DescriptionGrand Staircase-Escalante National Monument covers 1.9 million acres in southern Utah. Established by presidential proclamation in September 1996, its name refers to the series of multicolored cliffs and mesas extending from Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Over time the Escalante and Paria rivers and their tributaries carved out two major canyon systems as well as natural bridges and arches. Most of the land is rugged, remote and undeveloped.
Geological formations include red rock canyons, cliffs, and natural rock bridges and arches. Two features worth seeing are the Escalante Natural Bridge, 100 feet across and 130 feet high, and Grosvenor Arch, a double arch accessible from a dirt road branching off SR 12. Reaching Escalante Natural Bridge requires a 2-mile hike up the Escalante River. Other popular destinations are Lower Calf Creek Falls, a 6-mile round-trip hike, and Devils Garden.
Also within the monument are major paleontological and archeological sites with numerous examples of fossils and petrified wood. Remains of prehistoric dwellings and rock art both attest to early settlement by Anasazi and Fremont cultures, followed by Southern Paiutes and Navajos. Wildlife native to this vast region of desert and forest includes mountain lions, bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyotes and foxes. Bald eagles and peregrine falcons are among the more than 200 species of birds.
Access to the monument is by scenic SR 12 from the north and US 89 from the south. Other roads within the monument are either partially surfaced or gravel, sand or clay, and are difficult to negotiate during inclement weather.
Backcountry driving requires preparation for emergencies and adverse weather conditions that include the possibility of flash floods. Services and rescue capabilities are limited. A permit is required for overnight camping or backpacking; permits can be obtained free of charge at trailheads or at the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center.
Visitor centers are in Kanab (the monument's headquarters), phone (435) 644-1300; in Escalante, phone (435) 826-5499; in Cannonville, phone (435) 826-5640; and in Big Water, phone (435) 675-3200. A contact station is 44 miles east of Kanab on US 89 at Paria. The Kanab and Escalante centers are open daily 8-4:30, mid-Mar. to mid-Nov.; Mon.-Fri. 8-4:30, rest of year. The Cannonville center is open daily 8-4:30, mid-Mar. to mid-Nov. The Big Water center is open daily 8:30-5, Apr.-Oct.; Tues.-Sat. 8:30-4:30, rest of year. Each visitor center offers exhibits (ranging from ecology, biology and archeology to geology, paleontology and human geography) and a DVD presentation about the monument.
The monument is open all year (weather permitting), but the best times to visit are March through May and September to early November; phone ahead for weather conditions at other times. Closed Jan. 1, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
For additional information contact the Kanab Visitor Center, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, 745 E. US 89, Kanab, UT 84741, phone (435) 644-1300; or the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center, 755 W. Main St., Escalante, UT 84726, (435) 826-5499.