The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, one of the newest national monuments in the national park system, is truly a wonder to behold; it contains 1.7 million acres of land, more than six thousand vertical feet of alternating cliffs, slopes, and terraces, and extends from the Utah / Arizona border just north rim of the Grand Canyon to the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah.
Laid out like giant stairs, each “riser” is about 2,000 feet high and each “tread” is a plateau that can extend as much as 15 miles wide.
The steps were formed over eons through varied erosion rates for each kind of rock and are made of colorful layers of pink, white, grey, and vermillion cliffs. One of the best viewing spots where the layers are visible at one time is from Route 89A, just South of Kanab, UT. Drive onto the Kaibab Plateau and find stopping points along the way to gain a great view of the various stairs within the Grand Staircases.
With so much to see and do, it would take a lifetime just to get started. Few roads have invaded the area and if you’re not afraid to get a little dusty and hit the trail, there are endless surprises around every corner. From day hikes to overnight multi-day trips or rock climbing and canyoneering, there is something for everyone.
There are 3 main sections to the monument. The western region (Grand Staircase), which is made up of technicolor cliffs and pink sandstone with carved buttes made by the Paria River; the central region (Kaiparowits Plateau), with some of the most remote country in the lower 48 states with 1000-year-old juniper trees and the eastern region (Canyons of the Escalante), a large expanse of Navajo sandstone and deeply carved canyons which snake their way around salmon-colored cliffs and Anasazi ruins.
A few of the more popular hikes are Upper and Lower Calf Creek Falls, and if you’ve got a sturdy vehicle or 4 wheel drive, take a drive down Hole in the Rock Road, and visit slot canyons such as Spooky Gulch, Peek-a-boo, or areas such as The Devils Garden or Coyote Gulch.
Some affordable lodging in the area is found in Tropic, Cannonville, Escalante, and Boulder. The 30-minute drive between Escalante and Boulder is worth the trip alone, with amazing vistas full of twisted canyons below.