From Escalante in the north to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in the south, and from Bryce Canyon National Park on its western edge to Capitol Reef National Park on the east, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument offers a diverse landscape rich in history and natural wonders.
From Navajo sandstone cliffs, narrow slot canyons, natural arches, monoliths and spires to winding rivers and streams, high desert, dinosaur tracks, and fossils…you’ll find it all within the boundaries of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
So where do you begin exploring the vast 1.9 million acres of Grand Staircase National Monument?
First stop at the Grand Staircase National Monument’s Interagency Visitor Center on West Main in Escalante for information about current road conditions, hiking trails, maps, and more. Then, gas up and hit the open road. A scenic drive through Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument will take you to dramatic overlooks and hiking trails that lead to unique landmarks and hidden backcountry gems. Driving Scenic Byway 12 from Escalante is a great starting point for exploring Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
Upper and Lower Calf Creek Falls
Heading east on Scenic Byway 12 for about 15 miles leads to Calf Creek Recreation Area. From here it’s a 6-mile roundtrip hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls along a sandy nature trail. The trail leads to a shady grotto with a 126-foot waterfall cascading from above. The less-visited, 110-foot Upper Calf Creek Falls can be reached from a 1-mile trail from an unmarked but well-known trailhead near mile marker 81 off Scenic Byway 12. You can also start at Upper Calf Creek Falls and make the 3.1-mile descent along an unmarked trail into Lower Creek Falls, through remote backcountry.
The Hole-in-the-Rock Road follows the historic route of Mormon pioneers during an 1879 expedition to San Juan. The 57-mile primitive road begins five miles east of Escalante off Scenic Byway 12 and ends at its namesake. Hole-in-the-Rock, a narrow crevice in the 1,200-foot Glen Canyon cliffs overlooking Lake Powell, was the break that allowed passage through this treacherous terrain. Along Hole-in-the-Rock Road there are spectacular views of the Straight Cliffs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument’s Kaiparowits Plateau, plus access to slickrock spur trails that lead to landmarks such as Chimney Rock, Dance Hall Rock, and Devil’s Garden. Hole-in-the-Rock Road takes about eight hours roundtrip and requires a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle for the final seven miles.
The Devil’s Garden is a must-see side trip in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and can be reached from a spur trail about twelve miles along Hole-in-the-Rock Road. A short stroll through the 200-acre wonderland leads to eroded Navajo sandstone hoodoos, domes, and natural arches such as Metate Arch. It is not unusual to have this remote rock garden all to yourself.
Peekaboo Gulch and Spooky Slot Canyon
Spooky Slot Canyon, also known as Spooky Gulch, is an eerie, narrow, and often dark slot canyon with serpentine bends through twisted sandstone walls. Spooky Bridge is a natural feature in Spooky Gulch. The half-mile canyon takes about half an hour to explore and begins near a large side canyon near Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch. Spooky Canyon can be reached from the Early Weed Bench trailhead, near mile 24 of Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Nearby Peekaboo Gulch is small drainage with a half-mile of extremely narrow and twisted slot canyon. The final 100 meters of Peekaboo Gulch is a swirling and twisted mass of Navajo sandstone arches and formations. Allow one hour to explore Peekaboo Gulch.