The Boulder Mail Trail is a route of incredible beauty and history. According to Visit Utah, “The Boulder Mail Trail, like several other trails in the Escalante region, has a colorful history. Established in 1902, the trail was a mail route traversed by packhorses, linking isolated Boulder Town with Escalante. By 1910, a patchwork telephone line, strung from tree to tree, provided Boulder with communication to the outside world, namely a switchboard in Escalante. When UT 12 was completed in 1940, the Boulder Mail Trail fell into disuse. Road Trip Ryan describes it as “One of the Escalante classics, I would go so far as to elevate this hike to one of the Colorado Plateau classics. This is a hike every desert lover should do at least once. The trail follows the old mail trail and telegraph line between Boulder and Escalante. En route, the trail passes through Sand Creek, Death Hollow, and Mamie Creek, all top notch canyons with views second to none. The descent into Death Hollow, in particular, is amazing. This route is great both for the views and as an opportunity to stand in awe of the tenacity and hard work needed to forge a trail across the difficult terrain. The telegraph line is still visible in many places, strung between trees.”
Description adapted from HikingProject:
Starting on the Boulder end, hike an easy mile through pinyon and juniper until you get to the edge of the slickrock expanse. Follow cairns across huge bowls of slickrock on surprisingly easy terrain. Cross Sand Creek (you might be able to jump it), and then continue on undulating slickrock.
At around 4 miles, you'll come across the telegraph wire that was installed around 1910 to connect Escalante to Boulder. It's in quite good shape and you'll follow it for most of the rest of the trail.
Hit the rim of Death Hollow and enjoy huge views of the canyon and the rock expanses in all directions. It's worthwhile to explore the rim off trail around here. Death Hollow is so named after a mule fell to his death during one of the mail delivery trips.
Follow cairns down steep rock into the heart of the canyon where you'll hit Death Hollow creek. Turn left and Prepare for cold wading up to mid-thigh depth. For some sections of the next half-mile, you can follow paths on the banks, but most of them are COVERED with poison ivy, and you're better off hiking in the water.
Keep a sharp eye out for the trail ascending the hill to the right. Other trails continue downstream, so don't miss your turn. It is located on a small beach and is the first possible way to ascend the canyon (it's been sheer cliffs until this point). The hike out starts pretty steep but then mellows out and is a pleasant ascent back to the rim.
Descend Mamie canyon. Then, up out of this canyon, you'll cross Antone Flat which is hot and sandy but not very long.
Climb up a final escarpment, through a saddle, and enjoy huge views of both the Escalante valley and town. Head downhill, and just when you think you're going to run into the farms, take a left turn, cross a creek many times, and head through a beautiful little valley that ends right at the parking lot.
There are many cairns that follow the gpx file and historic trail. The keen local, could likely find shorter routes through the slab and adaptations to avoid the long sections of deep sand, but due to the history of the trail, this route should be attempted as close to the original line as possible.
It is also proposed that because the section of Highway UT 12 between Escalante and Boulder is perhaps among the most scenic in the nation, that the returning bike ride to close the loop be considered included as its own Boulder Mail Trail Duathlon (Run the Trail, Bike the Highway, in either order, in either direction).
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~submitted by Jason Hardrath