The Grand Staircase region is remote and infrequently visited, but it is spectacular and contains the most extensive network of slot canyons in Utah. Highlights include Kodachrome Basin State Park and the fascinating formations along the rugged and unpaved Cottonwood Canyon Road. Many travelers to Kodachrome may make the journey to Grosvenor Arch for a snapshot of the monument, but when wet, Cottonwood Canyon Road may become impassable and is never suitable for RVs or trailers.
Location: South-central Utah, north and west of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell. Grand Staircase is the westernmost section of the monument and is most easily accessed from Tropic, Cannonville or Henrieville near Kodachrome Basin State Park on Highway 12–also known as Scenic Byway 12– and Kanab or Big Water on U.S. Route 89. Travelers can easily combine trips to Lake Powell via the Wahweap Marina with a stop at the Big Water Visitor Center, known for its fascinating exhibits of the park's rich paleontological record.
Geography and geology: The aptly named “Grand Staircase” marches northward from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the 9,000-foot edge of Utah’s High Plateaus. The colorful succession of “risers” in the staircase include, from south to north, the Shinarump Cliffs, the Vermilion Cliffs, the White Cliffs, the Gray Cliffs, and the Pink Cliffs. Each cliff band is separated by progressively higher terraces.
The Paria River is the principal drainage of the Grand Staircase region, coursing 80 miles from Utah’s High Plateaus to its confluence with the Colorado River at Lees Ferry. The Paria River carves the deepest canyon in the region through the Paria Plateau. It approaches 3,000 feet deep in places. Paria Canyon is also one of the region’s longest backcountry journeys. Stretching nearly 40 miles from White House Trailhead to the canyon’s mouth at Lees Ferry on the Colorado River, the trail meanders through canyons renowned for their narrow slots and is a popular attraction for hikers.
Visitor centers and entrances: There are no official entrances into this area, but a number of visitor centers surround the monument(s). The main Grand Staircase visitor center is the Kanab Visitor Center (745 E. Highway 89, Kanab, UT, 84741; 435-644-1300; open 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM 7 days a week during summer, 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM Monday through Friday from December 5 to March 8; GPS 37.042525, -112.512132). The center is a great place to start your visit, as it offers great interpretive displays and have staff members who can answer your questions. There are smaller visitor centers at the Paria Contact Station and Big Water, the latter of which known for its fascinating exhibits of the park's rich paleontological record.
Overnight options: To the southwest, Kanab offers the greatest selection of hotels, motels, and lodges but there are hotel and motel options at other small towns around the monument. Whitehouse Campground is an established campground near Kanab. Additional camping opportunities can be found at Kodachrome State Park and Escalante Petrified Forest State Park and other established grounds on the northeast side. Primitive camping is also allowed in the monument (try to use established areas).
Nearest groceries and supplies: Various small towns surround the monument. Kanab and Bryce Canyon City are good options for supplies near the monument.
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 most unfavorable time of the year to hike in and visit 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 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-Esalante 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 Grand Staircase-Escalante region is cold and often windy, and the ground above 6,000 feet is often covered with inches of snow. Some high elevation areas may be rendered inaccessible by deep 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 online.
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).
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