Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument
The 1.9-million-acre Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument (GSENM, 435/644-4600, www.ut.blm.gov/monument) contains a vast and wonderfully scenic collection of slickrock canyonlands and desert, prehistoric village sites, Old West ranch land, arid plateaus, and miles of back roads linking stone arches, mesas, and abstract rock formations. The monument even preserves a historic movie set (think vintage Westerns).
The monument contains essentially three separate districts: On the eastern third are the narrow wilderness canyons of the Escalante River and its tributaries. In the center of the monument is a vast swath of arid rangeland and canyons called the Kaiparowits Plateau, with few developed destinations—before use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), dune buggies, and dirt bikes was limited, these canyons and bluffs were a popular playground for off-road enthusiasts.
The western third of the monument edges up against the Grey, White, and Pink Cliffs of the Grand Staircase. These thinly treed uplands are laced with former Forest Service roads. The GSENM is the largest land grouping designated as a national monument in the lower 48 states.
- Kodachrome Basin State Park
- Grosvenor Arch
- Anasazi State Park
- Burr Trail Road
- Lower Calf Creek Falls
- Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch
Getting to Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument
Only two paved roads pass through the monument, both in an east-west trajectory. Highway 12, on the northern border of the park, links Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks with access to the Escalante canyons. This is one of the most scenic roads in Utah—in fact, Car and Driver magazine rates this route as one of the 10 most scenic in all of the United States. Its innumerable swallow-your-gum vistas and geologic curiosities will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Three fair-weather dirt roads, each with a network of side roads and trails, cut through the rugged heart of the monument, linking the two paved roads. Before heading out on these back roads, check with a visitor center for conditions; high-clearance vehicles are recommended.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition