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Grand Staircase-Escalante

  • Weather: Sunny, 62F
The allure of the Grand Staircase region — the bulk of which is contained in the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument — is phenomenal. Sun-drenched Utah backcountry spreads out well beyond the visible horizon from the road, whether you’re traveling along the The All-American Road: Scenic Byway 12, or on Highway 89. This area boasts a mixture of colorful sandstone cliffs soaring above narrow slot canyons; picturesque washes and seemingly endless slickrock; prehistoric village sites and abandoned old Western movie sets, among many other treasures.

On December 4, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order to draw new boundary lines for Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. The proposal introduces three new units in this area named, west to east, Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits and Escalante Canyons. 

The three smaller regions all fall within the former monument designation's boundaries. All other lands that were covered by the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument designation retain their existing level of federal protection.

The Escalante Canyons section is the most popular area of the monument, especially among hikers. Active waterfalls, arches, riparian oases, sculpted slickrock and narrow canyons are part of the appeal of hikes through the Escalante’s backcountry.

The Grand Staircase area is more remote and less visited. It is spectacular and contains the most extensive network of slot canyons in Utah.

These two areas are separated by the 1,600-square-mile Kaiparowits Plateau, which features unique sedimentary rock formations containing an unbroken record of fossils spanning 30 million years.

Visitors will find a vast and pristine backcountry that affords excellent opportunities for solitude and unconfined wilderness recreation, along with great scenic driving opportunities and endless camping options, both developed and primitive. But wherever you travel in this magnificent landscape, whether a drive down remote desert roads or a hike up lonely canyons, you will be rewarded at the end of your trip with vivid memories and a yearning to return.

Much of the sweeping Grand Staircase region is quite remote. Very few trailheads can be reached on paved roads.

Visitors to the backways should carry plenty of water (at least one gallon — 4 liters — per person, per day) and be equipped to get themselves out of any difficulty they might encounter. Summer temperatures can range over 100° F (38°C) and winters can drop well below freezing at night. Perhaps most importantly, sudden heavy rains may make this road impassable — even for high-clearance, 4WD vehicles.

Read the Grand Staircase–Escalante Expert Journal to make sure you're prepared.

Visitor Centers and Entrances

There are no official entrances into the monument(s), but a number of visitor centers surround the area. 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 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 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.

On the west (Grand Staircase), the visitor center in Kanab can be called at 435-644-1300 and is at 745 East Highway 89, Kanab UT 84741

A smaller visitor center on the north side of the monument along Scenic Byway 12 is in Cannonville. Call 435-826-5640. This location is closed in the winter.

The Big Water Visitor Center and dinosaur museum is a great stop on U.S. Highway 89 on your way to visit Lake PowellAntelope Canyon, and Glen Canyon Dam, or to hike one of the numerous trails located within the Grand Staircase region. The Big Water phone number is 435-675-3200.

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