Escalante and Grand Staircase (2023)

This vast difference in topography and elevation gives the area an incredible diversity of plant and animal communities. Much of the area is remote and dangerous. There are virtually no marked trails in this canyon country. Warm visitors can experience true seclusion and exploration of the countryside. This area is not suitable for unprepared hikers.


The area that encompasses the magnificent scenery of the Canyons of the Escalante River is known as the Escalante Basin and is a small portion of the larger province known as the Colorado Plateau. The Escalante Basin is bordered on the north by the prominent features of the Aquarius Plateau, on the east by the Circle Cliffs and Waterpocket Fold, and on the west by the Straight Cliffs of the Kaiparowits Plateau. The formation of these great plateaus, steep cliffs and deep gorges began 60 to 80 million years ago, during a period of intense geological and erosive activity. As the plateaus were uplifted by earth movements and earthworks, and the canyons were eroded by meandering streams, a large cross section of geological formations was exposed. These formations are believed to have been deposited around 180 to 225 million years ago. Geologists believe that these different formations were deposited as the area moved between seas, lakes, and desert environments. Some of these formations contain fossilized dinosaur bones, shells, terrestrial and marine organisms, and petrified wood from ancient forests. Today, as you hike through canyons or drive on the highway, you may pass through an area once covered by seas and inhabited by marine organisms, or you may pass through an area where ancient forests thrived and dinosaurs inhabited.

Incredible displays of geological activity and erosive forces can be seen throughout the area, including the intricate network of deep gorges, elevated plateaus, sheer cliffs, beautiful sandstone arches and natural bridges, water pockets, sandstone monoliths, pedestals, and boulders. balanced, domes and mounds. , ironstone concretions, and volcanic rock fields to name just a few.

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The first significant survey of recreational resources in this area occurred in 1941, when the National Park Service surveyed the Escalante River in conjunction with a comprehensive study of water resources in the Colorado River Basin. The study was published in 1946 and identified the Aquarius Plateau-Escalante River Basin as a "little-known but potentially important recreational area." The road between Escalante and Torrey has been described as "the most scenic road in southeastern Utah" and Escalante has been identified as a "passage town" with great potential as a major recreation center. Within 100 miles of Escalante is Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Petrified Forest State Park, the State Historic Site of the Anasazi Indian Village, Kodachrome Basin State Park, and parts of the Dixie National Forest. Due to the abundance of recreational opportunities in a relatively small area of ​​the state, visitors often "discover" the Escalante-Boulder area on excursions to other destinations.

The Escalante area offers primitive and non-primitive forms of recreation. The Escalante River and its mouths offer an excellent opportunity for backpackers. The area's national reputation and abundance of hiking opportunities mean that the number of visitors to the canyons increases each year. Driving tourists enjoy the scenery at Highway 12, Hell's Backbone, Burr Trail and Hole-in-the-Rock Road. The color contrasts between the semi-arid land of the canyon and the pine and cottonwood covered mountains add to the beauty of the region. The campsite is considered an important recreational use of the area. Both the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service offer well-maintained campgrounds in scenic locations. Camping fees are charged at some of the more developed sites. The most popular spots are Calf Creek, Posy Lake, and Blue Spruce.

For more information, check out our trails in the area pages and our section dedicated to hiking the Escalante River.
Some areas of the Escalante Resource Area are open for ORV use. Jagged cliffs, canyons, and generally rough terrain limit ORV use to existing roads and trails in many locations. To operate any type of vehicle on public land, you must comply with all state and local regulations. Drive carefully and responsibly. Driving in a manner that improperly damages or disturbs land, wildlife or plant resources is prohibited. Some areas are off-limits to motorized vehicles and mountain bikes. Contact the BLM Escalante office; They can tell you about ORV restricted areas and direct you to the appropriate areas for your type of ORV use. All motorized and non-motorized vehicles are restricted to maintained roads within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.


Campgrounds developed by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service have approved water systems. The Escalante River and the many lakes, streams, and springs provide water for inland users. However, these sources must be treated. The recommended treatment method is boiling. The intestinal parasite Giardia lamblia may or may not be present and cooking is the only sure way to kill this parasite. The use of chlorine or iodine was not always effective. This parasite has been found in deer, rats, mice, cows, beavers, coyotes, cats, dogs, and humans. With the wide variety of potential sources of parasite transmission, all water sources are suspect and must be treated. Giardiasis is usually not life-threatening. Symptoms include diarrhea, gas, loss of appetite, weakness, malaise, nausea, weight loss, gas, and cramps.


Escalante's climate is temperate and dry, with an average annual rainfall of about 10 inches. From June through early September, storms roll in from the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Mexico and southern California. Northwest frontal type storms pass through the area from October to June. The greatest amounts of precipitation occur from November to March. Summer temperatures in Escalante range around 30 degrees F., with highs in the mid 90s and lows in the mid 60s. Winters in Escalante have a temperature range of about 26 degrees Fahrenheit, with highs in the house 40 degrees and lows around 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Escalante snowfall is typically 28 inches beginning in October or November and ending in March or April.

travel safety

Travelers are advised to check the weather conditions before walking or driving in this area. Mountainous and desert roads can become impassable and flash flooding is possible after storms. Upstream storms can trap an unsuspecting hiker in a downstream gorge.


Travelers off paved roads are advised to bring tow chains, shovel, extra water and gas, groceries, first aid kit, flashlight, and other necessary items in an emergency.

Meals, fuel, and lodging are available in the communities of Escalante and Boulder.

Area management information

Public lands in the Escalante Resource Area are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The National Park Service manages the land within the boundaries of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Capitol Reef National Park, and the Forest Service manages the land within the boundaries of the Dixie National Forest. There is also some state and private land in the area. Visitor terms of use may vary between these agencies. For more information on recreation, hiking, camping, and visitor use regulations, contact the appropriate authorities.

Bureau of Land Management Escalante Resource Area, P.O. Box 225, Escalante, Utah 84726 Phone: 435-826-4291. The office is located 0.8 km west of the city of Escalante on the south side of Highway 12.

National Park Service Glen Canyon N.R.A. Escalante District, P.O. Box 511, Escalante, UT 84726 Phone: 435-826-4315. The office is located next to the BLM office, 0.5 miles west of the city of Escalante, on the south side of Highway 12.

Dixie National Forest Escalante Ranger District, P.O. Box 245, Escalante, Utah 84726 Phone: 435-826-4221. The office is located on the north side of Highway 12 in the city of Escalante.

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