10 grand staircase escalante hikes

16 Best Hikes in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

I am proud to say that I have explored many hikes in Grand Staircase Escalante and the 16 specific ones I want to show you here might honestly be the best ones you’ll find not only in the area, but in all of Utah overall.

My history exploring Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument:

When I first started exploring Utah, I figured the best hikes and places to see there were The Mighty 5 National Parks 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 incredible hikes, trails and sights it held.

And so I would revisit the Grand Staircase Escalante area over and over throughout the years, and add one or more hikes each time to my list of explorations and I intend to keep that flow going because this part of Utah is highly underrated and also not even close to as crowded as the national parks there.

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 (hikes, official trails, off road drives, camping, scenic overlooks, etc…). The land in this area takes up about 5-10% of the entire state and that “small area” holds many opportunities for adventures.

There are several towns around Grand Staircase Escalante you can stay at to explore this area including the towns of Escalante itself, Kanab and even Page AZ (that town is actually very close to the south eastern side of the region even though it’s officially in Arizona).

I would recommend planning 3 different road trips to stay in each town so you can complete a large portion of the hikes you’ll find in the list below. 90% of the hikes I am listing below can be accessed from one of these 3 towns and just as well, future hikes I’ll be adding to the list can also be accessed from the same places.

Here are the 16 best 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.
  11. Head of the Rocks Overlook.
  12. Wire Pass trail (slot canyon).
  13. Willis Creek Slot Canyon.
  14. Great Chamber at Cutler Point.
  15. Reflection Canyon.
  16. Toadstool Hoodoos.

2 important things to know before doing these Grand Staircase-Escalante hikes:

  1. Grand Staircase Escalante is gigantic and has many access points and many of the hikes on this list can be accessed from different parts of it. I’ll be detailing how and where to find each one.
  2. Grand Staircase Escalante has a ton of remote areas and most of the hikes on this list are not just deep in this national monument but may also require you drive on dirt, gravel or very rocky roads in some cases.

If you are not comfortable doing that or don’t have a 4×4 or all wheel drive vehicle, don’t do it. Stick to the hikes on this list that are easy to access (I’ll also detail which ones are the easiest for regular cars to get to).

Golden Cathedral hike:

golden cathedral hike in grand staircase escalante

  • Length of hike: A little over 6 miles (it’s an in and out trail)
  • Starting point: Golden Cathedral Trailhead
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to the hike? Not really
  • Hike difficulty: Moderate

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.

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.
  • Starting point: Water tanks trailhead
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to the hike? Yes!
  • Hike difficulty: Moderate

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.
  • This is all within a 10 mile hike within Coyote Gulch.
  • Also there is an area in Arizona called Canyon de Chelly which has similar sights as you see in Coyote Gulch (if you enjoy it here and want to see similar places, there’s at least 1 more option).

Red Breaks and Cosmic Ashtray hike:

Red breaks and Cosmic Ashtray hike in grand staircase escalante

  • Length of hike: 8-9 miles in and out
  • Starting location: Alltrail map
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to the trail? Yes!
  • Hike difficulty: Hard

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

Zebra Slot Canyon:

zebra slot canyon hike in grand staircase escalante

  • Length of hike: 5+ miles.
  • Starting point: Zebra trailhead
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to the trail? Yes.
  • Hike difficulty: Moderate 

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). I also recently learned there is another slot canyon near this one called Tunnel Slot Canyon (less than 1 mile away) off the same trailhead. See more of the best Utah slot canyon hikes here.

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
  • Starting point: Upper Dry Fork trailhead
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to the trail? Yes
  • Hike difficulty: Hard

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).

Lower Calf Creek falls:

lower calf creek falls grand staircase escalante 01

  • Length of hike: 5-6 miles in and out
  • Starting point: Lower Calf Creek Falls trailhead
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to? No!
  • Hike difficulty: Moderate

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.

Sunset Arch:

sunset arch grand staircase escalante 02

  • Length of hike: 1/2 mile
  • Starting point: Water Tanks trailhead
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to the hike? Yes!
  • Hike difficulty: Easy

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!

Metate Arch (Devils Garden):

metate arch grand staircase escalante 03

  • Length of hike: 1/10th of a mile (very close to the parking lot).
  • Starting point: Devils Garden parking
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to the hike? Not really
  • Hike difficulty: Easy

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).

Long Canyon and Singing Canyon:

singing canyon grand staircase escalante 04

  • Length of hike: 1/8 mile from the parking lot.
  • Starting point: Singing Canyon trailhead
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to the hike? No
  • Hike difficulty: Easy

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.

Escalante Natural Bridge trail:

escalante natural bridge trail hike 01

  • Length of hike: 4-5 miles in and out.
  • Starting point: Escalante River trailhead
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to the trail? No!
  • Hike difficulty: Moderate 

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.

Head of the Rocks Overlook (and hikes near it):

head of the rocks overlook grand staircase escalante

  • Length of hike: 0! This area is “just” an overlook (and it’s an amazing one).
  • Starting point: Head of The Rocks Overlook
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to the hike? No!
  • Hike difficulty: Super easy

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).

Note: The above 11 Grand Staircase Escalante trails and sights are not far from the actual town of Escalante so if you wish to see them, that’s where I’d stay. There is also the town of Bryce further south you can also stay by (it’s right by Bryce Canyon National Park).

Wire Pass trail:

wire pass trail grand staircase escalante

  • Length of hike: 3 miles in and out.
  • Starting point: Wire Pass trailhead
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to the hike? Somewhat. 
  • Hike difficulty: Easy

I had originally thought that this hike was inside the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument area but it’s literally next door to it. Wire Pass Trail is located in south Utah and specifically on the southern end of the Grand Staircase Escalante.

