Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GS-ENM) is located in southern Utah along the Utah-Arizona border. The Monument was originally designated by presidential proclamation in 1996, with an area of 1.8+ million acres. This was reduced in 2017 to just over a million acres by another presidential proclamation by another President. The park was restored to its original size in 2021 by yet another presidentional proclamation by yet another president. The monument is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), with visitor centers in Cannonville, Big Water, Escalante, and Kanab. I visited GS-ENM in April of 2002, Oct of 2019, and June of 2022, and have managed to cover only a few hundred of the million plus acres of the monument.

Park sign 2002

Park sign 2022

Escalante Interagency Visitor Center


Paria (originally Pahreah) is a ghost town on the Paria River. It was populated from 1870 to 1929, at which time the last lone resident left town. The town was used off and on from the 1940s to the 1970s for filming westerns. An old west town movie set was built about a mile west of Paria in 1961. The original movie set was heavily damaged by a flash flood in 1998, and rebuilt by the BLM from 1999-2001. Then the rebuilt set was destroyed by a (suspicious) fire in 2006. I don't think it was meant to be. I was there in 2002, so the photos below are of the rebuilt set.

Terrain along Paria Road

Old western town movie set

Stephanie at the
Red Rock Saloon

Hills near Paria River

Paria River

Old Pahreah township cemetery

Wire Pass Slot Canyon

The Wire Pass slot canyon hike is an easy hike that only requires a day pass. To get to Wire Pass turn onto House Rock Valley Road from US Hwy 89 a mile or two past Paria Outpost. Travel 8.5 miles south along the unpaved House Rock Valley Road to Wire Pass trailhead. There is a parking area and vault toilet at the trailhead. Part of the hike is on the Wave trail. Total distance to the junction of Wire Pass slot canyon and Bucksin Gulch is 1.7 miles, with about half a mile in Wire Pass slot canyon. Out and back is 3.4 miles on flat ground, with only one 8 foot drop along the way.

Slot canyon entrance

Wire Pass slot canyon

Wire Pass slot canyon


Rock art

Buckskin Gulch

Burr Trail Road

Burr Trail Road (aka GSENM 100) started life as a cattle trail built by John Atlantic Burr. Now it's a paved road in the extreme northeastern part of GS-ENM, running from the boundary with Capitol Reef on the east to the town of Boulder on the west. I drove this road as part of the Loop-The-Fold tour in Oct 2019. Most of the photos in this section were taken in and around Long Canyon.

Park sign 2019

View from top of Long Canyon

Wingate Sandstone Cliffs

Box elders at the entrance to the cleft

In the crevice

Long Canyon

Lava boulders on Navajo Sandstone

Terrain near the town of Boulder

Lower Calf Creek Falls

Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail starts in the Calf Creek Recreation Area Campground located 15 Miles east of Escalante on Utah State Route 12 (Scenic Byway 12). The trail is 6 miles out and back and fairly level. I would rate it moderate to moderately difficult because most of the trail is loose sand. There are 14 stops along the way that are described in a trail guide available at the trailhead. The hike is hot during the summer months, so start early and take lots of water.

Lower Calf Creek Falls cascades over a cliff and plunges 126 feet into a bowl shaped pool. The pool is maybe 4 feet deep at its deepest, and lots of folks can't resist taking a dip after the hot hike in. In case you're one of them wear your bathing suit.

Trail to Lower Calf Creek Falls

Calf Creek with Beaver Dams

Stop #7 Desert Varnish
West canyon wall

Stop #8 Fremont Pictographs

Sandy Trail

Lower Calf Creek Falls

Lower Calf Creek Falls

Lower Calf Creek Falls

Hole-in-the-Rock Road

Hole-in-the-Rock Road (BLM Road 200) is a modern 62-mile unpaved road that follows the historic Hole-in-the-Rock Trail established by Mormon pioneers in 1879. They spent several months enlarging a break in the cliffs leading down to the Colorado River, giving the trail its name. The road runs E-SE from Escalante to the Hole-in-the-Rock on the western shore of Lake Powell. Along the way travelers can visit Devil's Garden, Peek-a-Boo and Spooky slot canyons, and Chimney and Dance Hall Rocks. I strongly recommend taking a 4-wheel drive vehicle and lots of water.

Park Sign at junction of UT-12
and Hole-in-the-Rock Road

Corral along Hole-in-the-Rock Road

Devil's Garden Outstanding Natural Area

Hoodoos in Devil's Garden

More Hoodoos

Devil's Garden

Cottonwood Canyon Road

Cottonwood Canyon Road (aka Cottonwood Road, aka Kane County Road 700, aka BLM Road 400) is a 47-mile dirt road that runs from U.S. Route 89 (US-89) to Cannonville, UT. From the north, turn on to Main Street from UT-12 in Cannonville. Main Street turns into Kodachrome Road that continues for 7 miles to the turnoff for Kodachrome Basin State Park. Cottonwood Canyon Road begins at the point where pavement turns to dirt. From the south: take US-89 east from Kanab for about 46 miles to the junction of Cottonwood Canyon Road. The junction is about 1.5 miles east of the Toadstool hoodoos trailhead. Cottonwood Canyon Road is a reasonably good sand and clay dirt road, but is impassable in wet weather, so check for road conditions before starting. I recommend a 4-wheel drive high clearance vehicle. Cottonwood Canyon Road traverses the Kaiparowits Unit of GS-ENM, with many interesting geologic features along the way. These include Grosvenor Arch, the Coxcomb, and the Cottonwood Narrows.

Cannonville BLM Visitor Center

Terrain along Cottonwood Road

Informational Sign

Sandstone formation at Grosvenor Arch

Grosvenor Arch

View ~ west from Grosvenor Arch

Thanks to the Bureau of Land Management and Wikipedia for background content.
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