Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
The Grand Staircase is a vast wilderness area made up of mountains, plateaus, mesas, canyons, gorges, rivers, valleys, hoodoos, and a lot of rocks......in southern Utah......
And that's our destination for today.
Do you know the difference between a National Park and a National Monument?
National Parks are designated by Congress and are protected because of their recreational, education, scenic, and inspirational value while National Monuments are established by presidential proclamations. These areas are protected because they have something of value such as wilderness areas, fossils, military forts, ruins, and even buildings.
We got up early and left Capitol Reef to head south on the scenic ByWay 12.
Some of the drive is quite scenic, but not as scenic as I expected after reading a lot of reviews.
Some people wrote that this is the most scenic route in America. I guess it depends on your taste. I love this area, but I'm a beach, ocean, coastal kind of gal.
Maybe people don't travel much???
The first half of the drive is uphill to the highest point on this section of the byway, Boulder.
When I booked most of the excursions on this trip, I actually called each business (hotels, tours, etc.) because I usually just have to ask a couple of questions about the area and people just start talking. You can really learn a lot.
While talking with one of the business owners, he told me to watch out for the changing speed limits on the byway and where they changed from 50 to 35...... He also told me to watch out for cows on the road in Boulder. Apparently they are free range and roam freely on the road occassionlly. Super nice guy!
No cows today! As we started to head downhill, most of the green colors turned to red rock and then to white sandstones.
Driving past Boulder Mountain (elevation 11,000 feet) made me think of a funny story that our llama guide told us. Somehow the names of Boulder Mountain and 1000 Lakes Mountain were mixed up. Apparently the guy doing the research for this area wrote the names he was given by locals on the wrong mountains and the error wasn't caught before the maps were printed. So, Boulder Mountain is surrounded by dozens of lakes and 1000 Lakes Mountain is covered in boulders.
Maybe 20 minutes south of Boulder there is a wide open plateau section of the byway where you have 360 degree panoramic views.
It's pretty spectacular. We were very thankful for the gorgeous day so that we could see for miles and miles.
Photos never do complete justice to being there.
There are quite a few places to pull off for photos.
We took advantage of most of them.
The drive from Torrey to Escalante was supposed to be about 1 hour 30 minutes or so, but we spent about 3 hours making this trip.
It was worth it.
We finally arrived in the town of Escalante!
It's pretty much a one road town. Route 12 turns into Main Street and goes right through the center of town and heads west toward Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, which we hoped to visit but ran out of time.
We had an ATV scheduled for 11am at High Advenute Rentals right at the edge of town on Rt 12.
Click the image below to follow along on our journey down Hole in the Rock Road and our amazing surprise at Devil's Garden.
After returning from our atv adventure and seeing just a small part of this very remote, vast monument/park, I was not surprised to learn that this area was the last part of the contiguous United States to be mapped.
Once we got to town, we were tired, dirty, and hot. There aren't many places to eat, but the ATV rental guys told us that Escalante Outfitters Cafe had great pizza. Sounded like a winner!
They had several different varieties to try, plus a bakery and an outfitters store. All the businesses here seem to be locally owned. We looked around the town for a bit and then headed a mile or so out of town to find our Yurt!
Escalante Yurts were fabuous! Large, comfy, quiet, on-site activities, a friendly dog.......I think it's going to be AWESOME!
This was really our first night to just relax. We played cornhole and walked around the property and just chilled.
Our yurt was huge, nicely decorated, had a kitchenette, a large grand bathroom, plus snacks for breakfast on the go. BONUS: the bed was super comfy!
The owners were pleasant, friendly, and very helpful. We would definitely stay here again.
After a good night's rest, we were headed west to Bryce Canyon National Park, definitely among my all-time favorite National Parks - maybe #1. I'm a little conflicted after visiting Arches and Devil's Garden in Grand Staircase.
Click Here to Follow Us to Bryce Canyon
We returned to Grand Staircase/Escalante the following night. When I booked the yurt, months ago, the second night was not available so we stayed at the Circle D Motel, definitely not the posh arrangements we had at the yurt, but a clean place for an overnight. We arrived late, had dinner at the Circle D restaurant, and went to bed. We were exhausted after hiking in Bryce and our wild Willis Canyon experience.
On our last full day in Utah, we had a big adventure planned......Canyoneering!
None of us had been before, so it sounded like a fun excursion. Our older daughter, Stephanie, and I had been rock climbing and rapelling, but I guess canyoneering is somehow different. We've never 'dropped' into a canyon before!
A 110 foot drop! One of us screamed like a girl! One did it 3 times!
Click the image below to join us on our Canyoneering Journey:
After this terrific day, we had to start driving north back toward Salt Lake City. We were flying home the following afternoon.