The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is said to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. With 1.9 million acres of breathtaking backcountry, the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument draws people to Utah for its unconfined wilderness and jaw-dropping views. The land became a national monument in 1996, after it was threatened to be used for mining and commercial use developments. Now, the land is protected as part of the national park system, preserving this impressive natural expanse.
Backpacking & Hiking
The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is one of the most scenic and remote places to hike. Boasting active waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, abandoned western movie sets, red rock formations, prehistoric villages, and gaping canyons, it is impossible to feel as though you’ve fully explored this monument.
Spooky Gulch & Peek-a-Boo Gulch – These two narrow-walled slot canyons provide a popular route for hikers visiting the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. It is recommended that hikers take Peek-a-Book Gulch first and then follow Spooky Gulch back, creating a nice looped hike of 3.5 miles.
Calf Creek Falls – Broken up into the lower falls and upper falls, Calf Creek is a truly enchanting hike. The lower falls are more popular and easier to traverse, while the upper falls are more rugged and less traveled. Calf Creek Falls got its name because it was used as a natural pen for calves in the late 1800s. The route features gorgeous mineral-streaked cliffs and stunning waterfalls.
Death Hollow Trail – While Death Hollow Trail is more of a rugged and challenging trek, the dramatic landscape and twisting passages provide an extremely adventurous hike. This route may require hikers to wade through water, or even swim when water levels are high. Death Hollow Trail features captivatingly deep gorges, water slides, and rock formations. Don’t let its intimidating name scare you away from all this trail has to offer.
Coyote Gulch – Coyote Gulch is a more advanced hike, better suited for those with experience traversing rugged landscapes. The winding canyon snakes through incredible red rock country, making this hike worth it if you can handle its challenges. Although this hike can be made in a day at a decent pace, it is more appropriate for an overnight stay, giving you plenty of time to explore.
If backpacking or hiking doesn’t appeal to you, but you still want to experience the beauty of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, scenic driving routes stretch throughout the backcountry. The two paved roads in the national monument are highway 89, which extends to the south, and highway 12 to the north. From these main roads you can access smaller unpaved roads that allow for more scenic drive-throughs.
Paria River Valley Scenic Backway – This driving route is a well-maintained gravel road that stretches for 5 miles and features a ghost town, cemetery, and picnic areas. The route is suitable for all vehicles, even larger RVs and trailers, if driven slowly. Avoid this road if it is wet or rainy, as that can make it nearly impossible to pass.
Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Backway – This 46-mile route is perhaps the most premier and scenic drive in the monument. Though it is not suitable for RVs or trailers, those who make the journey are rewarded with incredible views of unusual land formations, sprawling canyons, and lovely red rock terraces.
Things To Do
There is so much to explore in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and so many ways to go about doing it. In addition to hiking and driving, you can also go ATVing or horseback riding. The landscape is ideal for photographers looking to capture picturesque views and outdoorsmen who want to fish in the clear mountain streams and lakes. Guides and outfitters are available and offer a wide range of tours and experiences. The vast area and wide open skies also make for great stargazing at night.
Where to Stay
When you plan your visit to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, you will have a variety of campground options, all within distance of the area’s most popular attractions. If you wish to stay overnight in the monument, primitive camping is allowed, although a permit is required. Permits are free of charge, and can be acquired at the visitors center. If more developed lodging is what you’re after, check out these RV-friendly campgrounds:
Canyons of Escalante RV Park – This campground features 28 pull-through RV sites with full hookup, new shower and restroom facilities, and a coin laundromat. It is conveniently located just 15 minutes away from the Calf Creek Trailhead.
Bryce Pioneer Village RV Park & Campground – This RV park offers full hook up, a dinner theater restaurant, beautifully landscaped walking paths, and an outdoor pool. The campground is conveniently located just .6 miles from the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
Thousand Lakes RV Park & Campground – With pull-through sites available, this 22-acre RV park offers campers spectacular views of the surrounding red rocks. RV sites include full hookups, picnic tables, and fire pits. Though it is a bit father away from the monument, the campground is centrally located within a number popular attractions and parks, making it a great hub for exploring everything Utah has to offer.
If the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument leaves you yearning for more to explore, you won’t struggle to find other nearby attractions. Bryce Canyon National Park, Capital Reef National Park, Escalante State Park, Zion National Park, and Petrified Forest are among just some of the nearby hot-spots. The monument is just 2 1/2 hours south of the Yuba State Park. These natural wonders offer educational experiences, pristine picnic spots, and views that are sure to leave you speechless. After an active day exploring the landscape, you may want to retreat to the nearby city of Boulder. This quiet mountain town offers shopping, dining, and less-rugged entertainment options perfect for the whole family.
The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is reported to be one of the last places in the Continental United States to be explored and mapped. The monument offers solitude to visitors trekking through the beautiful multi-colored cliffs, plateaus, canyons, buttes, arches, and more. If you are looking for a remote and picturesque place to begin your next adventure, look no further than the big, vast playground of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.