While many visitors to Cougar Ridge are eager to visit Capitol Reef National Park, this is far from the only natural attraction in the area. There’s no shortage of state and national parks, as well as other outdoor destinations within a day’s drive or less from the Lodge or your private Villa. One must-see destination for outdoor lovers is Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument,
This often-overlooked destination is brimming with hiking trails, stunning views, scenic drives, and more. If you’re looking to cross another incredible destination off your bucket list on your next visit to Cougar Ridge, keep reading for the ultimate guide to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The History of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Unlike Utah’s oldest national park, Zion, which was founded in 1909, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is relatively new. It was signed into protection by President Clinton in 1996, under The 1906 Antiquities Act. At the time of the signing, the monument covered more than 1.7 million acres.
In 2017, President Trump shrunk the boundaries of the park by 47 percent. However, just a few years later, President Biden restored the monument to its original size, as it remains today.
What to See and Do During Your Visit
Thanks to its large size, Grand Staircase-Escalante is home to a variety of landscapes. Sandstone cliffs that tower far above scenic roads. Narrow slot canyons are just waiting for hikers looking to escape the region’s busier parks. There are also several prehistoric sites to explore and an abandoned old Western movie set you can visit.
The national monument is divided into three main sections; Escalante Canyons, Grand Staircase, and the Kaiparowits Plateau.
The most popular section of the national monument is called the Escalante Canyons area. Here, you’ll find dozens of hiking trails that will take you to a variety of natural landmarks, like waterfalls, arches, and narrow canyons. While some of the trails will take you to the backcountry, and require the right gear and some hiking experience, there are also plenty of trails that are ideal for beginners and families. This is a great spot to head for if you’re only visiting for a few hours or a day and want to see some of the amazing features that the park is known for.
The next most popular section of the park is called Grand Staircase. This area is more remote than Escalante Canyons, and sees far fewer visitors. This is where you’ll want to go if you’re looking to enjoy a rugged outdoor experience.
The Grand Staircase area is home to one of the most extensive networks of slot canyons in the state of Utah. Most of the trails in this area are off the beaten path, and will require an off-road vehicle or backpacking gear in order to reach. Keep in mind that during the spring, and after heavy rainfall, roadways in this and other sections of the park may become impassable, even with a 4WD vehicle. Check the weather before heading into the park to make sure that a sudden rainstorm won’t leave you stranded.
The most remote section of park is called Kaiparowits Plateau. This plateau covers more than 1,600 square miles. It features stunning sedimentary rock formations that allow visitors to take a look back at a history that spans more than 30 million years. While you’ll want to have a lot of experience hiking in rugged conditions to take on this section of the park, it is home to some beautiful scenic drives that are more accessible to visitors.
Common Questions About Grand Staircase Escalante
Planning your first visit to this unique and beautiful national monument? Check out these common questions most first-time visitors have.
Does it cost to enter Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument?
No, there is no entrance fee for this national monument.
Do you need a permit for backpacking or overnight backcountry camping?
Yes. If you plan to go backpacking or want to camp overnight in the backcountry, you’ll need to obtain a permit. These are provided free of charge.
Are there paved roads in the park?
There are two paved roads that pass through the national monument. The first is Highway 12. It runs from the northern boundary of the park, going east to west. The other paved road is U.S. 89. This road runs along the southern edge of the national monument. Both roads offering incredible scenic views.
How far is Grand Staircase-Escalante from Cougar Ridge?
The drive from Grand Staircase-Escalante to Cougar Ridge is just under an hour. And getting to the park is an activity of its own, with stunning scenic views.
Planning a Visit to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
You’ll no doubt want to plan some time to see Capitol Reef National Park during your next visit to Cougar Ridge. But if you want to experience even more of Utah’s stunning landscapes, and enjoy a destination with fewer crowds, make Grand Staircase-Escalante a part of your trip itinerary.
Book your summer 2022 stay at Cougar Ridge today, and start planning your own visit to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.