Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah $1,900 • October 15-20, 2017
The awesome and beautiful “Slickrock Canyon Country” of southern Utah is wilderness hiking at its best. The Escalante River, a tributary of the Colorado, has cut a magnificent canyon system through the colorful sedimentary rocks of the Colorado Plateau. Sheer, red canyon walls and a variety of spectacular geologic features including arches, alcoves, and rincons characterize this wilderness. We’ll hike along and through the Escalante River and side canyons—ribbons of cool water, flanked by a lush growth of cottonwood, oak, box-elder, willow, and grass. Wildflowers abound in spring, and fall colors are spectacular in October. There’ll be plenty of time for backpacking and exploration of side canyons, and we’ll also spend time including at least one night camped on the unique slickrock desert above, where views of the entire landscape are utterly spectacular. We’ll also see Ancestral Puebloan rock art and ruins. Warm sunny days and cool nights are the rule. We rate this Utah backpacking trip moderate and its base is Cedar City, Utah.
Most of our routes begin and end on the west side of the Escalante River, at trailheads off the historic “Hole In the Rock Road”. All trailheads are a scenic 3-4 hour drive from Cedar City and our routes are both within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument.
TREK BASE: Cedar City, Utah. Stratford Court Hotel, 18 South Main, 84720; (877) 688-8884 or local (435) 586-2433. The El Rey Inn and Suites is next door and owned by the same people in case the Stratford court is full.
MEETING TIME: Pre-trip orientation including food and gear handout plus safety talk at 6 PM the evening prior to the first day of the trip. So if the backpacking trip is from the 3rd to the 9th, the pre-trip meeting is 6 PM on the 2nd.
TRANSPORTATION: Air service to Cedar City; call motel in advance for ground transport from airport to motel. Alternative: fly to Salt Lake City or Las Vegas and rent a car or ride a bus.
TREK RATING: Daily backpacking mileage on this moderate trip varies from 3-8. Though uphills are limited, there are lots of stream crossings, some hiking using the river as our “trail”, some bushwhacking, and lots of sand. There are no maintained trails. Total backpack mileage is 25-30.
ELEVATIONS: 4500-5500 feet. Maximum one-day elevation gain with backpack is about 800 feet.
WEATHER: Warm sunny days and cool nights are typical; however, cold rain or even wet snow are possible, so prepare for snowstorms to 80 degree heat. Spring weather can change radically. Click here for the National Weather Service forecast.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Some of the world’s most spectacular and colorful desert canyon scenery; beautiful spring wildflowers, especially during moist years. Golden colors in the fall. True desert, but plenty of water. There are lots of nesting and migratory birds. This is an amazing and otherworldly landscape like no other!
SPECIAL TIPS: If you bring a camera, prepare to take lots of photos! We do recommend that you treat your water. Streams are silty, so bring iodine tablets in case your filter clogs. Because on portions of our route we will literally use the streambed/riverbed as our “trail”, your feet will be wet at times. So leave your heavy all-leather hiking boots at home! Lightweight fabric boots dry quickly and provide good support on the soft sand and rock.
STATUS: This trip is partly within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (managed by the National Park Service) and partly within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (managed by the Bureau of Land Management). The area has not been designated Wilderness by Congress, so it is not yet fully protected from development.
ITINERARY: The drive from Cedar City to the trailhead takes about 3 or so hours. Our first and last camps are often on the “slickrock” mesa above the canyons, with big wonderful views. There are usually two layovers. Our route will allow plenty of leisure time to view and explore petroglyphs, ruins, hanging gardens, slot canyons… This place is utterly magic… and wild!
OTHER UTAH BACKPACKING TRIPS: Click on the following link to read more about our other Utah backpacking trips.
Please Note: Because we vary the route as conditions dictate, mileages and elevations are approximate. Also, the portions of this trip that are within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area are run by our sister organization, Big Wild Advocates, a 501-c-3 non-profit conservation organization run by Howie and Marilyn. A representative portion of the proceeds will therefore go to the conservation budget of Big Wild Advocates.