Located in southern Utah, between Bryce Canyon to the west and Glen Canyon to the east, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is less well-known than its cousins, Yellowstone, Yosemite or Grand Canyon National Parks. However, the 1.9 million-acre national monument, the largest in the United States, offers visitors plenty of scenic beauty as well as hiking trails, rock climbing, wildlife viewing and other outdoor activities.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was originally home to Fremont and Pueblo Native American tribes and their artwork and ruins from their dwellings still dot the landscape there. The land was made a national monument in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. The name Grand Staircase comes from the different plateaus that make up the land, which, when viewed from a distance, resemble steps.
Canyons of the Escalante
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is known for its scenic canyons. Some of the most popular include Hackberry Canyon (easily accessible from Cottonwood Road), Cottonwood Canyon and Bull River Gorge, a canyon best suited for experienced climbers. Be cautious when exploring the canyons here. Flash floods are common and the water rushing through the canyons can be dangerous. Avoid the slot canyons if there is any chance of rain.
Buckskin Gulch, located within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, is the longest slot canyon in the United States. The 13-mile long canyon was formed by one of the tributaries of the Paria River (itself a tributary of the Colorado River) and is located approximately halfway between Kanab, Utah and Page, Arizona.
Located within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the 1,350-acre Escalante Petrified Forest State Park offers hikes and river rafting through petrified wood and dinosaur fossils, some more than 100 million years old. A visitors’ center tells the story of how this area evolved, with displays of plant and marine fossils.
Where to Stay Near Grand Staircase-Escalante
Kanab, Utah, located on the western edge of Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, offers a variety of accommodations. Among these is Parry Lodge, located on SR 89. This 89-room motel-style inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and played host to a number of Hollywood legends, such as Frank Sinatra, Barbara Stanwyck and Dean Martin, while they were filming nearby in the desert. Other lodging choices include the Avoca House Inn, a Victorian bed and breakfast located in the center of Kanab, and the eight-room Escalante’s Grand Staircase Inn, located just outside of the park.
There are no restaurants or snack bars within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, so it’s important to bring sufficient water and snacks when you travel. Outside the park, there are several excellent eateries, including Rocking V Cafe in downtown Kanab, known for its innovative American cuisine, and the Rewind Diner, a 1950s-style diner, also in Kanab.
Tours and Guide Services
Navigating the canyons and ridges of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument can sometimes be tricky. If you’d feel more comfortable with a guide to show you the ins and outs of this lovely yet barren landscape, several operators are happy to accommodate you. Some of the more popular operators include Tag-a-Long Tours and Wildland Trekking Company.
If you’re a fan of the desert landscape and the American southwest, make sure to include Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in your summer vacation plans. You won’t be disappointed.