down a ways and worn smooth. This can be navigated by descending slowly backward, using your spiderman/spiderwoman skills, and getting your foot on the top of that tree/branch. From there you can get down and there are no additional major obstacles.
Below that point the canyon moves from "slot" to "Narrows" and remains spectacular but looses much of its pucker factor. It eventually begins to open up into a canyon with steep walls. The type you expect in Escalante. The footing can be frustrating as it is simply loose sand most of the time. The canyon closes tight one more time and when it opens up again it merges with Sheep Creek.
When this wash reaches Sheep Creek and Sheep Creek Trail
, take a left and head upstream. At the time I went through there was a large blue "Willis Creek" painted on a boulder to help guide the way.
The footing gets better in Sheep Creek. This is the standard wash in Escalante with high walls, but not the closeness you get in the narrows. It is a beautiful stretch and the terrain is impressive. After a little over 4 miles, you'll reach the mouth of Willis Creek. Take a left to head up Willis Creek Narrows Trail
It is quite possible that up until this trail junction, you've seen nobody. That's likely to change quickly. Willis Creek Narrows Trail
is a popular and easy (popular because it's easy) trail and you'll likely start hitting people quickly. The footing here is even better and it is easy to make good time. The canyon walls do close to narrows and provide quite a stunning final stretch.
There is a "waterfall", that is pretty minimal unless water is strongly flowing. If it is, check it out.
After the waterfall (there is a way around it both to the right and the left but the way on the left is easier) it is a quick return to your vehicle at the parking area.