The Grand Staircase – Upper Steps

In our prior post about the Grand Staircase we addressed the steps in the staircase that begin with the Grand Canyon and then move north toward the Vermillion and White Cliffs. In this post we talk about the northern upper steps of these geologic layers.

The Gray Cliffs

Traveling between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National park only takes about an hour of driving but unveils 130 million years of geologic history. The Gray Cliffs are the second youngest layer of the Grand Staircase, made up of sandstone and shale from the Cretaceous period.

The Pink Cliffs

Bryce Canyon National Parks famous hoodoos are sculpted from the youngest layer of the Grand Staircase. The Pink Cliffs of the Claron Formation are 50 to 60 million years old. The Pink Cliffs also define Red Canyon and Cedar Breaks. Bryce Canyon balances on the edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, which rises 7,000 to over 9,000 feet above sea level.

The Paunsaugunt and Aquarius Plateaus

The Paunsaugunt Plateau was created approximately 10-20 million years ago by a tectonic uplift on the Colorado Plateau, which is the highest plateau in North America). Further uplift and erosional forces along the Paunsaugunt Plateau created Bryce Canyon’s intriguing hoodoos. The Aquarius Plateau is another tectonic uplift along the Colorado Plateau, encompassing more than 50,000 forested acres above 11,000 feet. It is, in fact, the highest timbered plateau in North America. Boulder Mountain’s Bluebell Knoll peaks at 11, 328 feet, the highest point in Bryce Canyon Country and on the Aquarius Plateau.

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