Escalante Canyons Section
The Escalante River Canyon and tributaries is a popular area among hikers. Active waterfalls, arches, narrow canyons, riparian oases, and sculpted slickrock are among the attractions of the Escalante’s backcountry hiking trails. Highlights of Escalante Canyons include Calf Creek Falls Recreation Area and the Dry Fork trailhead 26.2 miles down the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, which accesses the popular and short slot canyons Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulch, ideal for canyoneering trips.
Location: South-central Utah, north and west of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell. Escalante Canyons is the northeastern section of the Grand Staircase area and is most commonly accessed from the towns of Escalante and Boulder.
Geography and geology: The Escalante Canyons in the northern reaches of the monument begin as modest draws draining the flanks of Boulder Mountain, a lofty volcanic tableland that bounds the river basin to the north and northwest. Drainages begin on the broad terrace traversed by Hole-in-the-Rock Road, gradually making their way toward the Escalante River. Once these drainages carve routes into the resistant Navajo Sandstone, they quickly develop into a network of slickrock gorges that are the myriad veins feeding the main artery of the river. Particularly in the upper Escalante Canyons, just below Boulder Mountain, the slickrock gorges emerge so suddenly and with such profound dimensions, that it is a scene of visual inspiration rivaled in few places on the Colorado Plateau.
Navajo Sandstone is the predominant rock formation in the Escalante Canyons, and erosion has exhumed these ancient sand dunes and sculpted the resistant cross-bedded slickrock into a vast landscape of domes incised with innumerable serpentine canyons. This chiseled land is a true work of natural art that is an unforgettable sight to behold.
Visitor centers and entrances: There are no official entrances into the area, but a number of visitor centers surround the monument(s). The main visitor center to the Escalante Canyons section is the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center (755 W. Main St., Escalante, UT 84726; 435-826-5499; open 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM 7 days a week mid-March to mid-November, Monday through Friday the rest of the year; GPS 37.772789, -111.615537). The visitor center offers Escalante Canyon maps and great interpretive displays as well as helpful staff members who can answer your questions.
A smaller but interesting visitor center on the north side of the monument is in Cannonville. The Big Water Visitor Center and dinosaur museum is a great stop on your way to visit Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, and Glen Canyon Dam, or to hike one of the numerous trails located within the Grand Staircase region.
Overnight options: Hotels, motels, lodges and bed and breakfasts can be found in the towns of Escalante and Boulder to the north as well as in other small towns around the monument. Established campgrounds inside the Escalante Canyons section of the monument are Calf Creek Campground and Deer Creek Campground–both great places to spend a night or two. Additional camping opportunities can be found at Kodachrome State Park and Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. Primitive camping is also allowed in the monument (try to use established areas).
Nearest groceries and supplies: Various small towns surround the monument. Escalante to the north offers visitor services.
Climate and weather: Visitors come to the Grand Staircase region year-round, but most come during spring and autumn. Since the region is a desert environment, with daytime high temperatures often reaching 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit almost daily from June through August, summer is the least favorable time of the year for hikes and visits in the area.
Spring weather (March through May) can be highly variable, with daytime high temperatures ranging from the 50s to the 70s, and nighttime lows ranging from 20 to 50 degrees. Occasional cold air fronts from the west and northwest can bring cold, windy conditions, rain showers in the lower elevations, and perhaps snow on the higher mesas, particularly in March and April. Generally warm, dry weather prevails between storm systems.
Autumn provides some of the most stable weather of the year. Clear, warm, sunny days and cool nights make this one of the most delightful seasons to visit the Grand Staircase-Escalante region. Expect daytime highs to range from the 70s and 80s in September to the 40s and 50s by November. Overnight lows typically range from 20 to 50 degrees.
Winter in the region is cold and often windy, and deep snow sometimes covers the ground above 6,000 feet. Some high elevation areas may be rendered inaccessible by snow between December and mid-March each year.
When to visit: The monument is open 24 hours a day year-round. Check visitor center hours and find more travel information on the BLM website.
Fees and Permits: Entrance is free. Overnight permits are required for car camping and backpacking. Stop in at a visitor center for a permit (also available at some established trailheads and campgrounds).
Grand Staircase–Escalante Expert Journal
Learn expert tips for successfully driving rugged dirt roads to get to your trailhead.
Escalante Canyons Family Guide
Here are five trails for families with serious hikers near Highway 12 and down the Hole in the Rock Road.