Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a dramatic, multi-hued landscape, rich in natural and human history. Extending across almost two million acres of Utah public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Monument represents a unique combination of archaeological, historical, paleontological, geological, and biological resources. These strikingly beautiful and scientifically important lands are divided into three distinct regions: the Grand Staircase, the Kaiparowits Plateau, and the Canyons of the Escalante.
The Grand Staircase – A Museum of Earth History
The cream- and rose-colored cliffs of Navajo sandstone found here are the third in a series of great geological steps that ascend northward across the southwest corner of the Monument. This Grand Staircase- the Chocolate, Vermilion, White, Gray, and Pink Cliffs–spans five different life zones from Sonoran desert to coniferous forests. It is a masterpiece of geological and biological diversity. Geologist Clarence Dutton described what he termed a grand stairway of sequential cliffs and terraces in his Report of the Geology of the High Plateaus of Utah (1880).
The Kaiparowits Plateau–An American Outback
A vast wedge-shaped block of mesas and deeply incised canyons towers above the surrounding canyonlands. The isolated, rugged plateau is refuge for wildlife, rare plants, and a few adventure-ready individuals equipped to handle profound solitude and uncompromising wild country. “The Kaiparowits was the name for a point near the north end of the plateau so we decided to call the whole mountain by that name,” wrote A. H. Thompson. It is a Paiute name meaning “Big Mountain’s Little Brother.” Many sites from prehistoric cultures have been recorded on the Plateau. Many more are preserved for future study.
Canyons of the Escalante – Wonders in Water & Stone
The Escalante River cascades off the southern flank of the Aquarius Plateau, winding through a 1,000-mile maze of interconnected canyons. This magical labyrinth is one of the scenic wonders of the West. Even though Spanish explorer and priest Father Silvestre Velez de Escalante never wet a boot or even saw the river, his is the namesake given by the Powell survey crew that discovered and named the Escalante River in 1872.
Must See & Do
There are many options for day hikes within the Monument. Most are unmarked routes. Check at a visitor center for suggestions. Popular hikes include Lower Calf Creek Falls, Spooky Canyon, Devils Rock Garden, Lick Wash and Grosvenor Arch.
Lower Calf Creek Falls
A nice hike to a brilliant desert waterfall. Distance is 3 miles one way. Approximately 1.5 hours to hike. The trail head is found next to Calf Creek Recreation Area. Pick up a trail guide at the trailhead and participate in an informative self guided tour. From the town of Escalante, drive east on SR U-12 for 15 miles.
Located approximately a half mile down-canyon from Peek-A-Boo, just past a large sand dune. The mouth of Spooky is wide but it quickly funnels into a tight slot. Many people make a loop hike by going up Peek-A-Boo and down Spooky. Spooky is the narrowest slot normal-sized adults can get through. In many spots you have to squeeze through side ways, this is not recommended for larger people. From the town of Escalante drive east on Scenic Byway Hwy-12 a short ways to the Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Drive south on Hole In the Rock Road for about 26 miles to the signed turnoff for the Dry Fork Trailhead. Keep left and follow that road to the trailhead parking area.
Located off of the Hole in the Rock Road, about 12 miles from Hwy U-12. This hike is available all year and is a short 0.5 mile round rip on a sandy trail. Expect to take approximately 30 minutes to and hour. As with any hike make sure you take plenty of water. There are two arches in the Devil’s Garden; Metate Arch and Mano Arch, Metate is more scenic of the two. This is a great short hike which children will love as well.
Including the primitive loop trail, this is the longest of the maintained trails in Arches National Park. Distance is 7.2 miles round trip including all spur trails. Approximately 4 to 5 hours round trip. Considered a moderate hike accessible year round, difficult with snow.
*Inquire at any of the monument visitor centers for road/trail conditions.
