This is the one part that give nervous worries to some, and maybe even me. There are no guardrails along the steep drop offs. The portion of the roads winds and has switchbacks for about 3 miles, while the whole section runs about 5 miles for steep drops off the edges. Elevation climb to 9, 200 feet is a challenge in some spots.
The section of Hwy 12 did not get completed until 1935 by the CCC. Because of the difficulty in making a road on the peak of the ridge, it costs $1 million back then; maybe $30 million now. Before that the only transportation across Boulder to Escalante and for mail route was by mule. It took a while, and I am sure winter was a "trip"
Lower Calf Creek Fall is easy to find. After coming down out of the Henry Mountains (if you are coming from Hanksville) you will see an entrance for Calf Creek Recreation Area. The trail head is just down the road from the parking lot, walking towards the campsites.
The trail is very nice and strolls along the Calf Creek for about three miles. About 2/3 of the was up the trail you can find some great Indian petraglyphs. This is an in and out hike for a total of six miles. The Calf Creek fall is about 125 feet high. It is a nice place to swim in the summer and around the falls does not receive much sunlight.
There are distinct landscape variations on this road. It sometimes looks desert; others like a forest area. The road is 124 miles long, and is an Al American Road, meaning it is a destination to itself for the beauty and wonder along the highway. Ranked top 5 in the US for scenery, it is worth the ride. It has many unique places to stop and get that "picture" moment. The highway goes from Torrey off Hwy 24 in the north to Panguitch that connects to Hwy 89. The Grand Staircase is all along the southern edge of the road.
There are 20 designated places to stop, hike, or see in parks along the Hwy 12 route.
This is a 57 mile gravel/dirt/sand road that has 18 designated areas to see/do along the way. The road goes form Hwy 12 down to Lake Powell. Oh by the way-no way to get out of there, but some back the same way. The road can be treacherous, especially after rains.
The Harris Wash hike is a total of 11 miles -one way-to take you down to the Escalante river, going inside the wash almost all the way. The place to park is 10.6 miles down Hole in the Rock Rd, and then take a side rd on left side for 7 miles. There a two creek washes to watch out for here. They are impassable at the wrong time. Walk to the wash. Views along the way are sheer and steep red rocks and smooth creek bed as far as I went-3 miles in and then back. Slot canyons are along the way-but so is getting wet and being in very narrow sheer rock walls.
It was the adventure to see if I could get in and back out okay.
Coming from CAnnonville there is the Cottonwood Rd. It is paved for 9 miles, and then it drastically changes. I was shaken, rattled and rolled. There are severe washboard and rocky sections most of the way. Then there was the ascent/descent rather steep and swift to get to the top of hills and back down/up. Then there was the creek washes. Remember, you need to go back the ame way you came as easiest from the north end.
Once you get past all that, the 1 mile drive down a side road to the arch is easy. I found out form others that the route coming from the south is tougher, even for 4WD vehicles, and this was a dry, clear day. So surely do not drive in rain/winter.
The Grosvenor Arch is named after that gentleman, who was the founder of National Geographic; no more fitting. The arch stands at 152 feet, and you can walk up to the base.
There are 4 primary roads into the interior of this huge preserved monument. By the way-called Grand Staircase because Grand Canyon explorers could see the continued rising of the mountains, and it looked like stairs. These roads used to be used by locals to get north/south; visa versa. NOw a lot of them are impassible, or risks are on your own in rain, or the wrong vehicle.
The Hole in the Rock Rd is named form the Mormons that created a path to try and find sources to farm and graze cattle. They ended up at the base of Colorado River in 1879, and had to cut out a route 300 feet down, and one wall 45 feet straight down. That took 6 weeks to get through the trek down to the river. Hole in Rock Rd is okay for 111 miles, then it gets bad to worse. It is a dead end at 57 miles in to the river.
Burr Trail is a paved road for 30 miles,and then it get rough dirt into Capitol Reef park the back way. Views are all impressive, and many slot canyons/hikes to take here.
Hell's Backbone is not in GSENM, but a next to it 44 miles road worth mention for its rough and rugged driving.