It is a really cool, short and scenic trail that takes you through a wash, and into a slot canyon that connects later on with Buckskin Gulch, which is 20 miles long (or so). However, Wire Pass is a great trail to explore since it’s short and you don’t have to hike that deep into it to get great views and experiences, which is what I did with the group I was with.

We really loved this trail and I highly recommend it. Do note that in order to get there, you need to get a permit and print it out to put on your dashboard. The closest town to this hike is Page AZ.

Willis Creek Slot Canyon:

willis creek slot canyon grand staircase escalante hike 09

  • Length of hike: Up to 6 miles in and out.
  • Starting point: Willis Creek Trailhead
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to the trail? Yes.
  • Hike difficulty: Easy

Willis Creek Slot Canyon has officially become one of my favorite hiking trails in Grand Staircase Escalante and ironically it’s one of the easiest (and most scenic) hiking trails you’ll find there.

If you have any fear or skepticism about exploring slot canyons, you can cross Willis Creek Slot Canyon off that list, because it’s a very easy hike that frankly anyone can do (very family friendly in my opinion). Aside from the easy difficulty, it’s also extremely scenic and I added one photo to showcase how beautiful it is there.

The hike itself is not always going to be a slot canyon walk and in fact, you’ll cross a few slot canyons while you are on this 3 mile trail (one way) before turning back, making it a near 6 miles in total. The only “downsides” to this hike is the road to get there and that you have to access it from a completely different part of Grand Staircase Escalante (It’s about 20 minutes south of the town of Escalante).

Note: This hike is close to the town of Bryce.

Great Chamber in Cutler Point:

great chamber grand staircase escalante new 01

  • Length of hike: 15+ miles if you do it the normal way (other options exist and I’ll add directions in a separate post on that).
  • Starting point: Alltrails map
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to the trail? Yes!
  • Hike difficulty: Hard

After doing the Great Chamber hike personally, I realized that it too is a part of the Grand Staircase Escalante area but finding it involves entering this region from the Kanab area (like some of the other hikes on this list).

The Great Chamber is an amazingly scenic hike that you can drive to on a regular SUV vehicle, or rent a dune buggy to reach, but most people elect to hike the 15+ miles to this area which would be the most difficult option available. However, this last option is also one of the best ways to explore the Grand Staircase Escalante area because it’s not just the Great Chamber that is worth seeing, but going through the long trail to reach it.

As of right now, I consider the Great Chamber one of the best hikes in Utah! Then again, most of the hikes I’ve done in Grand Staircase Escalante are on the same level too. The best place to stay at to explore this hike is in Kanab Utah.

Reflection Canyon:

reflection canyon grand staircase escalante hike 02

  • Length of hike: 15+ miles in and out.
  • Starting point: Reflection Canyon trailhead
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to the trail? Yes!
  • Hike difficulty: Hard

Reflection Canyon is on the eastern most end of Grand Staircase Escalante and it also extends into the Lake Powell area. I had originally thought that the only way to explore this place was to rent a boat from Halls Crossing area (where you can explore Lake Powell from) and go there, but to my surprise there is an official trailhead for Reflection Canyon in Grand Staircase Escalante and furthermore, it is also off the same Hole in the Rock road which takes people to Coyote Gulch, only you have to drive further to get this specific trailhead. To closest town to this trail is in Escalante.

Toadstool Hoodoos:

toadstool hoodoos grand staircase escalante hike 03

  • Length of hike: 3 miles (also in and out).
  • Starting point: Toadstool Hoodoos trailhead
  • All wheel drive or 4×4 required to get to? No!
  • Difficulty: Easy

The Toadstool Hoodoos trail is another awesome hike I did that I hadn’t realized was inside Grand Staircase Escalante until later. But out of all the hikes on this list, I would say this is one of the easiest you will ever see. The scenic views of the Toadstool Hoodoos and the environment here is what makes this hike amazing and it’s an easy one to explore without having to drive deep into the Escalante dirt roads.

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.


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    1. Hi Robert thanks for sharing this hike. I looked up some reviews and it’s mixed. Some people say it requires canyoneering and/or serious scrambling. I personally don’t mind that but I’ll try to check it out myself next time I’m visiting Grand Staircase Escalante and make a decision to add it to this list or not.

    1. 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.

    2. Hole-in-the-rock road is well graded and fine for cars in good weather. I’ve taken both a subcompact and a minivan to get to these trailheads – neither was AWD. No problems. Keep in mind many of these are many miles down Hole-in-the-Rock road, so it’s wise to have a spare tire not just a tire repair kit. Also, keep an eye on the weather. Rain and snow changes everything and you’ll probably want high clearance AWD in March-April or if there has been significant recent precipitation.

      That said, easiest access trailheads here are lower calf Creek and the overlook, where access is completely paved.

      1. Hi Rich great suggestions on safety. I do have to say having driven through most of Hole in The Rock road, yes about the first 10 or so miles are good for sedans and none AWD vehicles, but after that especially around the Hurricane Wash trailhead to Coyote Gulch, it gets very rocky and later even worse before the water tank trailhead to Coyote Gulch too (there is a 100 foot sand dune type area where you simply cannot use anything other than a powerful AWD vehicle to get through that).

        Long story short, with Grand Staircase Escalante, the deeper you drive into it to see the sights, the tougher the road gets so it’s just best to go in there with an AWD to begin with (and a spare tire as you suggested).

  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?

    1. 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). 

  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.

  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.

    1. 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.

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