Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a United States National Monument that is managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the state of Utah. If you like slickrock and slot canyons, this is the place to go. At 1.7 million acres, the monument encompasses a seemingly limitless number of destinations, although there are only a few roads that will take you to any of them. The Monument is situated between Bryce Canyon in the west, and Capital Reef and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to the east.

Grosvenor Arch just off Cottonwood Road in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Understand

History

First explored by Spanish priests seeking a route from Santa Fe to the California missions, this area of southern Utah remains one of the most sparsely populated regions in the West. For many years it received only token protection and was not part of the national park system, but threats to develop it for mining and commercial use led the Clinton administration to place it in National Monument status in 1996. This was done without consulting area residents and was not seen favorably in Republican-dominated Utah. It is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, rather than by the National Park Service.

Landscape

Deep sandstone canyons, surprisingly impressive waterfalls and acres of road-less wilderness. This is a desert lover's paradise.

The Stair Steps or Layers of the Grand Staircase

Flora and fauna

Pinyon Juniper woodlands, desert grasslands and lush riparian areas.

Climate

Summers are hot, highs often reach well over 100 degrees. Summer nights are cool and pleasant. Expect afternoon thunderstorms from mid-June to late August. Winters can be cold and windy, with ample amounts of snow. The snow often melts within a few days, turning the dirt roads into mud pits.

Get in

Fly into Las Vegas, Salt Lake City or Phoenix and rent a car. From Las Vegas take Interstate 15 North or from Salt Lake City take Interstate 15 South. In either case take State Route 14 east from Cedar City to State Route 12 or US 89, which will take you through the Monument. From Phoenix take Interstate 17 North to Flagstaff and then continue north on US 89, which take you into the Monument. Four wheel drive is highly recommended on any but the primary roads, although not strictly necessary.

Fees/Permits

Camping is free in unimproved areas.

Get around

Hackberry Canyon, just off Cottonwood Road in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

There are only two paved roads that travel the width of the monument, Highway 89 to the south and Highway 12 to the north. There are several dirt roads that bisect the monument from north to south, such as Cottonwood Canyon Road and Skumtumpah Road, both which offer and treasure of slot canyons and hiking. Hole in the Rock Road offers access to the heart of Escalante and numerous trailheads, however it comes to a dead end at the north rim of the Colorado River. The dirt roads in the area can become impassable when wet due to the clay.

See

Cottonwood Road in the Grand Staircase

Do

There are slot canyons for every level of canyoneering, from beginners to the very advanced. Don't get yourself into any situations you cannot get yourself out of. Know your own limitations. Do not hike in slot canyons if there is ANY chance that it could rain.

There are plenty of other opportunities for hiking, backpacking, canyoneering, photography and just general sightseeing.

Guided Tours

Buy

Lick Wash is a wonderful slot canyon hike in the Grand Staircase section of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Johnson Canyon Road is 11 miles east of Kanab. It meets up with Skutumpah Road and continues to either Glendale or Canonville depending on the direction you choose. Kanab has a couple of grocery stores, motels, and restaurants.

Escalante and Boulder also have a couple of motels, outfitters, and small restaurants. Don't expect a gourmet meal, but don't think your options are limited to gorp and granola bars.

At the Glendale (East Zion) entrance to the Grand Staircase there is a Bed & Breakfast and one of the most unique bistros anywhere. Nearby is the small town of Orderville which has a grocery store and a motel. A couple more miles is Mount Carmel and Mount Carmel Junction. Glendale, Orderville, Mount Carmel and Mount Carmel Junction have several lodging and dining options between them.

Cottonwood Canyon Road is near Big Water, 32 miles east of Kanab. The dirt road is 46 miles long and ends at Cannonville. There are a few lodging and dining options at Cannonville and more if you head toward Bryce Canyon.

Eat

Willis Creek

Drink

Sleep

Lodging

Wahweap Hoodoo

Stay safe

Do not hike in slot canyons when there is any threat of rain. Flash floods are common during the summer and are extremely dangerous.

Go next

The bottom layer of the Grand Staircase and one of the seven wonders of the world. This rim is the more spectacular of the rims but its rustic setting keeps visitors to a minimum when compared to the commercial and populated South Rim. The Grand Canyon although part of the geological make-up is not within the boundaries of the monument.

Often considered to be a top riser in the geography of the Grand Staircase although the boundaries are not within the monument. This is a spectacular monument that rivals Bryce Canyon National Park. It gets less visitors but its beauty certainly does not pale with the other parks.

Routes through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Richfield Kanab  W  E  Glen Canyon N.R.A. Page


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