How to Hike Through Coyote Gulch in One Day.

Coyote Gulch has has been a place I’d been wanting to visit for years ever since I saw a picture of the Jacob Hamlin Arch and in late February 2020, I finally got my chance to do it. 

However, if you know how I do things regarding hiking and outdoors, you know that I very much dislike camping and staying in the wilderness overnight, especially the dessert.

So my goals in navigating Coyote Gulch was:

  • To do it in one day.
  • To see the amazing Jacob Hamlin Arch.
  • To see Coyote Natural Bridge.
  • To experience the beauty of Coyote Gulch overall and not have to camp down there.

And in this article, I’ll be showing you exactly how to accomplish these goals too if you are also seeking to do the same things because there’s actually more than one way to hike this area in a single day, 3 in fact. 

how to hike coyote gulch in one day 08

The 3 trails I’ll talk about to see Coyote Gulch will have you seeing spots like this:

jacob hamlin arch at coyote gulch one day hike 07


This is called Jacob Hamlin Arch and if you follow my directions to hike through Coyote Gulch in one day, you will see this spot (and other beautiful areas). But each of these areas will involve you having to climb in or out of Coyote Gulch, so you may want to bring rope and prepare for a strenuous, but very fun hike.

Here are the 3 fastest ways to hike through Coyote Gulch in one day:

1) Use the Sneaker Route (To Jacob Hamlin Arch):how to hike through coyote gulch in one day 3 trails map

This is also known as the “Water tank trail” or “Moki Stairs trail” and it will only take you about 1 to 1.5 miles to reach Coyote Gulch. 

2) The Coyote Gulch Access Point (Option A to Jacob Hamlin Arch):

The Coyote Gulch Access Point is actually right near the Sneaker Route trail but you head more west to access Coyote Gulch.

It’s also the same length to reach the Gulch as you would with the Sneaker Route.

3) The Coyote Gulch Access Point (Option B to Crack in The Wall):

You basically turn right with option B and head north east. This will get you into Coyote Gulch from the eastern end of it.

You’ll then walk west, and when you reach Jacob Hamlin Arch, you’ll hike back out and go back to where you came from. It’s almost like a triangular hike.

Here is a video showcasing the 3 hikes to do a day hike in Coyote Gulch:

7 things you need to know before you do a day hike in Coyote Gulch:

These come from my own experience and VAST research I did on the area to help you avoid all the confusion (which is easy considering how vague the info on this area was when I looked at it online).

1) Expect a confusing hike no matter which route you take (if it’s your first time):

It is VERY easy to get lost on these trails because they aren’t paved or marked too well and I promise you, that if you’re not careful, getting lost is likely (it happened to me). There were several moments where we followed footsteps on what we thought was the official trail, only to get lost and have to navigate back. See my post on how to not get lost in the woods to help prepare yourself properly (even though this was a desert hike, the tips still apply).

The way around this problem is to use the above map and the GPS on your phone and if you have a compass app and/or real compass, use that too as a plan B.

There are surprisingly a few areas in Coyote Gulch which have reception, but even if it does goes out (which it likely will the closer you get to the Gulch, let alone into it), you will still be able to use your GPS compass to navigate yourself to the Gulch (and back once you exit it).

Download that map from above and use your Google GPS to help you navigate these trail JUST IN CASE.

2) These 3 trail heads all lead to the same area of Coyote Gulch (the rope descent area):

2 of the trails take you to the top of the Jacob Hamlin Arch and from the entire Gulch area and the 3rd option will take you the bottom of it to climb out of the Gulch. This area is the only spot where it’s realistically possible to hike down to it. Every other area is just a drop and impossible to hike down through.

There’s one problem though:

3) You’re going to have to climb down to Coyote Gulch (Near Jacob Hamblin Arch):

The descent into Coyote Gulch is about 200 feet down and the slope is pretty steep. So if you’re not experienced or are very scared of heights, I’d strongly reconsider trying these 3 trails and just go for the more longer ones like Red Well, Hurricane Wash and Crack in the Wall (see my other post on Coyote Gulch).

But if you are someone who is ready to risk it (and many do), bring at least 200 feet of rope with you to use. There are people who claim that you don’t need the rope to scale down into Coyote Gulch, but everyone I talked to said it is best to have it handy just in case.

You will descend into the Gulch from this area and the good news is that finding your way back to this spot is easy, since it’s close to the Jacob Hamlin Arch. You’ll make your way back there when you’re ready to exit and use the rope to climb out there and head back to whichever parking area you started from (back track). 

In other words, you’ll return back either to the Water Tank trail head or Coyote Gulch Access Point trail.

Note: See detailed information on the rope climb in Coyote Gulch here so you can be properly prepared.

4) If you plan to climb down to Coyote Gulch, look for the white bird symbol on the Gulch:

That symbol will be easy to see when you get to the descent area (it’s how you’ll know where to go down).

If you’re going to take one of the 3 trails I showed you, remember, you’ll need to hike down to Jacob Hamlin Arch, but there is a marker that you’ll see on the canyon wall that will show you that you’re in the correct area where you can actually do it and it’s this white symbol some people call a bird, others think it’s just a sign, but here it is, you can judge it for yourself:

coyote gulch white sign jacob hamblin arch

6) Use a GPS to get you to Coyote Gulch Access Point:

You can get to them without the help of a GPS, but the signs for these trails are small and there are some important turns on the Hole in The Rock road you need to make if you’re going to get there. Using a GPS just takes a lot of headaches away from this process.

So before you enter Hole in The Rock road, set your GPS to one of the locations I’ll be showing you. The great thing is that they aren’t far from each other and even if you set one, but decide to go to another route, they’ll be close enough to each other so you’ll be able to make it.

7) Even though you’re going to do a day hike, start as early as possible:

I don’t know how long you intend to hike through Coyote Gulch when you try your one day hike but the earlier you begin, the better. We started our trails around 11 a.m and due to the mistakes we made, we lost a few hours and that was what cost us the trip overall.

Start at least at 7 or 8 a.m.

8) Bring water, no matter what season it is.

I was there in late February and thankfully it wasn’t hot, but the sun all day was out and I was sweating a lot. Bring 2-3 liters of water for each person. You’re going to want to drink a lot on these trails and hikes.

Let’s talk about the 3 routes which will help you do Coyote Gulch in one day:

You can choose any one of these points and through the directions you’ll get, be able to hike to, down and through Coyote Gulch (many areas of it) in a day.

1) The Sneaker Route (Also known as the Water Tank or Moki Stairs Trail):

sneaker route and moki stairs to jacob hamlin arch and coyote gulch

It’s amazing to me how little SPECIFIC info I could find on this spot, except mentions of it on sites and maps.

And then when I did find that info, it was even more confusing because there were 3 different names being used:

  • Sneaker Route.
  • Water Tank trail.
  • Moki Stairs.

Turns out, all 3 of these names are used for the same exact route, so the green circle you see to the right, is literally how the area is identified (it’s the same thing!).

No wonder people get this stuff confused! Anyway:

coyote gulch water tank trail

Here are directions to properly do the Sneaker Route:

1) Start at the Water Tank area (start of the Sneaker Route).

2) Follow the trail (footprints) north for about 1 mile.

3) The footprints will end quickly and you’ll have to rely on rock markers made by people to continue (or your GPS to take you north to Jacob Hamlin Arch).

4) Walk for about 1 mile until you reach the Gulch and look for the “white bird”.

5) Once you do, that’s the area where you can descend and you may need rope for it.

6) Explore Coyote Gulch once you get to the bottom for as long as you want.

coyote gulch trail markers

7) Exit out the same way by ascending the same area you went down into the Gulch with.

8) Walk back (south) to the Water tank area. Make sure to follow the markers.

9) Once you come back, exit the area. You will likely be doing at least 5 miles with this route.

This is the most popular short route for a day hike in Coyote Gulch.

You may even see people coming your way (out of the Gulch) and it’s basically people who have stayed overnight in the Gulch and entered in through other areas.

