Depending on where you stand, Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument has been quietly doing its thing for between 275 million and 50 million years. But it’s relatively new to us humans: It was the last part of the lower 48 United States to get cartographed, and once people started poking around they realized they were dealing with an un-spent wealth of ancient and modern science and culture. President Bill Clinton set it aside as a national monument in 1996 because its untrammeled significance distinguishes it for researchers and explorers alike. So don’t trammel it. Read more...
It’s a big empty playground for off-roaders, canyoneers and regular old hikers. Lots of jeep trails, cliffs and other photo-hungry rock forms across GSENM’s 1.9 million acres, too, which are broken up into three geographic sections. From west to east:
So called for the series of plateaus that descend from Bryce Canyon south toward the <a href="/grand-canyon-national-park"Grand Canyon, marked by vertical drops at the Pink Cliffs, Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs and Chocolate Cliffs. Lots of colorful scenery herein, natch. They ought to call it the Grand Stare-case.
(See: Paria Canyon, Buckskin Gulch, Wire Pass)
(Sound it out.) Nine thousand feet up, this is the highest, wildest, most arid, most remote part of the monument. It’s a big gray-green scalene triangle pointing north to Escalante on Highway 12, chock full of Late Cretaceous fossils.
(See: Lake Pasture, Fiftymile Creek, Death Ridge, Carcass Canyon, Last Chance Gulch)
CANYONS OF THE ESCALANTE
A rugged, desolate paradise. It’s the rocky bones laid bare after the Escalante River gnawed through earth's flesh, an exquisite corpse of narrow canyons, towering walls and stunning grottoes. There’s even some hidden life in the seeping shadows.
(See: Death Hollow, Calf Creek, Coyote Gulch, Hole in the Rock Road, Hurricane Wash)