Encompassing some 1.9 million acres, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is slightly larger than the state of Delaware, the largest land area of all U.S. National Monuments, it is part of the National Landscape Conservation System and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.. Although Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks are separately managed, they are part of “The Grand Staircase”. The name comes from the series of plateaus that descend from Bryce Canyon south toward the Grand Canyon, marked by vertical drops at the Pink Cliffs, Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs and Chocolate Cliffs.
Very little of this land area is easily accessible. Generally, you have to travel dirt roads or go off-road in an appropriate vehicle or on foot. We spent 3 nights in Escalante, UT, which is on the northern border of Grand Staircase. From there we hired a jeep “shuttle” to take us to an area called Dry Fork, some 30 miles off the highway over a bone jarring and dusty dirt road. Once there we hiked down into the dry river bed to explore some slot canyons called Peekaboo and Skinny. The shuttle left us there for 4 hours and then returned to take us back to town. The hiking distance wasn’t very long but there was quite a bit of scrambling and difficult going. We could actually have used more time.
One of the only marked trails in this area of the Grand Staircase is a trail to Lower Calf Creek Falls. It’s a pleasant six mile round trip with a nice payoff once you reach the falls where it is shaded and kept very cool by the mist from the waterfall.
Next up: Bryce Canyon National Park