Top 10 Hikes to Explore at Grand Staircase Escalante

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument holds some of the most incredible and even secret hikes you’ll find in the entire state of Utah and while there are honestly over 100 to explore there, I want to share the top 10 most popular ones for first time visitors in this post (with the list sure to grow).

My history with exploring hikes in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument:

When I first started exploring the state of Utah, I figured the best parts of it were only in The Mighty 5 National Parks and the state parks in general (and there are some truly beautiful places there).

But I was very wrong, because as soon I discovered one of the hikes on this list (Coyote Gulch) and that it was part of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument area, I quickly discovered that how large this whole region was and just how many more adventures it held.

And in exploring more of this area, I began seeing all the amazing hikes and adventures it held and decided to write this post, specifically for first time visitors to this area.

What is Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument?grand staircase escalante national monument map

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is basically a 1 million+ acre stretch of land in Utah that is uninhabited but has many areas you can explore within it.

The land in this area takes up about 5-10% of the entire state and that “small area” holds many opportunities for adventures.

The closest town to it is the town of Escalante and this region of Utah is not very well known to tourists who visit this state.

But is a very popular destination for explorers and hikers who live here (or have visited Utah enough to know about this region).

But despite that, this region of Utah has some of the most beautiful hikes you’ll ever find so if you’re planning on visiting Utah, I highly recommend adding an extra day or two to your stay there and taking the time to explore this area, specifically these 9 spots for starters.

In my case, I began exploring this region after seeing the most popular areas (The Mighty 5 National Parks there).

Here are the 10 hikes I recommend exploring at Grand Staircase Escalante:

10 grand staircase escalante hikes

  1. Golden Cathedral trail hike.
  2. Coyote Gulch hike.
  3. Red breaks and Cosmic Ashtray hike.
  4. Zebra Slot Canyon hike.
  5. Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch hike.
  6. Lower Calf Creek Falls (100 foot waterfall).
  7. Sunset Arch.
  8. Metate Arch (Devils Garden).
  9. Long Canyon and Singing Canyon.
  10. Escalante Natural Bridge trail.

The great thing about each of these hikes is that they are:

A) Fairly easy to access as they are close to the town of Escalante.

B) Most of them are reachable by car (at least the trailhead). But you will need an all wheel drive to reach the parking areas.

C) They are all beautiful and great exploratory hikes for first time visitors to this area (you do need to be in good physical shape to hike most of them).

D) Unlike the super popular parks in Utah which get tons of crowds, not many people know about the hikes in Grand Staircase Escalante, so you’ll often find few crowds or in many cases no one when you go (which is also a danger so be careful).

1) Golden Cathedral:

golden cathedral hike in grand staircase escalante

Length of hike: A little over 9 miles (it’s an in and out trail).

Difficulty: Moderate.

Description: This is one of the top 3 hikes in Grand Staircase Escalante and is located off the popular Hole in Rock Road which also leads to numerous other hiking trails on this list by the way.

Anyway, the trail to the Golden Cathedral is marked by rocks and other signs, but this is not the general easy trail to navigate so you will have to use a map in addition to the markings to ensure you are on the right path as the trail in this region does intersect with others.

You will also pass through a river area before entering the Golden Cathedral region and witnessing the beauty of it.

2) Coyote Gulch hiking trail:

coyote gulch hike in grand staircase escalante

Length of hike: 5-20 miles depending on which route you take. There are 4 different options available.

Difficulty: Moderate to hard.

Description: Coyote Gulch is the reason I even heard of Grand Staircase Escalante in the first place and the original hike I discovered before exploring the region more.

There are 3 main ways to enter into Coyote Gulch, and one of them is through the Hurricane Wash trail which is normally for people staying overnight at Coyote Gulch.

The next 2 options are one day hikes which are known as the Sneaker Route (Water tank trail) which is an in and out trail and Crack in the Wall and back to the Water Tank trail (loop trail). See more details on hiking in Coyote Gulch.

Overall, if you decide to visit Coyote Gulch, here are several points I recommend you check out:

  • Jacob Hamlin Arch (the photo above).
  • Coyote Nature Bridge.
  • “Secret” Lagoon (easy to find with research).
  • Steven’s Arch.

3) Red Breaks and Cosmic Ashtray hike:

Red breaks and Cosmic Ashtray hike in grand staircase escalante

Length of hike: 10-11 miles loop.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Description: Thanks to Alltrails.com, I was able to find out about the Red Breaks and Cosmic Ashtray hike and besides the trail itself, the main attraction is this giant hole with a rock in it that is also surrounded by brown/red sand.

It looks very surreal during sundown and in general (as do most hikes in Utah).

This is a moderately difficult trail so if you hike here in the summer, be well prepared!

4) Zebra Slot Canyon:

zebra slot canyon hike in grand staircase escalante

Length of hike: 5+ miles.

Difficulty: Moderate (and dirty).

