Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Overview

Gorp.com
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (Joe Cornish/Digital Vision/Getty)
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Contact Details
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
745 E. Highway 89
Kanab, UT 84741
Phone: 435-644-4680
advertisement

It's perhaps the world's most dramatic natural staircase: The rocks that form the steps of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument climb 5,500 feet to the rim of Bryce Canyon.

These steps became famous after the government declared the 1.7 million acres around it a national monument in 1996. But the staircase isn't the only fantastic feature of this protected land. Sitting in between Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Capitol Reef National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park, the monument is full of multi-hued cliffs, twisting canyons, expansive plateaus, and all sorts of buttes, pinnacles, and mesas.

In fact, there are three distinct areas: the staircase itself, which is made up of steps of gray, white, vermilion, and chocolate cliffs; the Kaiparowits Plateau, a broad mesa carved through with narrow canyons; and the Escalante Canyon area, where you'll find the Escalante River and the canyons it has created. This varied terrain makes for great exploring, since it's like walking into the ancient past: Rock art from the Anasazi Indians, dinosaur fossils, and 270-million-year-old seashells are common finds. But the area is full of modern creatures as well, such as mountain lion, bear, desert bighorn sheep, and more than 200 species of birds, including bald eagles and peregrine falcons.

Hike a Slot Canyon
The varied terrain in this high, rugged, remote region makes for some of the West's most challenging—and rewarding—hiking. With only one developed trail, however, come prepared with a compass and topo map; the walking is mostly cross-country, and even among the distinctive hoodoos, it's easy to get lost. The developed trail is Lower Calk Creek Falls, which lies between the towns of Escalante and Boulder on Highway 12. It's a moderately difficult 5-1/2-mile round-trip that reaches the shady pool at the base of a 126-foot waterfall.

More on hiking in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Bike a Movie Road
Break out the mountain bike—the unpaved backroads of this monument make for some great two-wheeling. Pick up a road map at the visitor center and start exploring. One great ride heads off to the Paria Movie Set, a faux frontier town created for John Wayne Westerns. It's located on a dirt road, five miles northeast of Highway 89, between Kanab and Big Water City. Another great ride? Grosvenor Arch, which is actually a cluster of white and gold arches towering high above the ground. Find it about nine miles southeast of Kodachrome Basin State Park off Highway 12.

More on biking in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Drive Highway 12
With the variety of colors and a neverending string of dramatic rock formations, the monument's scenic driving ranks among some of the country's best. One caveat, though: Check on road conditions before you head out. The roads in the monument's interior generally aren't paved—some tend to get washed out, and some simply can't be tackled with a conventional car. That in mind, go cruising on Scenic Highway 12, which cuts through the northern section of the monument, connecting Bryce Canyon and Dixie National Forest. Or drive along Highway 89 between Kanab, Utah, and Page, Arizona: You'll find spectacular vistas of the Vermillion Cliffs layer of the Grand Staircase geologic feature.

More on scenic driving in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument


Published: 22 Oct 2008 | Last Updated: 16 Jan 2013
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

advertisement

Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »