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Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

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Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument [2] 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.



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.


The Stair Steps or Layers of the Grand Staircase

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

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

Flora and fauna[edit]

Pinyon Juniper woodlands, desert grasslands and lush riparian areas.


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[edit]

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.


Camping is free in unimproved areas.

Get around[edit]

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[edit][add listing]

Cottonwood Road in the Grand Staircase
  • Cedar Mesa
  • Cottonwood Road
  • Escalante Canyons
  • Grosvenor Arch
  • Hells Backbone Road
  • Hole in the Rock Road
  • Johnson Canyon Road
  • Skutumpah Road
  • Staircase

Do[edit][add listing]

There are slot canyons for every level of canyoneering, from begineers 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.

  • Skutumpah Road - From Glendale to Canonville
  1. Lick Wash and Willis Creek offer an easy introduction to canyoneering. Lick Wash can get slippery if wet due to the clay. A small stream run through Willis Creek.
  2. Bull Valley Gorge although a little more difficult slot canyon, most athletic people can handle this one. Do take a rope for emergencies. Ice cold water can accumulate in various spots in the canyon in the winter. Bull Valley Gorge can be connected to Willis Creek via Sheep Creek for a long day hike or an overnight backpack.
  • Cottonwood Road - Between Kanab and Page to Canonville
  1. Hackberry Canyon is an easy stroll through a river.
  2. Cottonwood Canyon is an easy slot canyon the entire family can enjoy.
  3. Yellow Rock is an interesting hike to explore a yellow tinted mountain.
  • Wahweap - Big Water Area
  1. Wahweap Hoodoos those magnificent white hoodoos seen in photographs everywhere.
  • Escalante Area
  1. Peek-a-boo and Spooky Canyons offer an easy introduction to canyoneering.
  2. Calf Creek Falls is an easy 5.5 mile round trip hike to an impressive waterfall.
  3. Hole in the Rock Road ends at an impressive trail that Mormon pioneers in the 1800s carved out of the cliffs in an effort to cross the Colorado River.
Bull Valley Gorge

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

Guided Tours[edit]

  • Tag A Long Expeditions, 452 N. Main Street, 800-453-3292, [1]. Guided 4x4 tours into Grand Staircase/Escalante, Capitol Reef, San Rafael Swell and surrounding areas.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

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

Between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park is the Skutumpah section of the Grand Staircase, with Skutumpah Road traveling between the two popular National Parks. 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, and then 4 miles SW is the Mount Carmel Motel, and another mile in Mount Carmel Junction located at the junction of SR-9 and US-89 is the Best Western East Zion Thunderbird Lodge - eastern gateway to Zion National Park. Glendale,

Seasonal cafe: Directly at the Glendale entrance to the Grand Staircase is the Wild Board Restaurant, serving rattlesnake, rocky mountain oysters and other fare. A small town style cafe option is Souptown in Orderville, and 5 miles SW is Mount Carmel - the home of the Ho-made Pies, and homestyle restaurant dining. Nine miles up SR-9 is the Buffalo Grill, located 3 miles from the east entrance to Zion National Park.

Cottonwood Road section of the Grand Staircase is accessed via Johnson Canyon Road, located 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.

The small towns of Escalante and Boulder access the more northerly sections of the Grand Staircase, with a few motels, outfitters, and small restaurants.

The Big Water section of the Grand Staircase is just outside the small town of Big Water and there is a small town there, and a GSENM visitor center right along the highway. Cottonwood Canyon Road is near Big Water, 32 miles east of Kanab. The dirt road is 46-miles long and ends at Cannonville which takes visitors back near Bryce Canyon National Park. There are a few lodging and dining options at Cannonville and more if you head toward Bryce Canyon.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Willis Creek

Drink[edit][add listing]

Sleep[edit][add listing]


Wahweap Hoodoo


Stay safe[edit]

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

Get out[edit]

  • You can get to the adjacent Glen Canyon National Recreation Area practically without noticing it, although this does require some seriously difficult driving (and possibly some overland desert hiking)
  • Zion National Park the most visited of all Utah's National Parks
  • Bryce Canyon National Park at the edge of the Grand Staircase but not within the boundaries of the monument. Bryce Canyon is one of those places that has jaw dropping beauty
  • The Grand Canyon (North Rim)

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
RichfieldKanab  W noframe E  Glen Canyon N.R.A.Page

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