Description: The Zebra Slot Canyon is one of the most popular slot canyons you’ll find in all of Utah and it is also one of the first hiking opportunities you’ll see signs for when you enter Grand Staircase Escalante through the main Hole in The Rock road.

This isn’t exactly a clean hike but if you don’t mind dirty and very cold water, as well as the slot canyon experience where you’re in tight spaces, then this is going to be a very enjoyable hike for you.

I do also recommend the Zebra Slot Canyon as a great alternative hike to Antelope Canyon (in AZ).

5) Peekaboo Slot Canyon and Spooky Gulch hike:

peekaboo and spooky gulch hike in grand staircase escalante

Length of hike: About 5 miles for both slot canyons (but very difficult and tight terrain).

Difficulty: Moderate to hard.

Description: If you enjoy the Zebra Slot Canyon and want something a big more challenging and less wet, then these 2 slot canyons in Grand Staircase Escalante are for you.

Peekaboo slot canyon is a fun but tight slot canyon to explore, and the next, tougher one is Spooky Gulch where people with claustrophobia need not go, but if you don’t have that problem, then you’ll really going to enjoy this hike. Both these slot canyons are close enough to one another where you can cover both places in one hike.

Just as well, further south of this area is Kanab Utah where you will find another slot canyon with a similar name (but different terrain).

6) Lower Calf Creek falls:

lower calf creek falls grand staircase escalante 01

Length of hike: About 3 miles one way (5-6 miles in and out).

Difficulty: Easy-moderate.

Description: I had recently discovered that Grand Staircase Escalante actually houses an amazing and giant waterfall. There’s actually 2 in this area and the one that is most popular is called Lower Calf Creek Falls. It’s over 100 feet high with a nice river next to it.

Further up the hike is upper Creek Falls which is also a waterfall, but it also has a swimming hole next to it.

If you drive on road 12, you’ll be able to see it from the top, but the entrance to the trailhead to go here is easily accessible with a large parking lot (easy to find basically). This particular part of the National Monument isn’t by the other 5 areas I listed above.

7) Sunset Arch:

sunset arch grand staircase escalante 02

Length of hike: 1/2 a mile south from the Water tank trailhead (the one that goes to Coyote Gulch).

Difficulty: Easy (but easy to get lost too, so be careful).

Description: Sunset Arch is an awesome little Easter egg in Escalante you can (and should) check out, especially if you’re planning to visit Coyote Gulch. It is located south of the parking area to Coyote Gulch (which is known as the Water Tank trail).

You can certainly walk underneath the arch and not too many people know about it. Considering how close it is to the parking lot, it would be a shame to miss out on this nice spot!

8) Metate Arch (Devils Garden):

metate arch grand staircase escalante 03

Length of hike: 1/10th of a mile (very close to the parking lot).

Difficulty: Super easy!

Description: Metate Arch (also known as Devils Garden) is arguably the easiest “hike” in all of Escalante.

It is basically a very scenic mountain area with Arch that you can check out very close to the parking lot.

I have personally never heard about this hike/area until recently, but it’s certainly on my list of places to explore the next time I visit Escalante!

Fun fact: There is also another trail called Devils Garden which you’ll find in Arches National Park (and it’s also stunning, but in a completely different way than this one).

9) Long Canyon and Singing Canyon:

singing canyon grand staircase escalante 04

Length of hike: 1/8 mile from the parking lot.

Difficulty: Super easy.

Description: Long Canyon is a “slot canyon” in Escalante which is accessible through a road.

This road is actually very scenic and also worth checking out. It’s east of road 12 on a road called East Burr Trail Road. It’s pretty well managed and is extremely scenic.

Once you park to check out Long Canyon, you can either choose to hike to Singing Canyon and/or drive past it. You’ll basically be driving in between giant mountain areas of Escalante.

I’ve been here and have to say the drive is very beautiful. Singing Canyon isn’t all that special in terms of adventures, but sight wise, it’s very nice here.

10) Escalante Natural Bridge trail:

escalante natural bridge trail hike 01

Length of hike: 4-5 miles in and out.

Difficulty: Easy-moderate (river crossing required).

Description: Natural Bridge trail is an awesome hike that’s slightly north of the town of Escalante.

There’s a parking lot pull off available after which you can walk west (along the river) to reach this beautiful Natural Bridge.

Additionally, if you keep walking west, you’ll run into Indian ruins and another beautiful arch/natural bridge afterwards. Overall, this hike offers a multitude of scenery and great Easter eggs to see in Grand Staircase Escalante. It’s also easily to find the trailhead via GPS.

One thing I would highly recommend you bring on this hike is waterproof socks. I personally would recommend the Randy Sun waterproof socks for maximum protection. You will be crossing a river and walking in it several times and it will be cold there.

11) Bonus: Head of the Rocks Overlook

head of the rocks overlook grand staircase escalante

Length of hike: 0! This area is “just” an overlook (and it’s an amazing one).

Difficulty: Super easy, just stop at the Head of The Rocks Overlook.

