Grand Staircase-Escalante is the largest National Monument in the United States. It encompasses 1.9 million acres which is roughly the size of the state of Delaware.
It includes a spectacular Grand Staircase of cliffs and terraces, across the Kaiparowits Plateau and the magnificent Escalante River Canyons. This vast region includes a diverse geologic treasure consisting of monoliths, slot canyons, natural bridges, and arches.
This is a vast and remote landscape which includes the imprint of the Anasazi and Fremont cultures from the period AD 950-1100. They left behind rock art panels, occupation sites, campsites and granaries. Fossil excavations have yielded more information about ecosystem change at the end of the dinosaur era than any other place in the world.
This unspoiled area is a frontier offering countless opportunities for recreation and solitude. It is a hiker’s paradise with a wide range of trails and scenic views.
If you are coming from the north and Interstate 70 you would exit at Utah Highway 24 and travel south to Capitol Reef and connect with Scenic Byway 12 traveling south to Escalante. You can also travel Interstate 15 and exit at Interstate 70 which provides access to Highways 24 and 89 which will get you into the Monument from both the north and the south. Highway 89 connects to Scenic Byway 12 providing access to the northern boundary of the Monument. Highway 89 from Kanab traveling east to Page, Arizona provides access to the Monument from the south.
There are visitor’s centers in Escalante and Kanab which have information on local access routes into the Monument. These visitor’s centers will also have weather information and route conditions. This information is essential as roads can become impassable. Also, slot canyons can fill up with water quickly from thunder storms and become very dangerous. Additional visitor centers are located in Cannonville, Big Water, and the Paria Contact Station.
Grand Staircase-Escalante is vast which means you need to plan your visit. It is essential that you know where you are going and have a map of the area together with trail descriptions. Make sure that you have a full tank of gas, extra food, clothing, and water. Our rule is don’t hike or travel in this country alone and utilization of two or more vehicles is always the best option.
The roads within the Monument are mostly dirt, clay, or gravel. Road surfaces are subject to flooding and can be impassable when wet. High clearance four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended. Because of possible issues with road conditions it is highly suggested that you check with the visitor centers to get the latest update. Also, leave gates open or closed as you find them and respect private property. Group size along main roadways within the Monument and on back country trails is limited to 12 people.
It is essential to realize how big an area is encompassed by the Grand Staircase-Escalante when planning hikes and adventures. We have accessed the region by having from the town of Escalante in the north and Kanab in the south. Except for the hikes that can be accessed from Highway 89, the town of Escalante, for us was the best option. Kanab is a good location to access the southern hikes in addition to hikes in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.
Any way you slice it, the drives to trail heads are long and over rough roads. Many of the trails are long and better suited to backpacking versus day hikes. We have traveled the rough Hole-in-the-Rock Road and hiked the popular slot canyons near Dry Fork Gulch. We also traveled the Wolverine Loop Road. Additionally, we have been on Skutumpah Road to access some awesome hikes. Some of the easier hikes to access are off of Scenic Byway 12 between Escalante and Boulder.
The best advice we can offer is to select those hikes you would like to explore based on length, degree of difficulty, and distance to the trail head and then plan your visit accordingly. We have provided a list of hikes in the region for consideration. We’ll provide more detailed information on the hikes we enjoyed the most in the near future. The visitor centers provide information on all the hikes and camp sites in the Monument.