Utah’s Aquarius, Markagunt and Paunsaugunt plateaus are all part of the High Plateaus Section of the Colorado Plateau. Each plateau is defined by varied topography such as the lava fields and forested highlands of the Markagunt, rugged cliffs and dense alpine forests of the Aquarius, and the magnificent red rock formations found along the Paunsaugunt. More than a dozen national parks and monuments line the Colorado Plateau, notably Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Dixie National Forest within Bryce Canyon Country.
The Aquarius Plateau is the highest timbered plateau in North America, peaking at 11,328 feet at Bluebell Knoll on Boulder Mountain. Running for about 100 miles along the northern edge of the Grand Staircase, the Aquarius Plateau was formed around 20 million years ago by tectonic plate uplift on the Colorado Plateau. It encompasses more than 900 square miles, and is the largest and highest plateau in Bryce Canyon Country with more than 50,000 rolling acres above 11,000 feet.
Dense aspen, spruce and fir forests, subalpine grasslands and meadows make up the landscape at the highest elevations. Ponderosa pine forests are found at the middle elevations, and pinyon and juniper pine forests thrive at the Aquarius Plateau’s lowest elevations around 5,000 to 6,000 feet. Protected federal lands in the plateau include Dixie National Forest and Bryce Canyon National Park. Much of the Aquarius Plateau is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
The Aquarius Plateau towers above Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and the east slope overlooks the rugged landscape of Capitol Reef National Park, with stunning long-range views. Popular recreation areas on the plateau include Box Death Hollow Wilderness Area, Powell Point, and Boulder Mountain. Trails on Boulder Mountain include the hike to Bluebell Knoll for breathtaking panoramas, and the Great Western trail which crosses the mountain on its run from Canada to Mexico. Several mountain roads, including Scenic Byway 12, provide access to much of Boulder Mountain’s incredible scenery and dozens of crystal clear lakes that offer world-class trout fishing. Campgrounds and lodging can be found in nearby Escalante and Boulder.