Trip Number: 12060A
Staff: Suzanne Swedo
- Enjoy wildflowers and geological wonders with a professional naturalist
- Be inspired by unparalleled photographic opportunities
- Travel in the footsteps of Native Americans and pioneers
- Leadership and interpretation by veteran leaders
- Exceptional meals assembled by a premiere backcountry cook
Photo: Suzanne Swedo
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument protects some of the most scenic
and least traveled areas of the Colorado River Plateau. Here, the Escalante
River and its tributaries cut through colorful sandstone formations, hiding
natural arches and bridges, waterfalls, and hanging gardens. There are petroglyphs
and other signs of the native people who lived here years ago, and there is
the history of the pioneering Mormons who settled the area. We plan to take
time to learn the names and ways of life of the local plants and animals and
to understand the geologic forces that produced this colorful, sculpted terrain.
There will be a variety of terrain to hike: sandy wash, slickrock, and willow
thickets. We'll squeeze through some slot canyons too narrow to carry a pack
through, and will probably be sloshing through streams. We will explore some
of the more celebrated slot canyons in Coyote Gulch, like Peek-a-Boo, Spooky,
and Brimstone, as well as some of the more remote, hidden regions. There are
no carefully maintained trails here, so while you don't need to be an athlete
to enjoy this trip, you do need to be physically fit. Hikes will vary in distance
from short strolls to 10 miles.
Our adventure is planned early enough in the season to allow us to enjoy the
most spectacular (and therefore most popular) features of the Monument before
the hot season arrives. Do keep in mind that while this is the desert, it's
high country and can be cold at night. Also remember that in any season, conditions
in the desert are unpredictable, so our itinerary must remain flexible.
Hole in the Rock Road takes us to our campsite for the week. It is unpaved
and washboarded, and there are about 20 miles of it to our camping place. It's
fine for ordinary passenger cars, but very low-slung sports cars are discouraged.
High clearance vehicles are recommended, but not essential, for reaching a few
of our trailheads and we can form carpools when needed.
Photo: Suzanne Swedo
Day 1: We'll meet at the Escalante Petrified Forest State
Park Campground near Escalante by 4 p.m. for orientation and dinner.
Day 2: Today we'll drive scenic Highway 12 to Hole in the
Rock Road to reach our remote camping area. We'll take a short hike to Calf
Creek Falls if time permits.
Days 3-6: There will be some driving to trailheads most mornings.
Depending on local conditions and the energy of the group, we will hike Dry
Fork Coyote Gulch, Harris Wash, Willow Canyon, and a few others. Our longest
hike -- down to the Escalante River to Neon Canyon -- will be 10 miles, with
a 1,100-foot elevation change.
Day 7: As our last day together, we'll break camp and return
There is no public transportation to this remote region, so you will need
to drive from home or rent a vehicle. The nearest large airports are in Salt
Lake City and Las Vegas, each of which is more than six hours away from our
meeting place. Ride-sharing is highly recommended. A trip roster will be provided
to facilitate this. More detailed directions will be sent in a later bulletin,
along with information about nearby accommodations, eating places, and sources
of emergency supplies.
There will be some winding mountain roads, a couple of miles of which are gravel,
but nothing unsuitable for ordinary passenger cars. If you have extra time,
Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Capitol Reef National Parks are all nearby.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Suzanne Swedo
All meals are included, from dinner on day one through lunch on day seven.
We provide all cooking equipment, including stoves and fuel. We do not serve
red meat, but we do offer fish and chicken dishes. Vegetarians can be accommodated,
but if you avoid dairy products as well, this trip is not for you. Please let
us know as soon as possible if you have any food allergies.
The first night of our trip will be spent in Escalante/Petrified Forest State
Park Campground. It has running water and showers. Our camp will be a primitive
one for the rest of the week with no amenities at all, so we will carry plenty
of water for cooking and washing with us.
There are several motels in the town of Escalante if you want some relative
luxury before or after our trip. WWW.go-utah.com has a complete list.
Most of our hiking will be moderate, over distances of less than 10 miles,
though few of our routes are on trail. We will negotiate sandy, rocky, sometimes
brushy terrain, with frequent (shallow) stream crossings. There are occasional
easy rock scrambles and squeezes through slot canyons too narrow for a backpack
(or a very large person.) We won't have to deal with extreme changes in elevation.
Only one of our hikes involves a descent and climb of 1,100 feet. Keep in mind
that cross-country travel is more strenuous than strolling along maintained
trails, and that physical fitness and good boots are necessary.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Suzanne Swedo
A detailed equipment list will be sent to all registered participants. You
will need to furnish your own sleeping bag, tent, and personal gear. Your sleeping
bag should be rated to 30 degrees. Good rain gear is essential, just in case...
You'll need good hiking boots with lug soles that are well broken in to negotiate
slickrock and rough terrain. You can expect to get them wet, so will also want
to bring camp shoes. Make sure you try out all new equipment in advance to make
sure it's adequate and fits properly, and that you know how to use it.
- Kelsey, Michael, Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau.
- Lambrechtse, Rudi, Hiking the Escalante.
- Fagan, Damian, Canyon Country Wildflowers.
- Adkison, Rod, Hiking Grand Staircase-Escalante and the Glen Canyon Region.
- The National Geographic/Trails Illustrated "Canyons of the Escalante"
covers the entire area. The AAA "Indian Country" map is useful
Photo: Suzanne Swedo
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was established in 1996 by
President Clinton to protect 1.7 million acres of this beautiful and complex
region from further development. The desert has too often been seen as wasteland
to be exploited and abused. Over-grazing, off-road vehicles, development and
exploitation of energy have been seen as permissible in desert "wasteland."
Our visit will help us experience firsthand how nothing here is wasted; how
the health and survival of every living thing in this fragile desert ecosystem
depends upon the well-being of every other. We plan to travel lightly over the
land ourselves, always practicing Leave No Trace principles.
Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under permits from the Escalante Interagency Office and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Suzanne Swedo is a botanist who leads wilderness seminars for the Yosemite Association and other organizations as well as her own adventure travel company. She has just written a new book, Hiking the Hawaiian Islands, and she writes trail guides for Falcon Publishing including Hiking Yosemite National Park, Best Easy Day Hikes in Yosemite, and Wilderness Survival. She has led Sierra Club outings for 20 years and has hiked the mountains of every continent.
Phil Snyder is an avid hiker and who has explored trails throughout the country for more than 40 years. He is enthusiastic about helping others discover often-overlooked hiking opportunities in the Midwest, Southwest, and Rocky Mountains. In addition to the Grand Staircase-Escalante trip, Phil is leading trips this year in Big Bend National Park, Texas; Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan; and Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, Montana; and he's assisting in Dark Canyon, Utah. When he's not on the trail, Phil is a community volunteer, freelance writer, communications consultant and a certified instructor of motorcycle safety in Appleton, Wisconsin. Contact Phil Snyder at: 920-731-1445.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips