Why it’s called The Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a very unique region of canyons, arches, plateaus and cliffs. This area, while controversial in its designation as a National Monument, was established in 1996.

The Monument is bordered by the communities of Glendale, Kanab, and Big Water from the southwest to the gateway communities of Tropic, Cannonville, Henrieville, Escalante and Boulder moving towards the northeast. Encompassing 1.9 million acres, the monument is slightly larger in area than the state of Delaware.

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is partly named for the Escalante River, which flows from Boulder Mountain to the Colorado River. Deep canyons and gorges have been carved over eons of time. These sandstone labyrinths with unusual rock shapes and slot canyons offer some of the best hiking and backpacking in the world.

The monument is also named for the series of topographic benches and cliffs that, as its name implies, step progressively up in elevation from south to north. The risers correspond to the benches, terraces, or plateaus in the staircase. The bottom of the staircase ends at the highest bench of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Essentially from the top of the Monument, geological steps descend until the Grand Canyon. Each of the five “steps” has been eroded, revealing cliffs of distinctive color. Travelers can see the Grand Staircase from some of the viewpoints in Bryce Canyon.

The Bureau of Land Management manages the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. When planning to visit the monument, travelers should contact the Interagency Office in Escalante (435-826-4291). Current information on the monument, road conditions, maps, and hiking information is available. You can access the Monument through two main avenues of travel. Visitors are enchanted by beautiful Scenic Highway 12 in the northern portion of the Monument. In the southern portion, Highway 89 between Kanab, Utah and Page, Arizona offers spectacular vistas of the vermilion cliffs layer of the Grand Staircase geologic feature.

Perhaps the best way to experience the diverse terrain of the Monument is to walk through it. Even though developed trails are nearly nonexistent, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of outstanding hiking routes found in the Escalante Canyons, the upper Paria drainage, and other areas. Spring (March through May) and Fall (September through October) are usually the ideal times to hike or backpack. A good map and route finding abilities are a must. Self-register at established trail heads or obtain a free backpacking permit at the Interagency Office if backpacking in the Escalante region. Please leave no trace of your passing.

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