Sites in Utah
Dead Horse Point
Utah Site Map
Escalante is a small town at the center of south Utah, surrounded by some of the most rugged yet beautiful country in the state. The areas to the south and east were amongst the last places in America to be explored and mapped, and have long been popular with adventurous explorers and back-country enthusiasts because of the countless spectacular canyons, badlands, cliffs, hoodoos, arches and other red rock formations, and the peace and solitude provided by the region. The land is lightly regulated; there is very little development, no entrance fee, few facilities, and free primitive camping is allowed almost anywhere. A small number of places have a maintained path, or a recognized trailhead, but for the most part, exploration is off trail, cross-country.
||Great expanse of scenic wilderness, with arches, cliffs, many narrow canyons and countless rock formations, based around two major rivers (Paria and Escalante) and their tributaries. Also contains most of the Grand Staircase, a series of differently colored sandstone escarpments
|Nearest city with hotels:
||Bryce Canyon, Torrey
||37.770525, -111.601925 (Escalante)
||All year, but low elevation areas are rather hot in summer, and access roads are often impassable during wet weather
The area has been protected since September 1996 after the establishment, by presidential decree, of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (administered by the BLM rather than the NPS), which covers 1.7 million mostly roadless acres, bordered approximately by Capitol Reef National Park to the northeast, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to the southeast, road UT 12 to the north, Paunsaugunt Plateau to the west and road US 89 to the south (see map). The principal attractions within the preserve are based around tributaries of the two major river systems - the Paria in the west and the Escalante in the east, around which are a series of escarpments of differently colored sandstone strata - the Grand Staircase - which extend to neighboring areas like Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks and the Vermilion Cliffs. The creation of the national monument has met with a mixed response, since the added protection and restrictions on further industrial development of the area are counterbalanced by the increase in visitation, with consequent problems of pollution and spoiling of the environment.
The West - the Paria River
The western section of the national monument contains most of the Grand Staircase, a series of uplifted sandstone cliffs stretching in order of increasing age between Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon. Cutting through the cliffs is one of the two major canyon systems; that formed by the Paria River and its many tributaries. The main access to the upper reaches of the river is by the 50-mile Cottonwood Canyon Road running between Cannonville and US 89; this is a bumpy gravel track that is often impassable after rains. However, the most visited section is towards the south, near the Arizona stateline - the Paria River narrows, the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon and the eroded features of Coyote Buttes and the Wave. These are accessed by a side road off US 89, while to the north of this highway are several other roads that allow for relatively easy access to some parts of the monument, including the Paria ghost town and movie set.
Grand Staircase - Map
Grand Staircase - Other Places
The East - the Escalante River
The largest canyon system in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is formed by the Escalante River. This, the last in all America to be discovered and mapped, runs through the small town of Escalante and then down a long canyon towards Lake Powell, en route joined by dozens of side-canyons, many of which are quite narrow and fascinating to explore. This region also has numerous natural bridges and arches, plateaus and ridges, but there are only two maintained access routes - the Burr Trail and the Hole-in-the-Rock road, and quite lengthy hiking is necessary to reach most of the interesting places. One alternative is sightseeing by boat from the lake, as the lower reaches of the Escalante River are flooded.
- Burr Trail - back-country road that leads into Capitol Reef National Park
- Boulder Creek - cross-country, short cut route into the middle part of a long, deep drainage
- Death Hollow - deep, water-filled drainage
- Escalante and Boulder - two towns in the northwest, linked by scenic route 12
- Escalante River Trail - large canyon west of UT 12; arches, petroglyphs and ruins
- Hole-in-the-Rock road - main access to the western Escalante River and its tributaries
- Lower Calf Creek Falls - 126 foot cascade, reached by a 2.75 mile trail
- Phipps Wash, pleasant canyon with a large arch and a small natural bridge
- Upper Calf Creek Falls - lesser known 88 foot waterfall alongside UT 12
- Escalante River slot canyons - narrow ravines in the west, including Big Horn Canyon, Brimstone Gulch, Coyote Gulch, Dry Fork, Davis Gulch, Egypt 3, Escalante Slot, Harris Wash, Little Death Hollow, Llewellyn Gulch, Neon Canyon, Peekaboo Gulch, Red Breaks and Spooky Gulch (all in the slot canyon section)
Hotels: Tropic, Cannonville, Escalante and Boulder all have a few motels; the nearest places with chain hotels close to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are Bryce Canyon and Torrey.