The Grand Staircase Escalante – A preview of what’s to come

Richard Charpentier National Monuments of the Southwest, Utah 1 Comment

Covering over 1,900,000 acres, the Grand Staircase is an incredibly vast National Monument warranting more than just a cursory glance.  From “Hole in the Rock Road,” a famous “off roaders’” favorite place to go, through the slot canyons, and on to Cottonwood Canyon Road, this monument could be explored for months without exhausting recreational activities.  According to the BLM’s website on the monument, there are over 1000 miles of roads covering the Staircase.

The Monument Map from the BLM

Spanning Southern Utah from close to Kanab through to Lake Powell and beyond on the south side, and from Cannonville to regions past Boulder on the north side, the Grand Staircase is a massive National Monument.  And within the monument are more recreational opportunities than you can imagine.  And many of those opportunities are within the reach of any adventurous RV’er!

Tips for a successful trip

This National Monument is home to some amazing places to hike, canyoneer, photograph, and much more.  The memories you can make here if you choose to visit will be ones that last a lifetime.  With that said, we do have some cautionary advice that we feel should be put up front.

The Grand Staircase involves areas that are extremely remote and not hospitable to many types of RV’s.  Fortunately there are camping opportunities along the edge of the monument on both the north and south sides.  Many of the dirt roads into the monument are “washboard” at minimum, and washed out sometimes in the worst case.  Quite honestly, you wouldn’t catch me towing my Airstream onto any of the roads we’ll be talking about, they’d rattle my rivets right out!

Into Hackberry Canyon

Into Hackberry Canyon

With that said, this monument still has a lot to offer.  If you’re pulling a trailer with a 4×4 you’re set.  Class A RV’ers?  Hey, I’ve seen you guys running around with Jeeps in tow….now is the time to really make use of that 4 wheel wonder!  Park and camp at one of the spots we recommend and use your RV as base camp.

When venturing into the Grand Staircase be sure to have plenty of water along with you no matter what time of year it is.  Your exploration vehicle should have a medical kit along with it, and if you’re hiking off to a slot canyon or to explore some of the amazing hikes your pack should have a basic first aid kit as well.

Finally, given the size of this monument and its remote areas, DO NOT expect your cell phone to work in most areas (there are exceptions of course).  Personally we carry a satellite messenger with us in the Grand Staircase and a HAM radio as well.  There are several Amateur Radio repeaters that reach into the area, adding a measure of safety when you visit.  If you get stranded you may not see anyone who can help all day, so it pays to plan ahead.

Cottonwood Canyon Road

Running from Route 89 to Route 12 the Cockscomb is a 50-mile long fault, and Cottonwood Canyon Road runs along it.  The road is not suited for most RVs, however 4 wheel drive truck campers and “adventure trailers” will have little issue following the road.  At the southern terminus of the road (on Route 89) travelers will find themselves extremely close to the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument and Page, AZ.  At the northern terminus of Cottonwood Canyon road you’ll find yourself at Kodachrome Basin State Park.  So opportunities for camping can be found, and day tripping in with a tow vehicle (preferably a 4wd high clearance vehicle) is not only possible, but highly recommended.

For easy access to the road we’d recommend staying at Kodachrome Basin for trailers, 5th wheels, and larger rigs.  That will put you in a wonderful area full of recreational opportunities when you’re not exploring along Cottonwood Canyon Road.  Additionally, you’re not that far from Bryce National Park.  You can also base out of the Lake Powell area as well and run the road from South to North.

Looking north toward Kodachrome Basin from Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Looking north toward Kodachrome Basin from Cottonwood Canyon Road.

From North to South on Cottonwood Canyon Road

Starting from Kodachrome Basin and heading south into the Grand Staircase is a great way to go.  The starting point is already an amazing area, and you could spend days exploring all the park has to offer.

Heading south from Kodachrome Basin along Cottonwood Canyon Rd the view spots start coming at you almost immediately.  Take your time, pull off often, and make sure not to miss a single view.  Also, when you reach the height of land look back to where you came from, as the view toward Kodachrome Basin is awe inspiring.

The awe inspiring Grosvenor Arch.  I've visited several times and only met one other visitor in all of my trips!

The awe inspiring Grosvenor Arch. I’ve visited several times and only met one other visitor in all of my trips!

In under 10 miles of travel one of the first major points to stop and look around is Grosvenor Arch.  The Arch itself is actually a double arch, and it’s only a short walk from the parking area (which has primitive restroom facilities).  The view from the parking area is fantastic, but to enjoy this area to it’s full potential you should take a short walk up to the arch and around it.

From Candyland you can take a short or long walk into one of the many canyons along the road.

From Candyland you can take a short or long walk into the Cottonwood Narrows.

Leaving the arch and heading south once again the scenery continues to astound.  And in under 4 miles you’ll come over a crest and down into an area fondly referred to by photographers as “Candyland.”  There’s a pull off at the height of land before you drop down into the area, and if you don’t mind a walk down it’s a good spot to get your vehicle out of the way for photos and to ensure you’re not in the way of any other travelers.  The first image in this article is from Candyland, and our vehicle is safely out of the main road.

Depending on the time of day certain features will be lit up while others will be in the shadows.  Fortunately if you follow the road back to your campsite in Kodachrome you’ll get to see this area under different lighting conditions, changing the entire way you see the landscape.

From Candyland and the narrows continuing south……….

Oh, I want to read more!

If that’s what just popped into your mind I understand.  But this is where we stop for the moment.  Yes, more is written, but it will have to wait until we get rolling on The RV’ers Guide to the National Monuments of the Southwest.  If you’d like, you can search around my site for other posts on the Grand Staircase.  The trouble is, we haven’t covered it all yet.  Which is why we’re doing this project and putting the guidebook together.

In our own exploration of the area I’d say we’ve seen about 20% of everything there is within the Grand Staircase National Monument.  We have not hiked all the slot canyons, we haven’t even come close to seeing the Golden Cathedral, and we haven’t even explored the Eastern or Western edges of the monument.  There’s plenty to do here alone…..and we’re going to do the same for 43 other National Monuments.

I bet it just struck you, this is going to be a lot of work!  Yeah, it has crossed my mind as well.

So, if you’d like to know more about this National Monument, and all the rest in the 4 Corners states back the project.  Promote the project.  Share the project with anyone you know who would have an interest.  And if it comes to pass?  You can see more photos of me feeling stuck in narrow slot canyons!

Either I'm too thick or the canyon is to decide.

Either I’m too thick or the canyon is to narrow….you decide.






Comments 1

  1. Beautiful photos! I really miss the Escalante. Your post inspires me to start planning for our next trip. Looking forward to your guidebook. Maureen

Leave a Reply