The Grand Staircase
In the northwest arc of the Grand Circle, a wondrous geologic ladder steps from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to raised tablelands of southwestern Utah. This Grand Staircase – the Chocolate, Vermilion, White, Gray, and Pink Cliffs – spans five different life zones from Sonoran desert to pine and spruce forests. It is a masterpiece of geological and biological diversity, encompassing Zion, Bryce, and Capitol Reef National Parks plus many other attractions.
Within the Grand Staircase, you travel between totally unique, contrasting landscapes. Zion’s main canyon is a green oasis fed by waterfalls cascading down 2,000-foot sandstone cliffs. Bryce “Canyon” is actually one face of a plateau that is slowly eroding away, leaving behind amphitheaters with thousands of delicate spires and minarets. Vast oceans of red-gold rock undulate through both Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef. And enormous tracts of lush national forest weave among the Parks offering welcome respite from the heat of lower elevations.
This is one of the Grand Circle’s finest year round playgrounds. The National Parks offer hiking trails up icy streams and into slot canyons, through arid amphitheaters of crumbling stone and beneath fabulous arches, over geologic folds in rock and across bristle cone studded forests. National forests and BLM lands offer other ways to explore these lands as well; mountain biking, backpacking, and ATV activities abound in summer; Nordic skiing and snowmobiling in winter. Thin ‘Scenic Byways’ snake between these points, twisting up hogbacks, across alpine meadows, and plunging down into small communities along the way.
- Zion National Park
- Cedar Breaks National Monument
- Brian Head Resort
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Red Canyon
- Kodachrome Basin State Park
- Dixie National Forest
- Calf Creek Recreation Area
- Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument
- Fishlake National Forest
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Anasazi State Park Museum
- Goblin Valley Sate Park
- Great Basin National Park
- Utah Shakespearean Festival
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Utah Parks, Forests & Communities
Arches National Park
More than two thousand natural sandstone arches, including the world-famous Delicate Arch, frame this area’s amazing beauty. In some areas, faulting has exposed millions of years of geologic history. An 18-mile paved loop road introduces visitors to a brilliantly colored landscape littered with fins, pinnacles, faults and fossils; hiking trails wind under arches and around windows in stone.
5 miles north of Moab on Hwy 191.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is a wonderland of colorful stone formations, called "hoodoos," formed from pinnacles, fins, arches and other natural structures
Canyonlands National Park
Countless canyons, mesas and buttes comprise the three separate districts of this Park – Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze (very difficult access).Each is special. Near Moab, short hiking trails loop through Island in the Sky as raft trips float thousands of feet below to the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers. Grand View Point, about 30 miles from Moab, offers a 360 degree panoramic view of the deep canyons below. Off road vehicles and bikes are permitted on the 100-mile White Rim Trail. The Needles District north of Monticello offers a very different beauty with remote loop hikes to spectacular red rock gardens.
Dead Horse Point State Park
On the same mesa as Canyonlands’ Island in the Sky, 2,000 feet directly above the Colorado River, Dead Horse Point provides a breathtaking panorama of Canyonlands’ sculptured pinnacles and buttes.
Manti-La Sal National Forest
Home to the La Sal (near Moab) and Abajo (near Monticello) Mountains, this forest offers outstanding recreation in cooler temperatures. Wonderful scenic drives snake through these two different ranges, offering views of the surrounding desert floor.
Newspaper Rock National Recreation Site
One fabulous wall of Ancestral Puebloan and Ute petroglyphs (art chiseled and pecked into stone) is located on the road into Needles District of Canyonlands.
Moab is a vibrant town known for its world class slick rock mountain biking. But there’s more – rafting, boat tours, aerial trams, flight seeing, golf, and glorious, solitary hikes, and one of the best breweries in Utah. Lots of lodging and restaurants, some campgrounds.
For the southern entrance to Canyonlands’ Needles District, Monticello is close and is nestled at the foot of the lovely Abajo Mountains. It has a multi-agency visitor center, motels and restaurants.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
Perhaps the most photographed landscape in America, this valley of monoliths and buttes has been a favorite Hollywood backdrop for 80 years. Still a traditional Navajo homeland, the valley is accessible by private vehicle and guided tours on limited roads. Horseback tours are also available. No backcountry hiking or biking is allowed. Goulding’s, the area’s first trading post, has a fine small museum on early trading days.
Goosenecks State Park
A stunning overlook views an “ancestral entrenched meander,” deep, looping curves carved by the San Juan River.
18 miles south of Bluff, UT off Hwys 191 & 261.
Grand Gulch Primitive Area
Hundreds of Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings and rock art panels dot the canyons off Cedar Mesa for avid day hikers and backpackers to enjoy. Hiking & camping permits required; no off road vehicles allowed.
Off Hwys 95 and 261, 30 miles south of Blanding, UT.
Natural Bridges National Monument
Unlike arches, bridges are formed when streams cut through canyon walls. Three lovely bridges in one canyon, all accessible by short, steep hiking trails, are protected here.
36 miles west of Blanding, UT, off Hwy 95.
Valley of the Gods
A landscape that rivals Monument Valley, but is more accessible for driving, hiking, camping, and biking (controlled by BLM).
- 12 miles south of Bluff, UT.
Historic Goulding’s Lodge
Known as a western fort and town setting of many John Wayne movies, Goulding’s is one mile from the rim of Monument Valley. It offers accommodations, a restaurant, campground, a museum, grocery store, fast food, and flight-seeing.
Twenty five miles south of the valley is Kayenta, AZ, on the Navajo Reservation, with several hotels and small restaurants.
North of the valley, in Utah, are Mexican Hat, Bluff, and Blanding. Blanding is the largest, with several motels and restaurants. A recently opened visitor center offers area information. Bluff, though small, is charming with historic Mormon homes, lots of outfitters and rafters, and a few outstanding trading posts to complement its three motels and several B&Bs. Mexican Hat has three small motels and restaurants and is located on the San Juan River.
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