Grosvenor Arch is a unique sandstone double arch teetering atop stony stilts. The site is well maintained and has an outhouse restroom and cement benches. There is a concrete sidewalk that goes almost to the base of the arch which is handicap accessible. Take state route 12 south of Cannonville for approximately 9 miles. This is a paved road to the Kodachrome State Park turnoff. Continue on Cottonwood Canyon Road, a graded dirt road, for another 10 miles to the Grosvenor Arch parking lot.
The easiest way to see the Monument is by vehicle. Highways 12 and 89 run along the north, south, and west boundaries and offer outstanding views. High clearance vehicles are recommended for most dirt roads and many require 4-wheel drive. Conditions can change quickly after storms. Check at a visitor center before driving on unpaved roads.
Paved road stretching 72 miles between Kanab, UT and Page, AZ. Views of the Vermilion Cliffs and Kaiparowits Plateau. Access to Paria Movie Set.
Scenic Byway – HWY 12 All American Highway
Paved road winding 124 miles from HWY 89 to Torrey, UT. Views of vast slick-rock benches and canyons. Access to Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Calf Creek Recreation Area, Dixie National Forest, and Anasazi State Park Museum.
Scenic Backway-Johnson Canyon/Skutumpah Road
Paved road traveling north 16 miles from HWY 89 to the #501/#500 Junction. Dirt road for the next 34 miles heading northeast to Cannonville, UT. Subject to flooding and washouts. Road passes through the cliffs that make up the “Grand Staircase”.
Scenic Backway-Cottonwood Road
Dirt and clay surface road meandering 46 miles between HWY 89 and Kodachrome Basin State Park. Flash flooding frequently washes out sections of this route. Road follows along the scenic Cockscomb monocline. Access to Grosvenor Arch.
Scenic Backway-Hole-in-the-Rock Road
Dirt road reaching southeast for 57 miles one way. Last 6 miles before Hole-in-the-Rock overlook are rough and rocky. Four-wheel drive vehicles required. Highly prone to washouts and flash flooding. Access to Devils Garden.
Scenic Backway-Burr Trail
Paved road for the first 31 miles traveling east from Boulder, UT. Road turns to dirt at the Capitol Reef National Park boundary. Highlights include panoramic vistas and sweeping sandstone cliffs. Access to Deer Creek campground.
Off Highways Vehicle (OHV)
Use Off-highway vehicles are permitted within the Monument on designated roads. Cross-country travel is prohibited and OHVs are not permitted on hiking trails. Check at a visitor center for maps and information before riding.
One way to see and enjoy the vast backcountry of the Monument and adjacent Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is to spend several days hiking. Most routes are unmarked and traverse a wide variety of canyon and slickrock terrain. Visitor center staff can help you choose routes that fit your time and ability. Stop at a visitor center for route descriptions, maps, locations of water sources, weather forecasts, and current road conditions before starting out. A free backcountry permit is required. Map and compass skills are recommended.
Bicycles are only permitted on designated dirt roads. Visitor center staff can help you choose rides to fit your time and ability.
Escalante Interagency Visitor Center 755 West Main Street Escalante, UT 84726 435-826-5499
Kanab Visitor Center 745 East Hwy 89 Kanab, UT 84741 435-644-1300 or 435-644-1301
Cannonville Visitor Center (seasonal) 10 Center Street Cannonville, UT 84718 435-826-5640
Most areas within the Grand Staircase are free use except a Day Use Fee of $5.00 per vehicle for the Calf Creek Recreation Area. Also entrance to The Wave is by permit only and can be entered at the Kanab Visitor Center.
3,000 to almost 10,000 feet.
Distance From Cedar City
82 Miles east, off Hwy U-89 in Kanab
There are numerous public and private campgrounds in the area. Dispersed car camping is permitted in some areas within the Monument. A backcountry permit is required. Check at a visitor center for camping options. Campers must follow the Leave No Trace principles. Campfires are not allowed in the canyons.
Free backcountry permits are required for ALL overnight stays (backpacking, car camping, horse packing, and kayaking). Obtain a permit at any visitor center or self-register at many of the trail head register boxes.
Cell phones do not work in many areas in and around the Monument so always let someone know where you are going and when you will be back.