Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a 1.9 million-acre secret in Utah. Not quite sure how it’s remained so hidden but I’ve lived in Utah my entire life and barely knew about it. But within its vast borders are more slot canyons than than anywhere in the U.S. It has replaced Zion as my new favorite park.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Zion but going there now feels like standing in line for Disneyland on the busier trails. While in Grand Staircase, there are plenty of places in the Park where there isn’t a footfall, let alone a line. There is only one maintained trail in the park and one campground at Lower Calf Creek Falls. Whatever you do, hit the Escalante Interagency Visitor center first. Here you can pick up maps, permits, and plenty of tips on where to go. Because once you hit the park, you’re on your own.

Zebra Slot Canyon is a long hike to a short canyon.

Whatever you do, don’t refer to any of the trails as “trails.” The rangers don’t much like this.

The ranger corrected me three times during our conversation when I used the word “trail” to talk about the pathway to a slot canyon I was searching for. He explained that the park doesn’t maintain any trails so whatever path I may find myself on may or may not lead anywhere. (He was right, learned that lesson for myself.) While I understand his concern, I think he’s fighting a losing battle keeping visitors from using the word trail.

The lack of established trails and campgrounds is a big part of why the monument is far off most people’s radar. All of the roads through the park are maintained gravel roads and most of the trails (excuse me, paths) are several miles off the paved road. I got lost on the way to the first slot I visited because I followed a beaten path to nowhere. Luckily, I had a map to get me back on track.

The closest slot I found to the highway ten miles down a gravel road. But you know what else I found there—no line of people heading down the path. Difficult to get to but the beauty and the wildness, so worthwhile.

Peekaboo Canyon starts with one doozy of a step.
This is what we call a “trail” in Utah.

Where it is: Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument is the size of Delaware. Where isn’t it, might be a more apt question. Highway 12 runs through the north side of the monument and is the most popular side. That might be because the south side borders Lake Powell so you’d need a boat. You may be familiar with this highway from visiting Bryce but don’t stop at Bryce, keeping going. The road between Bryce and Torrey is a road that should only exist in the imagination and even as you drive it, you question its existence.

For a an outdoor adventure without ever having to get out, check out the Lost Gorge Mystery series!

Lost Gorge Mystery Series

Follow on Pinterest!

Pin here!

7 thoughts on “Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Add yours

  1. Oooh nice! Thank you for sharing this! I have actually never visited a slot canyon, and although the ones on Instagram and most travel blogs looks amaaazing, I am not a fan of feeling like I am in a theme park when I’d in the great outdoors.

    This wilder version (and the paths, not trails) sounds like such an adventure to explore!!


  2. We stopped at Grand Escalante when we road tripped on Route 12 many years ago. We didn’t see another soul! As a New Englander, I find slot canyons to be so interesting and magical!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I totally agree that Grand Staircase/ Escalante beats the Zion zoo hands down. I spent a week backpacking here and adored it. We went in the Peekaboo slot too. The off-trail navigation was so much more satisfying too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