Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument


Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument contains three distinct units, Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyon. The area is a geologic treasure of slot canyons, natural bridges, and arches.

There are five life-zones here ranging from a low-lying desert to coniferous forest. The Anasazi and Fremont cultures lived here from 950-1100, leaving behind rock art panels, occupation sites, campsites and granaries. Fossil excavations have yielded more information about ecosystem change at the end of the dinosaur era than any other place in the world. This is an amazing place of solitude, and a paradise for backpackers and wilderness enthusiasts.

 

 

The park is located in the south eastern part of Utah, just above Page, Arizona and the beautiful area of Horseshoe Bend.

 
 

 

The first destination was Reflection Canyon. The trailhead starts at the end of a very long and bumpy road deep within the park. It’s about 7.5 miles hike each way, but extremely difficult because of the desert exposure, unmarked trails and the final two miles of dangerous slickrock.

 
 
 

 

 

Devil’s Garden is a dramatic area to wander around in. I camped in this area for two nights. This is an easy area to wander around in, and there many hoodoos, arches and cool formations. These  structures are formed over centuries as grains of sediment is whisked away by water and wind. When rain water
combines with carbon dioxide, carbonic acid is produced, which further erodes the limestone.

 

At night, the stargazing was some of the best I’ve ever seen!

And during the day, the roads can be quite challenging!

The hike down through Hurricane Wash and on into Coyote Gulch was my favorite of the trip! I spent three days in this area, wandering along a welcoming cool and clear creek through massive canyons and arches.

I spent a full day driving around the park area, along the incredibly scenic Highway 12 and then on a 38-mile dirt road to Hell’s Backbone. This route was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, and connects the towns of Boulder and Escalante, Utah. Halfway along the road is Hell’s Backbone Bridge, which is 109 feet long, and only 14 feet wide. A 1,500-foot drop is on either side!

As though to emphasize the vast range of climates in this park, it started snowing as I reached the top!

Tunnel Slot and Zebra Slot are two well-know slot canyons in the park and you can reach both of them by hiking about six miles down through a nice wash and across an expanse of desert slickrock. Both canyons were filled with water. Tunnel Slot was a bit scary because I didn’t know how deep it was going to get! Zebra slot was so narrow that I had to climb above the ground to get through certain parts of it.

I found many areas of Moqui Marbles, small, brownish-black balls composed of iron oxide and sandstone that formed when iron minerals precipitated from flowing groundwater.

 

 

Willis Creek is located in the Southern section of the park and it’s an easy, cool hike along a beautiful little creek through numerous impressive slot canyons! I highly recommend this hike!

I finished my excursion with a visit to Grosvenor Arch, a majestic and rare double arch, named to honor Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, a president of the National Geographic Society.

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