“Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is one of the most special places on earth. There is a precious solitude and a silence that exist in this place unlike few others in the lower 48. And there are also important and unique paleontological, archeological, and biological resources, including world-class fossils that help us understand our history—and perhaps even our future. In 2017, the Trump administration eviscerated the monument by half, destroying protections for these scientific and educational resources. We are fighting to overturn this order and return monument protection to this singular place.”
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was the one of the first established as a holding of the Bureau of Land Management rather than the National Park Service. The 1.9-million-acre landscape-scale preserve was designated by President Clinton in 1996.
The monument is known for its biodiversity, paleontological resources, and indigenous archaeological landscapes. It has been intentionally managed as a “science monument” and a great deal of research and scholarship have occurred and are ongoing.
The monument comprises three distinct landforms, from east to west: Escalante Canyons, the Kaiparowits Plateau, and the Grand Staircase. Visitor centers are located in Kanab and Escalante.
What will I see?
This is a big place and there are many landscapes within the monument, from towering cliffs to sandstone slot canyons, mesas, and forested plateaus. Most people visit the region around the towns of Escalante and Boulder, where there are impressive sandstone walls, tree-lined riparian corridors, and enormous vistas. But one of my favorite regions of the monument lies in the south, where the majority of the impressive fossil discoveries have come from. With a high-clearance vehicle, visitors can access these rough dirt roads and experience the pinyon-covered mesas and ridgelines of this part of the monument. In good weather, driving the Skutumpah Road or the Cottonwood Road can give you a great sense of this land.
Although it’s not possible to visit most of the fossil sites in this part of the monument, the Bureau of Land Management Visitor Centers in the towns of Big Water and Escalante, Utah, offer paleontological displays and information that will introduce visitors to the geologic history of the area. There are also wonderful displays and information at the BLM Visitor Centers in Kanab and Cannonville. Near Escalante, travelers can access the 20 Mile Wash Dinosaur Trackway site and the Wolverine Petrified Forest. If you’re up for more of an adventure and you want to do a pretty big hike, you can visit the Flag Point dinosaur track site as part of a guided tour.
Download a printable visitor’s guide here (opens as a PDF).