Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park, our newest national park, has three distinct areas in its 1.7 million acres: the Grand Staircase, the Kaiparowits Plateau, and the Canyons of the Escalante.
The Grand Staircase is a series of massive geological steps that descend toward the Grand Canyon. The five different cliff formations (pink, gray, white, vermillion, and chocolate) are different chapters of geologic history, descending from 11,000 to 4000 feet. This is the main area we explored.
First up was Kodachrome Basin, a state park that sits in the Grand Staircase, not far from Bryce Canyon. It features colorful cliffs and “sand pipes”– sedimentary towers in the canyon.
We hiked the Panorama Trail. We really enjoyed the views and getting up close to the sedimentary spires. The wind helped cool us down, but then the red dirt really started blowing.
Next we hiked the Angel Parade Trail, a narrow trail with loose gravel and no rails, so we had to be careful. We loved the expansive views.
We also visited the Petrified Forest State Park. This little-known park has some fantastic specimens of petrified wood in situ. The hike up to the rim, down into the canyon, and back up is rigorous, but not long, and takes you close to many fabulous specimens.
We drove the Hell’s Backbone Road to see more views of the area. The lanes are very narrow, not much more than one lane, with numerous switchbacks and no rails. We were relieved that we passed only one other car the whole time.
The birches were starting to leaf out and looked magnificent against the bright blue sky.
As we descended, the town of Boulder was spread beautifully before us.
We stayed at the lovely Slot Canyons Inn outside the town of Escalante. It is perched over a working ranch and backs up to cliffs that are beautiful at sunset. It was heavenly.