Towering sandstone walls on both sides, massive cottonwood trees, and amazing geology.
This river flows west to east so I prefer hiking it in that direction as it has a gentle downhill grade, and when you are hiking in the river, it takes less energy to move with the water flow instead of against it. But many people like hiking it east (starting at the Highway 12 bridge) to west (Escalante Town Cemetery).
You'll need two cars (one at the starting trailhead and one at the exit trailhead) or arrange a shuttle. There is no cell service at the Highway 12 bridge so don't count on Uber or calling a friend to pick you up. I tried hitchhiking from the Highway 12 bridge to Escalante Town once and didn't find it to be a very hiker-friendly place as I waited for more than 4 hours for a ride.
Use of this area is free, but you must obtain a backcountry permit from the BLM office in Escalante or fill out at a permit at the trailhead register box.
Note: The ascent/descent summary and elevation profile is wrong due to inaccurate GPS elevation readings inside the canyon. The actual route has virtually zero ascent and a slight downhill grade for the entire route.
At the river confluence, there is a grove of trees perfect for setting up a hammock for overnight stay about halfway through the hike. The Escalante riverbed is sandy, wide, and shallow, and the valley is enclosed by Navajo sandstone.
Sometimes you alternate from one side of the river to the other to mitigate curves, but the south side of the river generally has the most interesting features. Look for the Escalante Natural Bridge
along the way, as well as an Anasazi cliff dwelling slightly west of the bridge, which include petroglyphs. Most of the route is best accomplished by hiking in the river itself.
This hike reminded me a lot of Zion's Narrows at Zion National Park, but it is a lot more accessible, easy to schedule, a less regulated area, and less dangerous for flash floods.