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What’s Wrong with Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument?

What’s Wrong with Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument?

I’d never heard of it.  Even after researching must-see spots for our Tour de Lance 2015 West, I had no idea if Grand Staircase-Escalante deserved to be included.  It’s HUGE – almost 1400 square miles, bigger than the state of Rhode Island.  Plus, saying it’s not easy to get there is a vast understatement.  Much of the area is accessible only by winding dirt roads inaccessible in wet weather or on foot.   Did I mention some of the most amazing hiking anywhere?  I need to learn to backpack … not sure I can get David to agree.   🙂

Scenery from Burr Trail.

Scenery from the Scenic Burr Trail.

Partially inaccessible wilderness with some of the most amazing scenery in the southwest — a BIG statement given that it’s in the same general area as Zion, Bryce and Capitol Reef National Parks!

A northern gateway ranger station in Escalante, UT is over 120 miles from the southern gateway “Abra Kanabra!”  the Kanab UT ranger station.  That’s not 120 miles as the crow flies, because there is no direct route through the wilderness.   And that doesn’t include two more Ranger Stations, Cannondale and Big Water, UT.

Cottonwood Road in Grand Staircase Escalante, close to Kodachrome Basin State Park

Cottonwood Canyon Road Scenic Byway in Grand Staircase Escalante, ends or begins close to Kodachrome Basin State Park

Two days before we were leaving the area (after having spent several weeks), a Ranger at the Escalante BLM Ranger Station burst my bubble when he told us if we hadn’t hiked Spooky Gulch and Peek-A-Boo Gulch, we’d missed the best part of the park … WHAT????   We already hiked “The Wave”, one of the highlights of my life so far, drove the Cottonwood Canyon Road Scenic Byway  … found the Grosnever Arch, Cottonwood Narrows, driven the Mule Dugway, spent more time in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument than another other National Park so far and  yet the Ranger tells us we’ve missed it?

Climbing up to The Wave entrance....

Climbing up to The Wave entrance….

Yet unlike some of the surrounding “high on the radar” national parks, several of the highlights we didn’t even know about before leaving:  Scenic Byway 12; Calf Creek Falls; The Wave; Burr Trail; Hole in the Rock Road; Cottonwood Canyon Road.   It’s so big that I’m still not sure all these sites were included, but they’re stunning so I included them!

Sometimes photos say it much better than words … and at the end several links to things we missed that are absolutely on my bucket list and require a return visit to this area!

Cottonwood Narrows Trail

Cottonwood Narrows Trail

Deserted ghost town off Johnson Road outside of Kanab ... a movie set perhaps?

Deserted ghost town off Johnson Road outside of Kanab … a movie set perhaps?

Toadstools Trailhead is off Hwy 89 between Page, AZ and Kanab UT. A great little hike, we spent the afternoon before our "Wave" hike exploring Toadstools.

Toadstools Trailhead is off Hwy 89 between Page, AZ and Kanab UT. A great little hike, we spent the afternoon before our “Wave” hike exploring Toadstools.

Driving Burr Trail, we found a little known slot canyon that was fun to explore in itself.

Driving Burr Trail, we found a little known slot canyon all to ourselves!

Scenic Byway 12 in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is beyond scenic - if you get to Boulder, enjoy lunch or dinner at Hell's Backbone Grill

Scenic Byway 12 in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is beyond scenic – if you get to Boulder, enjoy lunch or dinner at Hell’s Backbone Grill

Lower Calf Creek Falls - Trailhead off Scenic Byway 12. The hike and the falls are amazing.

Lower Calf Creek Falls – Trailhead off Scenic Byway 12. The hike and the falls are amazing.

Mogi Dugway ... a gravel winding road traversing a mountain - just another surprise around the corner in the Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Moki Dugway … a gravel winding road traversing a mountain – just another surprise around the corner of any road in the Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Cottonwood Road by Cottonwood Narrows

Cottonwood Road near Cottonwood Narrows

Cottonwood Narrows North Trailhead

Cottonwood Narrows North Trailhead

Cottonwood Narrows Wash Trail ... off Cottonwood Road.

Cottonwood Narrows Wash Trail … off Cottonwood Road.

My favorite arch, Grosnever Arch, off Cottonwood Road.

My favorite arch, Grosnever Arch, off Cottonwood Road.

Hole in the Rock Road – Spooky Gulch & Peek-A-Boo — no photos since we missed them, much to our chagrin after the Ranger set us straight …  more we missed… see a theme here?

Skutumpah Road with Willis Slot Canyon – yet another great hike we didn’t have time to include ….

Anything else we didn’t get to do that we should put on our list for another month (or more) in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument?  Please leave a comment and share!  Cheers!  Jan

 

    5 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your trip to Grand Escalante. Great photos and info. I’m in the early stages of planning a trip there.

  2. Hi, what time of year were you there? These photos look great!

    • Hi Matt – we were at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in the Spring – April 2015 to be exact. 🙂 Can’t wait to go back, but before that, there are a lot of other places we haven’t been … yet! 🙂 Cheers! Jan

      • Were the hikes pretty easy?? What type of vehicle did you drive??

        • Hi Kim – the hikes in Grand Staircase-Escalante are literally all over the map. Check at the local ranger station wherever you are – there are several ranger stations. We did a hike that was super easy and quick and we did The Wave which requires a permit & off trail navigating which wasn’t hard particularly, but was challenging. When we were there we were driving a 4 wheel drive Toyota 4 Runner. Not sure it was really necessary, except maybe for The Wave trailhead, but even there other vehicles that weren’t 4 wheel drive were in the parking lot. Again, ask at the ranger station about what roads your particular vehicle can safely negotiate – and be aware the answer changes dramatically with the weather! I cannot wait to go back & explore more! Enjoy! Cheers! Jan

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