Other roads not recommended to take ar Smoke Rd; very rough and tough, and Skutumpah from the north. Johnson Canyon Rd from the south is paved 10 miles,then it gets difficult.
The first 9 miles on the north end is paved, but not maintained well. Then the road changes into washboard, and winding, and ascent/descent up hills and alongside cliffs. I went down 18 of the 47 miles to get to Grosvenor Arch site. Along the way at MM 9, there is the turnoff for Kodachrome Basin State Park. A fee of $5 is charged to get in.
I did not like the road much, and if it rained at all, or lately, recommendation is do not take it. The road ends on Hwy 89 at MM 18. It is located from the north at CAnnonville by Bryce park
This is the main spot where most people come to see the creek and hike, and camp. There are 13 campsites along the creek. The falls can be heard close to the Hwy 12 location, but the climb and hike to get to see them takes a bit more. It is 3 miles one way, and a lot on a sandy trail. Later toward the end you climb steep rock to get to the falls overlook. I only went in 1 mile along the creek, and was too exhausted from the Upper Calf Creek hike to do both in one day.
The rec area is just before, or after the Hogsback switchback section of Hwy 12. Go slow or you drive past it. It is about 27 miles from Boulder, and 18 from Escalante, around MM 86.
The Hole in the Rock Rd is 57 miles lone, and washboard bumpy to this point and a bit rough, but you can make it to the 13 miles to this site. It is called Devil's Garden because of the hoodoo like formations and balanced rocks in the valley. The road to take is to the right 1/4 mile. Park and walk around the rock formations. It is similar to the Goblin VAlley formations. No hiking is needed; just walk. They have picnic areas and a pit toilet for relief.
They have a very nice museum that shows the living methods of the Indians back in 1100-1200's. The area also features the rock formations around here. Entry charge is $5. In the rear are the ruins of the village. See the other things to do page for pictures
The southern boundary for the GSENM is RT 89 from Kanab, UT to Page AZ. At MM 19 in Paria area are these fabulous Hoodoos. There is a parking area and you just follow the wash until you climb up on the plateau. By going around to your left you'll come into the area with the white Hoodoos. It's awesome when you first enter their city!
This has got be one of the easiest and most rewarding little hikes in GSENM! There are a others that I've not yet visited but they require either a HC vehicle or several miles of sandy hiking.
From the south end off Hwy 89 is this site. I suggest you do not try to make the drive unless you are risk taker, and do not worry about creek washes and the road hanging on side of hills, and steep and winding driving. I got stuck in sand and nearly tore up the transmission getting out and up a steep hill. It is about 35 miles east of Kanab, and 30 miles west of Page if you want to see it. There is not set any longer. Burned and not to be seen; just a plaque explaining the old time fame around here for movie making. The mountain views and color are splendid, though.
There are a number of dirt and gravel roads that criss-cross the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. On many of them, you do not need to be an expert off-road driver. We did perfectly well with a rented SUV. Since there are few paved roads within the boundaries of the Monument, this is the best way to see the magnificant desert scenery if you are not a hiker. The thing that we loved about it was that we passed only a handful of cars in the two days that we explored the area. Maps are available on the website listed below and at the BLM offices in the towns bordering the area: Kanab, Cannonville, Escalante and Big Water.
Warning: Fill up with gasoline before you enter and bring food, water and extra clothes. Do not enter the area if it is raining or supposed to rain - the dirt roads turn to mud and you may get stuck. If you break down or get stuck, it may take a while to get rescued. Rent a satellite phone if you can. That way you can call for help if necessary, because there is no cell phone service in the area.
This is the ruins of the Indian group named Anazasi/Pueblo. At one time, there were about 200 people living here between 1050-1200AD. They farmed, hunted and enjoyed the scenery. The ruins are some rebuilt, and others still in archaeological digging. The walking area is very small, but the park is 6 acres; most not accessible to tourists.
The site is right in the town of Boulder on Hwy 12
Alongside Hwy 12, by Grand Staircase is this park. It is not all that big, but does have some good hikes into the interior to see the petrified wood. Only about one mile is worth seeing, while the rest is for viewing the landscape of mountains. It is located right close to Escalante, the town. Admission is $5.
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