Why you need to visit the Grand Staircase Monument, Escalante Utah

Whilst travelling over summer, we had made a rough plan of where we wanted to visit but still had some time to fill. The night before we had to leave Bryce Canyon we were searching online for the next place we wanted to visit, it had to be near by and interesting. We stumbled across the Grand Staircase monument in Escalante.

Camping in the Grand Staircase Monument

We found a camp site located at the calf creek trail head. It was roughly an hours drive from Bryce. We left early to get to the site in enough time to find an empty space. On arrival we were lucky enough to have the choice of several sites. We chose one that was elevated from the road, which you had to climb a quaint set of steps to get to. It was nestled below a cliff of rocks (which we enjoyed climbing all over).

The campground itself was so beautiful. A river ran through the middle of it. It was so peaceful to relax and listen to the flowing of the water.  We took the opportunity of being so close to fresh water to bathe, and to wash our clothes and dishes (using bio friendly soap designed specifically for natural water sources). It was refreshing to be able to cool from the baking desert heat by lounging around in the cool water. Going down to the river started to be one of my favourite parts of the day.

Calf Creek Falls campsite
Crossing the river in the camp site

Calf creek falls hike

We had two full days to explore the Grand Staircase Monument, and as we were camping by the trail head to the Lower Calf Creek hike we decided to tackle that on the first day. We got up early, gobbled down some oatmeal and set off on the hike.

We had read on the information stand that there were points of interest along the hike, one of them being drawings on a rock from Native Americans that lived in the area. As we walked along we were keeping our eyes peeled for this artwork.

The hike was beautiful, considering it was in a desert the river than ran along side the trail meant there was an abundance of vegetation. There were parts on desert land with the sun beating down, and other parts where we were covered by the leaves of tall standing trees.  As we walked along the winding path, up and down rocks and in and out of the trees we would occasionally head down to look at the stream which was filled with trout.

We were chatting and taking in the scenery when we turned the corner and through the trees saw the waterfall ahead. It was breathtaking and we immediately sped up to get there. On arrival we were greeted by a sandy shore, a pool of water and the crashing and mesmerising waterfall.

There was one other group of people there who were stripping into their bathing suits to go and enjoy the water. We quickly followed them in. The water was incredibly cold taking my breath away when I dived down. We swam around for as long as we could stand the freezing water for and then got out to eat the food we had packed with us.

We practised a little acro yoga and played around with back bends, handstands and crow pose, before laying down on the soft sand and enjoying the warmth of the sun.

Enjoying and swimming at the Lower Calf Creek Waterfall

After one final swim in the cooling water we set off back down the trail. As we hadn’t seen the Native American art on the way out, we were stopping at every marker to try and spot them.  This in itself was exciting as we were led off down trails, seeing and experiencing things that we would have never seen from simply walking down the main trial. Whilst walking along, Jacob got a sudden feeling that the art work as on the approaching rock face and low and behold there it was. Painted half way up the side of the rock was the picture of three figures. We headed down a trail that looked like it offered a closer view. We ducked, climbed and pushed our way through the overgrown plants but unfortunately this just led to the river and we couldn’t see any better. We made our way back to the main path where we stood and mused over the artwork for a little while longer.

Calf creek falls in the Grand Staircase Monument
exploring overgrown trails to spot the Native American art work

Content with the hike and all we had experienced we made our way back to the camp ground where we ate, worked out and enjoyed the rest of the beautiful summers day.

Grand Staircase Monument Slot Canyons

On our final day we decided we wanted to explore some slot canyons. Whilst visiting the nearby town for groceries, we took advantage of the phone service and researched some in the nearby area. We found some not too far away from where we were staying called Spooky and Peek a Boo Slot Canyon. We read the directions on how to get there carefully and headed off down the 26 mile stretch of dirt road. We were driving deeper and deeper into what can only be described as the middle of no where. There were no houses and no people. The directions we were following told us to continue down this road until we saw a tree with two trunks and to make a left turn here. With uncertainty we headed down dirt road after dirt road until we arrived at a parking lot.

We got our water packs on, applied sun screen, took a map from the information point and set off onto a very faint trail in the middle of the desert. There were other people around further ahead and we thought it would be easy to navigate our way down to where the canyons were. We were wrong. One small argument, me storming off and a making-up later we were heading down a steep sandy hill.

Peek-A-Boo Canyon

Once at the bottom, we saw a canyon to the left which we eagerly made our way into. We had to navigate around a lot of mud, and walk through a huge hole full of water. Once in the main body of the canyon it was magical. There were wider parts but some areas where you could reach the walls on each side. As this was our first canyon we were mesmerised, we were unsure of how long it went on but didn’t want to stop walking until we found out. This canyon (peek-a-boo) consisted of muddy parts, areas that you had to climb over rocks and smoother more calm sections. Once at the end, you are able to clamber up and look out across the vast landscape. You can walk back along the higher ground here but we decided we wanted to be back in the cover of the canyon.

Once back where we had started, we noticed the entrance to another canyon on our left, but you had to climb up a wall (which had a huge pool of water below) to enter. We decided to maybe come back to this and carried on round to the Spooky canyon. This was a little walk a way but we didn’t mind because it was exciting to see everything along the way and discuss what we had just experienced.

Spooky Canyon

Slot canyons in the Grand Staircase Monument
The narrow slots of the Spooky Canyon

Spooky canyon was the narrowest of them all, and although I’m a little claustrophobic I really wanted to get in and adventure.

The entrance wasn’t too bad but it suddenly got incredible narrow. We had to carry our bags in front of us and walk sideways. As we headed deeper in, I got increasingly aware of the feeling of being trapped. I was trying desperately to ignore the screaming voices in my head, my increased heart rate and the tears on the brim of cascading down my cheeks. Jacob was trying to keep me calm telling me it would be OK. He went a head to assess how narrow it got and once I was left alone I broke down crying. I had to get out of there. Jacob raced back to me, sat me down, helped me regain composure and then we headed as fast as we could for the exit.

That was enough slot canyons for one day, and the dark clouds emerging on the horizon signalled it was time for us to leave the flash flood prone area.

Despite the mild panic attack, exploring the canyons was incredible. Whilst in the Grand Staircase Monument it is a must do! There are far fewer people than the other near by canyons like Antelope canyon. In fact, whilst in both canyons we only saw one other group of people.

A top tip would be to wear suitable footwear! We both had the same Merrell Hiking boots. I had the Women’s Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof and Jacob the male’s version Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot. Both are also available at REI and on the US Amazon: Womens and Mens. Also pack LOTS of water, there were times we were hiking unsheltered in 100 degrees!


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