If you’re someone who wants to see more people, then go here on a weekend or holiday and you’ll likely find more than a few, but nothing like the masses that flock to Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks, places which you can also find in Utah.

I personally like to see a few people on a desolate trail like Coyote Gulch, as it calms my nerves, but this will always be the case for first time hikers here.

The second time you come here, you’ll be a lot more confident and better aware of the landscape so you’ll be able to better navigate there.

Anyway, let’s move onto the next trail:

2) Coyote Gulch Access Point (option A):

coyote gulch access point map

This trail is literally just 5-10 minutes away from the Sneaker Route (Moki Stairs and Water Tank Trail) and it was the one a local mentioned to my friend and I who were nervous about going (we didn’t know which trail to take until after).

With Option A, the main pro is that you will find it on your Google GPS and I recommend this is the one you input when you go to Coyote Gulch.

The con is that option A is a less popular trail people take so it’s likely less maintained with rock markers than the Sneaker Route.

1) Start at Coyote Gulch Access Point.

2) You will basically head west north west towards Coyote Gulch for a little over a mile, look for the same exact white marker and then climb down into Coyote Gulch.

Here is a map to Coyote Gulch Access Point:

Do NOT make this mistake on this trail:coyote gulch hike from access point

On the parking area of the Coyote Gulch Access Point, we saw a very obvious looking sign and trail head and assumed it was the right way to go.

We also saw a giant canyon in the distance and assumed it had to be Coyote Gulch. We were wrong, because this trail took us EAST to a completely different entrance point of Coyote Gulch which is Crack in the Wall (that’s the next option on this list, but it’s not the one we wanted). 

We had to go west, and going east on this obvious looking trail made us have to double back to restart the right approach.

So if you use Coyote Gulch Access Point, and you want to do a one day hike, do not go on the obvious trail that goes EAST.

Head west and use your GPS compass to make sure you’re doing it right! As you head west, you will see the Gulch to your right!

As you follow your GPS map and head west, you’ll reach the same area with the white bird sign which will indicate you are in the right place to find and start your descent into Coyote Gulch.

From there, play things by time keeping in mind that you need to get back to your car before it gets dark (or too cold). So if you take 2 hours to get to the descent area, expect 2 or more hours to get back after you ascend back up the Gulch, leaving whatever hours in the day in between to hike Coyote Gulch.

3) Coyote Gulch Access Point (Option B for one day hikes):

coyote gulch day hike to crack in the wall

With this last option on the list, you still:

1) Start at Coyote Gulch Access Point. But then:

2) You head north east to point 2 which is Crack in the Wall.

3) You use Crack in The Wall to enter Coyote Gulch, and then head west through the Gulch until you reach point 3 (the climbing area with the white bird).

4) You climb out of Coyote Gulch and head back south east to Coyote Gulch Access Point.

You’ll basically do a loop trail with this option and it’ll be close to 9-12 miles depending on how much of the Gulch you explore.

This is also a popular option people use.

Ranking each trail option to Coyote Gulch. Which is the best one for a day hike?

If I were to rank them, it would be:

  • Sneaker Route (1) to Jacob Hamlin Arch as it’s the shortest (It’s a back n forth trail but it’s the toughest).
  • Coyote Gulch Access Point to Jacob Hamlin Arch and back (loop).
  • Coyote Gulch Access Point to Crack in the Rock, then to Jacob Hamlin Arch and back to Coyote Gulch Access Point again (loop).

I’ve done the 1st and 2nd option on the list and the next time I see Coyote Gulch, I’ll likely do option 3 (Crack in the Rock trail).

Other one day hikes you can do in Utah:

Outside of Coyote Gulch lies plenty of other awesome hikes, trails, national parks and more to explore.

I already explained the Mighty 5 National Parks is one of those options and they come down to exploring Zion National Park, Capital Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park and finally Arches National Park. All of the links I place here will show you how to also explore those areas in one day.

Then there’s state parks such as Dead Horse, Muddy Creek, tons of slot canyons and scenic drives in Utah, all of which make for one amazing adventure in this beautiful state.

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