Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Trekking and Backpacking Overview

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Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (Joe Cornish/Digital Vision)

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

  • Almost all hiking is on unmarked routes, some of which are very rugged, so you'll need to use a map and compass. A GPS unit can be handy. Be prepared for flash floods, lightning, impassable roads, and extreme temperatures.
  • On a trek through the canyons of the Escalante River and its many tributaries, you'll experience some of the quiet beauty of Glen Canyon, much of which has been lost to the waters of Lake Powell.
  • The upper Escalante River is a good overnight hike of 15 miles from the town of Escalante to the UT 12 bridge. Add another day or two for side trips into lower Death Hollow and Sand Creek.
  • You could spend weeks in the lower Escalante River Canyon, exploring side canyons and admiring arches. It's 70 miles from the UT 12 bridge to Lake Powell. Harris Wash and other tributaries on the west have trailheads off of Hole-in-the-Rock Road.
  • Hackberry Canyon offers fine scenery in the west half of the monument on a 20.5-mile hike from the mouth of Hackberry Canyon to the mouth of Round Valley Draw. Tributary canyons and Sam Pollock Arch offer diversions along the way.

Escalante has only one developed trail. You'll find it at Lower Calf Creek Falls, which lies between the towns of Escalante and Boulder on Highway 12. Visitors hike along a 5-1/2-mile (round-trip) developed interpretive trail to reach the shady pool at the base of the 126-foot falls. The hike is considered moderately difficult and serves as a good introduction to the Escalante Canyons.

Beyond that, you better know how to read a topo map, because hiking in the monument is almost completely cross-country. Most of the monument is still remote and primitive with undeveloped hiking routes and roads. But rest assured, excellent day hikes, backpacking, and backcountry opportunities are available.

Because of changing weather, hiking, and road conditions, it is difficult to recommend any given area for backcountry travel. Stop by the visitor center, and hash it out with the staff there. They can give you the scoop, and sell you the right topo map to get you on your way.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 11 Oct 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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