Singing Canyon, Escalante Region, Utah. A Tiny Slot Canyon.

Don Giannatti
8 min readMay 20, 2024

The Escalante is a region that will always surprise and astound you.

All photos by the author.

We had just photographed a snowstorm in the distance from “The Hogback” on Highway 12 and headed up toward Torrey, Utah.

If you don’t know the hogback, it is an amazing mile or so of road on the ridge with canyons on both sides.

“Let’s try this road,” Maciej said, showing me his iPhone screen with the familiar Google map on it.

“I recognize that road,” I exclaimed, “Oh hell yeah.”

I have always been enamored of Capitol Reef National Park, and the stories about this area fill my brain.

And it is right across the little two-lane road from me.

Maciej had hired me for a three-day consultancy, and my favorite way to do that is by road trip. Maciej jumped at the opportunity.

We met up, rented an SUV in Vegas and drove up to Zion and southern Utah..

This road trip took us to the little town of Boulder, Utah, where we grabbed a diet soda and contemplated our next move.

We had spent a day in Zion, and a day in Bryce, and now we were going to spend the night in Escalante before heading back to Vegas the following morning.

It was early February, and it was cold as hell on Boulder Mountain. The snow drifts were 10 feet, and most of the pullouts were buried. So sure, we were going to take a road east from Boulder toward Capitol Reef. In the snow with absolutely no idea of road conditions. (They were fine.)

Did I mention it was a rental?

The road. East Burr Trail was legendary for the infamous Burr Tail Switchbacks, and I was eager to see them.

Grabbing some vital supplies for if something went wrong, you know, like Hostess Cupcakes, matches, BBQ Chips… the important things, we headed east on the Burr Trail.

This was an amazing day of adventure.

The Escalante in snow is a bucket list must for any photographer. Hiway 12 is one of the most beautiful drives in the world, and going in winter means no crowds and even fewer cars to deal with. The roads are narrow and steep. Other cars are a PITA.

I would love to tell you about the whole trip up East Burr Trail, but I am going to focus only on one section of it — Long Canyon.

The first 20 miles were simply gorgeous, with rock, snow, and a brilliant blue sky full of fluffy clouds.

We were heading toward a lower elevation, so the snow gradually began diminishing along the route.

The entrance into Long Canyon on the E Burr Trail Road, Utah. Photo by the author.

At about 20 miles, the road slips into a narrow canyon called Long Canyon. And it is quite long. At this point, the snow was only seen in the deep shadows, and the temps became much milder.

This area is a desert trekker’s paradise. From slot canyons to winding rivers, to incredible sandstone cliffs, the spectacular views are wherever you are looking at the time.

The photos don’t show it, but the temperature was moving up into the mid-30s, and we were very happy to be able to take off the bulky jackets and explore the area a bit.

Singing Canyon

Just after entering Long Canyon—less than a mile, actually, we came to a little pull-off for a slot canyon named Singing Canyon. The sign was nearly unreadable.

We pulled in to take a look and were simply captivated by the narrow walls and depth of this unique landscape. We noticed the deep slot into the wall before us and headed in.

The entrance to Singing Canyon.

The three bones of winter revealed the canyon. In the summer, I would imagine you could drive right by without even knowing this little gem was there.

Singing Canyon is sort of a micro-slot canyon, only a few hundred feet into the rock. But it has such amazing acoustics that I absolutely understand its name.

(We found out later that various local and regional musicians go there to record themselves or give mini concerts. Cool.)

The entrance is mysterious and very non-revealing of what is inside.

As a musician, I instantly started to make sounds to hear the remarkable natural acoustics and faint echo.

The hike-in is only about a third of a mile, and easy for almost anyone of any age. No scrambling or boulder hopping is necessary.

This log has been fallen for a long time, and I loved the interplay of light across the bark.

The interplay of light and shadow on a fallen log.

We entered the canyon in a deep quiet, with only a slight breeze. The air became absolutely still, and the sound of our boots became much more audible. Almost like a soundtrack.

The light was amazing.

I wanted to capture the light as it created colors and gradients along the smooth sandstone. I figured it would be a great place to find petroglyphs or other ancient drawings, but alas, none were seen.

At the entrance, Maciej was mesmorised by the formidable walls and narrow path.

As you make a little turn around a large outcropping, you face an incredible sight. The canyon just stops.

It almost seems as though the rocks have been pinched together, with the canyon vanishing into an impenetrable wall of rock.

With the little light filtering in from above, I bumped my ISO (I hate doing that) and photographed the reflected blue sky above on some of the naturally varnished rock.

At the end of the slot canyon. A very interesting place to see.

Here (below), you can see what I mean when I say it looked like it was slammed shut at some point. The giant rock canyon seems to disappear against this verticle and very powerful rock wall.

What an event that would have been.

Varnished sandstone reflecting blue sky.

We spent an hour and a half in that narrow little gouge of a canyon, and I constantly looked for ways to bring the massive power of the rocks to the tiny frame.

And that’s the fun of photography, isn’t it?

Finding the shot. Knowing it’s there but not seeing it until you query it through the lens. Searching, trying, revealing, and doing it again and again till you finally get it.

If you ever do get the it.

I want to go back in the fall, catch the changing leaves and colors at the entrance, and see what late summer light looks like bouncing around the walls of this forgotten chamber.

We wanted to get to the switchbacks and down into Waterpocket Fold before we had to turn back for the night in Escalante, so we bid farewell to this unique little spot of sandstone high rises.

As I was walking out, I noticed a small tree backlit against the darkness of the crevasse. The delicate branches seemed even more fragile against the incredible power of stone.

Exiting Singing Canyon.

The Escalante is an amazing place and I am going back this fall.

As soon as the heat dissipates.

Capitol Reef and the rock of the Escalante can be brutally hot in the summer.

As you exit Long Canyon heading east, you are greeted by an extraordinary vista stretching out before you. In the distance are the Henry Mountains. Few roads, no people, and scarce campgrounds.

The Henry’s are an entire wilderness mountain range, and another line on my bucket list.

As you leave Long Canyon, the vistas are amazing.

Map Link.

If you get a chance to take this road, you are fine in a sedan, although right after Long Canyon, the road turns to dirt. However, I would suggest checking the weather before heading out.

It is maintained. The switchbacks are steep, but the road is wide and fairly safe unless you are trying to impress some knucklehead.

Don't try to impress knuckleheads.

I have a new workshop starting on July 3.

Story Telling With a Camera.

We will be exploring the various ways photographers can create stories, shoot stories for clients, and ways in which story photography can be used to set your work apart from others.

This is an 8-Week Series Workshop with live classes each Tuesday, reviews, assignments, a workbook, and more.

For more information, see the page linked here.

(BTW, the photo on the bottom of that page was taken on Boulder Mountain, about an hour before we headed down to Singing Canyon.)

This article first appeared on my Substack.

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This photo of me is by Carol Rioux: light-painted in Calgary, BC.

Hi, I’m Don Giannatti, a photographer and mentor for up-and-coming photographers. You can find me on my website, Don Giannatti, and at my Substack site, where I also publish for creative people. All subscribers to my Substack have access to a free, long-form workshop on the business of commercial and professional photography.



Don Giannatti

Designer. Photographer. Author. Entrepreneur: Loving life at 100MPH. I love designing, making photographs and writing.