For the geologically-minded, the Hole-in-the-Rock Road in Utah’s vast Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument provides access to extraordinary cuts and sluices in the Navajo sandstone (e.g., Peekaboo & Spooky slot canyons, Coyote Gulch), dating to the early Jurassic Period. These canyons—tributaries of the mighty Escalante River—are situated principally to the east of the dusty, 62-mile access road. To the west, however, nestled in the foothills of the Straight Cliffs, lies a curious collection of outcrops in the Entrada sandstone, a younger, late Jurassic formation. Echoing the name of a much more famous attraction in Arches National Park, this is called Devil’s Garden. While small, this playground of hoodoos, arches, and spires is worth taking an hour or two to explore.
Roughly 12 miles down the Hole-in-the-Rock Road from Utah Highway 12, look for a sign directing visitors to Devil’s Garden Recreation Area on the right. A short spur road leads to the small park-within-a-park, a pleasant place for a picnic or short hike. While there are no officially marked trails, seemingly dozens of intersecting footpaths take off from the parking area.
Colorfully striped hoodoos are visible right away from the parking lot. The Entrada sandstone here can be dissected into three parts: a yellow-white Escalante Member, multicolor Cannonville Member, and red/peach-hued Gunsight Butte Member. The hoodoos of Devil’s Garden form at the juncture of the last two: the Gunsight Butte erodes at a quicker rate, while the more durable Cannonville forms a protective cap.
Bearing slightly southwest from the parking lot, it is a short walk to Mano Arch and Metate Arch, named for the stone tools used by MesoAmerican cultures to grind food. Mano Arch is thick and blocky, with a span cut with a peculiar, rectangular-shaped incision. Metate Arch is thin and delicate, a graceful cut in the Entrada overlooking a minor valley to the west.
While the arches and hoodoos are the highlights, it is also possible to walk through a short narrows section, where the main wash cuts into the reddish Gunsight Butte member. These narrows, however, are far from impressive—and should be skipped if short on time.
After an hour or two of strolling, picnicking, climbing, etc., return to your car, and continue to explore what the historic and scenic Hole-in-the-Rock Road has to offer.