Close your eyes and imagine giant archways above you, glowing orange in the sun, a shallow river lazily snaking its way through. This river carved out the landscapes here. At first glance, you’d think a river with mighty, rushing rapids was responsible — but you find this lazy waterway just coasting along, promising adventure to anyone.
Now picture this incredible landscape all to yourself. Another occasional hiker may pass by every now and then, a silent hello exchanged and you both stare in awe at the wonders of the natural world.
That’s what you’ll find at Utah’s Grand Staircase, also known as Escalante National Monument. It’s a sedimentary rock formation sequence that massively stretches nearly two million acres — to Zion National Park in one direction and the Grand Canyon in the other. If you fancy yourself a bit of an outdoor enthusiast, this is your dream space.
Hike the trails, rock climb, or explore through the boulders, open roads that require 4x4s to scale, and the pristine air of wide-open adventure. There’s nowhere you can’t go here, and you can even camp out. While Merriam-Webster defines rugged, you’ll actually experience it — there are no paved roads or hordes of tourists you find at other national parks. There also aren’t the amenities you’ll find in those parks, either. Here, it’s wide-open, rugged, and private. But this is part of the monument’s beauty — the freedom of enjoyment and self-reliance.
You’ll find in an area this large that, yes, there are numerous hiking trails. It might be tough to set your heart on just one! A great recommendation for first-timers is the Grand Staircase’s Coyote Gulch. You’ll be able to reach this trail easiest from Escalante, a town just up the road off scenic Highway 12 (this is the same road that goes to Zion, Bryce, and Arches National Park).
This grand staircase leads to something better than a ballroom and is something everyone should see at least once.