Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Written by on August 2, 2015 in UT Outdoor Adventures - Comments Off on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Covering 1.9 million acres, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is one of the largest parks in the country. This multi-hued landscape can be divided into three regions: The Canyons of Escalante, The Grand Staircase and the Kaiparowits Plateau. A geologic sampler with a huge variety of formations, features, and world-class paleontological sites, visitors will be able to see glorious multicolored cliffs, plateaus, mesas, buttes, pinnacles and slot canyons, as well as numerous site of archeological interest. The is one of the most remote regions in the lower 48 states and one of the last place’s to be mapped. The terrain is vast, difficult to traverse and so beautiful it will shock you into stillness.

The land called the Grand Staircase rises in tilted terraces rising 5,500 feet, each terrace weathering into strange shapes. The colors of the cliff stone changes from vermilion in the south, to white, to gray and finally to pink in the north. The Paria River and its tributaries have carved a landscape of isolated mesas, valleys, buttes, and narrow canyons that expose roughly 200 million years of the earth’s history in dramatic fashion. Buckskin Gulch offers one of the world’s best long canyon hike, and several other canyons in the Paria drainage also offer excellent hiking opportunities.

The 800,000-plus acres of the Kaiparowits Plateau form the wildest, most arid, and most remote part of the monument. It is also the highest part of the monument. Roughly triangular in shape, the Kaiparowits Plateau ends at the shores of Lake Powell. It is a maze of sheer cliffs, narrow valleys, red hills and remote, pristine wilderness.

The Canyons of Escalante were shaped by the Escalante River. Consisting of sandstone cliffs, canyons and plateaus, this is some of the best hiking terrain in the Southwest. Parts of the Colorado Plateau, such as the Aquarius Plateau, rise to above 11,000 feet, while lower parts of the canyons empty towards Lake Powell at 3,700 feet, which offers a diverse range of habitants for plants and animals, as well as truly dramatic scenery. Some of the more popular hikes in this area include Upper and Lower Calf Creek Falls and Escalante Natural Bridge.

Entry into the national monument is by two paved roads: Highway 89 from the Kanab/Big Water area and Highway 12 from Escalante/Boulder area. Highway 12 has been described as the most scenic drive in Utah, and from it, you can visit Hell’s Backbone, Burr Trail and Hole-in-the-Rock Road, which provides access to an amazing canyon network and some of the best slot hikes to be found on earth, including Spooky Gulch and Coyote Gulch. All other roads are fairly primitive and remote but well worth discovering if you can get there!

Temperatures ranges from the upper 90s during the day to mid 60s at night during the summer months. During the winter months, highs are in the 40s and lows around 15 degrees. The monument receives an average of 18 inches of snowfall from October through April.

Striking out across country on a hike is not recommended in the monument. With its twisted maze of canyons, plateaus, mesas and rough country, it is supremely easy to become lost. In addition, weather is unpredictable during the summer months, with Monsoon storms blowing up unexpectedly. Storms to the north and out of site can still send water crashing down Otherwise dry canyons causing unexpected flash floods. Food, fuel, and lodging are available in the communities of Escalante and Boulder.

Other attractions in the area include:
Bryce Canyon National Park
Zion National Park
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Snow Canyon State Park

Bureau of Land Management Escalante Resource Area
P.O. Box 225,
Escalante, Utah 84726
Phone: 435-826-4291

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