We stopped and toured the Escalante National Monument area back in 2010. We’ve been thinking about traveling back to the area for another visit, so here are some old and new highlights!
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Escalante National Monument is actually part of an area that incorporates three different units: Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyons. The original area was expanded by President Trump in 2017. Per the Bureau of Land Management, the monument area covers almost one million acres of land. The numerous acres of rugged land encompasses cliffs and terraces, rugged plateau, river canyons, monoliths, natural bridges, and arches. You’re also in fossil country here!
Per visitutah.com, the state is open for travel without restrictions, except for wearing a face mask in public. However, as always, check with the local government before traveling.
Currently (January 2021), entrance to the Monument is free and open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. But if you want to camp in the park, a permit is required, so stop at a visitor center before camping. (Visitor Centers are not expected to be open 24 hours a day.)
Those of you who enjoy a good hike will appreciate the Escalante Canyons area. So many sites to see off the paved roads: narrow canyons, waterfalls, sculpted slickrocks, and arches. But, the Grand Staircase area is even further off the beaten path with fewer visitors, per visitutah.com. And the Grand Staircase has an incredible network of slot canyons.
Kodachrome Basin State Park
Only 41 miles away from the town of Escalante is the Kodachrome Basin State Park. This State Park offers hiking, guided horseback rides, and mountain biking for a closer look at the sandstone chimneys and the red cliffs. The Park is currently open and has campgrounds.
Some of the hikes you can take in Kodachrome are:
Shakespeare Arch-Sentinel Trail – 1.7 miles, assume 2 hours
The Shakespeare arch fell down in 2019, but you can still see the Sentinel Spire. From this trail, you can also view parts of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bryce Canyon National Park. Beware the slickrock which lives up to its name.
Grand Parade Trail – 1.5 miles, assume 2 hours
This trail goes along the floor of the Basin and is open to bikers and horseback riders too. Two box canyons are accessible off of this trail.
Panorama Trail – 6 miles, assume 3 to 4 hours
Hike along a trail that passes through washes and canyons. This trail is also open to bikers and riders.
Angels’ Palace Trail – 1.5 miles, assume 2 hours
Lovely vistas and redrock hoodoos can be found along this trail. Stay back at least ten feet from the drop-offs as the rock faces are very brittle.
Reminder: no matter what hike you go on, make sure to carry plenty of water (some sites recommend at least 1 gallon per person per day) and carry appropriate clothing. And always keep an eye on the weather in the area to avoid being caught in a flash flood!
Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
We hiked through the petrified forest ten years ago and I found the colors of the fossilized trees very interesting. You can also see dinosaur bones, shell fossils, and an extinct marine mollusc (ammonites).
Currently, the Park is open year-round. Dogs are allowed, and the Park is just outside the town of Escalante. The Park contains a campground and access to the Wide Hollow Reservoir.
Scary, Scary Road (Calf Creek Viewpoint)
Utah Route 12 from the town of Escalante to Anasazi State Park scared us the first time we went over it…and the second. In this section, the road is a typical two-lane road, which we’re very used to; however, we’re not used to driving the ridge between a steep canyon and a steep drop to the valley floor on the other side. And apparently, Utah doesn’t believe in guardrail?
By the third time through, we were flying. But, don’t miss the pull-off! Some lovely views from the pull-off area. Just be careful pulling in and out as the locals definitely aren’t scared of the drop-offs!
It is a beautiful drive, so plan some time to utilize the pull-offs to take in the inspiring scenery.
Anasazi State Park Museum
Driving 28-miles northeast of the town of Escalante will bring you to the Anasazi State Park Museum. We also stopped here ten years ago. Here you can learn more about the Anasazi (ancient enemies or ancient ones). You can also see a pit house (ideal for keeping cool in a typical Utah summer and warm in winter), the remains of a pueblo village, and see some of their pottery.
Hikes Inside Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
If you get bored or run out of things to do near the Monument, you can always view the three sections of the Monument! There are numerous hikes and roads to travel down. (Some roads may require 4-wheel drive.)
Some popular day hikes include:
Lower Calf Creek Falls – 6 miles, an elevation change of 521 feet, assume 3-4 hours
includes a swimming hole and look for ancient paintings on the rock walls
From Escalante River to the Natural Bridge – 4.4 miles, an elevation change of 291 feet, assume 2-3 hours
multiple river crossings, petroglyphs, an arch, cliff dwelling…
Peek-a-boo and Spooky Slot Canyons – 3.5 miles, an elevation change of 459 feet, assume 2-3 hours
slot canyons can become quite narrow, so if you are claustrophobic – be warned!
Willis Creek Slot Canyon – up to 5 miles, an elevation change of 816 feet, assume up to 3 hours
hike this canyon early in the day, but avoid the late summer monsoon season
These are by no means ALL the hikes you can do, just some easier day trips. If you want an overnight backpacking trip, check out this article from backpacker.com.
Be responsible and take enough water on your adventures! (And don’t forget to check out My Top 3 Tips on How to Plan a Trip!)