Description: I have visited this area of Grand Staircase Escalante twice and I highly recommend you do too.

It’s an amazing overlook (possibly one of the best in the entire Utah area) that is on road 12 and gives you amazing views as far as you can see into Grand Staircase Escalante.

It is located very close to the Lower Calf Creek Falls trailhead and to get to this spot, you will just drive on road 12.

It will take you up to a high area of the road where you clearly see this overlook (and others).

I strongly suggest stopping and enjoying the views because they are truly something! Again, there will be multiple overlooks in this area very close to the Head of The Rocks Overlook and you should not hesitate to stop in more than one if you feel you need to (it’s totally worth it).

And speaking of products to bring with you, here’s what I suggest:

Questions about Grand Staircase Escalante:

Is Grand Staircase-Escalante worth seeing?

Yes! Grand Staircase Escalante is the most beautiful none national park area in Utah and has tons of remote, none crowded areas worth exploring.

Can you drive through Grand Staircase-Escalante?

There are main 3 roads you can take to go through Grand Staircase Escalante. The first is road 12, then next is Hole in The Rock road and the last is East Burr Trail Road.

What is special about Grand Staircase-Escalante?

Grand Staircase Escalante is special for a lot of reasons, from the terrain to state parks, to all the hikes you can do, camping spots and amazing views of the Utah nature there.

How long does it take to drive through Grand Staircase-Escalante?

If you’re on road 12, it takes about 1-2 hours to drive through Grand Staircase Escalante.

Where is the best view of Grand Staircase Escalante?

In my opinion Head of The Rocks Overlook is where you’ll get the best view of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

What other hikes are there to explore in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument?

As I said before, there are over 100 of them and if you’re curious about what other options are available, then see this Alltrails page on Grand Staircase Escalante for more details.

There is another Google maps point I saved here which will show you the many popular hikes in Escalante. It’s actually responsible for me finding 4-5 of them on this list.

I will warn you though that most of the hikes in this region are extremely remote and you should not attempt them unless you’re a very experienced hiker. The ones I’ve listed are amazing sights to explore and great for beginners to this region to get a taste of what it has to show.

Nearby things to explore (close to Grand Staircase Escalante):

1) The scenic drives in Utah alone are worth exploring on their own.

2) The Mighty 5 National Parks are always a must if you’ve never seen them before.

3) Also here’s a post I made on the best state parks in Utah (some close to Escalante).

4) In 2022, I discovered an incredible area south of Grand Staircase Escalante which is called Vermilion Cliffs and I have to be honest, it gives Escalante a challenge for the best hikes too! I strongly recommend exploring this area before (or after).

5) Another amazing scenic drive with tons of stuff to see (similar to Grand Staircase Escalante in terms of off the road places to explore) is Nebo Loop Scenic Byway.

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8 thoughts on “Top 10 Hikes to Explore at Grand Staircase Escalante”

    • Hi Dennis pretty much all the listings here have official trailheads with parking lots nearby. Most of them are off the Hole in The Rock road and as you drive on it, you will see the signs for the hikes. They lead to parking lots which in turn have the trailheads. But I wouldn’t only rely on this method to find them. Make sure you have a map to guide you on top of this and when you are ready, set your Google GPS (which can usually spot most of these entries) to get you to the trailhead.

      Reply
  1. What an in-depth and informative post on some secret gem hiking trails in Utah.

    I really love the description and pictures of each trail, as this helps in making better choices based on preferences. I prefer 1 day trails, so I´m looking for something that´s fairly easy but spectacular (views) and amazing at the same time.

    I must admit that I am intrigued by Coyote Gulch from the description and pictures. I am interested in the Sunset Arch trail. How long of a trail is it?

    Reply
    • It’s about 1/4 a mile from the Watertank trailhead which goes to Coyote Gulch Dana. Basically if you decided to go to Coyote Gulch for a day, it’s north of that trailhead. Sunset Arch is south of it (1/4th mile). 

      Reply
  2. I am not sure if we will get to Utah on our summer adventures this year, but you have certainly given us a hiking destination. It looks to me like the distances for the hikes are one way. I think we always intend not to undertake any hike long than 5 miles round trip. I appreciate that you have indicated the difficulty of each hike.  All of these sound amazing. Your warning about getting lost is also something we will take seriously.  As we get older, our enjoyment of hiking remains the same, but we are now more cautious and in need of advice on each hike. You have given us this. We will be planning a trip to Utah as soon as we can.

    Reply
  3. Hi Vitaliy. Wow, some amazing places listed here and will certainly add Utah to the wish-list of places to visit. There are some stunning pictures in this post – did you take these? I should imagine that you will have seen some amazing wildlife exploring this area also? Great article, thanks.

    Reply
    • I did explore a bunch of Grand Staircase Escalante, but not every single spot on this list. For that, I had to research others who have seen much of more of it and what they recommend. This list encapsulates that.

      Reply

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