Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
GSENM Road Report as of September 14, 2020. (pdf file)
Note from the ranger on September 14, 2020: “Road conditions are deteriorating due to the lack of moisture. Some roads have deep pockets of sand and extreme washboards! Always use caution when driving on any of the back country roads.” Check with your friendly neighborhood visitor center for the most current conditions.
A vast connection between some of Southern Utah’s most famous canyon landmarks, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument stretches across 1.7 million acres of the ancient and prehistoric west. A vast sequence of sedimentary rock layers reaching from Bryce Canyon National Park through Zion National Park and into the Grand Canyon, this immense stretch of land dominates the lonely wilderness of Utah’s rural south. Relatively new on the world scene of ancient discoveries, this oasis of historical treasures brims with geological, biological, paleontological, and archeological wonders. The landscape is primitive, decorated with wandering desert streams, slot canyons, and monoliths. The pristine Grand Staircase preserves a prehistoric past, full of original flora, fauna, species of dinosaurs newly discovered, and ancient Anasazi artifacts.
Paleontologists and archeologist have been calling southern Utah a “climatological sweet spot” for years. The strong and wet storms in Southern Utah cause “episodic rapid erosion” which expose fossils, while the scarce appearance of rain protects the remains from destroying the deep rooted plant life. These factors create the perfect conditions for exposing fossil remnants for collection and observation on the canyon’s surface. Fossil records around the Grand Staircase date back to nearly 70 million years ago. Large dinosaur skeletons were excavated in the 1880s in northern regions of the Grand Staircase, and in the late 20th and 21st centuries a new collection of fossils emerged on unexplored strata, and researches predict a high probability of the further discovery of new species in the near future.
Just a daytrip from Panguitch, this rugged landscape calls visitors on a variety of Wild West adventures: From horse back riding through the canyon’s lonely Anasazi wilderness, or rock climbing on the historic rocks themselves, the Grand Staircase Monument is a true traveler’s treasure.
Backcountry of the Grand Staircase is rugged and primitive. Not many travelers venture out in the canyon’s remote wilderness, adding to the areas pristine feeling of emptiness and wonder. Under a canopy of unending sky, travelers rough the terrain by horseback to partake of the breathtaking scenery and experience the canyon’s isolated whispers, lonely shadows, and ancient spirits.
Rock Climbing and Canyoneering
This wild and unfettered wilderness is primitive indeed, and travelers looking for an epic experience with the rocks may climb their towering remains. Subject to zone and other management restrictions, rock climbing in the Grand Staircase is open in areas like Hell’s Backbone, Sulphur Creek, Devil’s Garden, Spooky Gulch, and Death Hollow. Visitors need only read the inhospitable names of these vast canyons to understand why early white settlers associated the area with doom. Rock climbing and canyoneering in this rugged land is sure to give adventurers the thrill of a lifetime. Seeking a less risky adventure? The Grand Staircase Monument hosts plenty of back-country hiking trails perfect for a day trips, mountain biking, and scenic highway trips for those wishing to experience the canyon’s rocky wonders from the comfort of their vehicle.