Grand Staircase Tours

Cottonwood Canyon Tour - Grand Staircase EscalanteWe offer a very family friendly trip through the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. This is a full day tour including some great highlights such as Grosvenor Arch, Cottonwood Narrows and Hackberry Canyon. There is minimal hiking on this tour as most of the scenery inside the Grand Staircase-Escalante will be seen from and near the vehicle. The main hike on this tour will be through the Cottonwood Canyon itself.

The Cottonwood Wash Narrows is created where the Cottonwood Wash cuts through the very jagged, up thrust formation called the Cockscomb. This is located in the Paria River basin below the Bryce Canyon NP cliffs. The Cockscomb and surrounding areas have a variety of different rock formations and colors that are well exposed by the wash narrows. For the most part the wash thru the narrows is flat and doesn’t require any significant technical skills to complete except a rockslide bypass and exiting (or entering) the wash at the upper (Northern) end.

Cottonwood Canyon Tour - Grand Staircase EscalanteWe will walk a loop as it is the most scenery we can have in this area. Hiking thru the wash and then returning to the original parking area by walking along the road offers great views (even along the road). This loop is 3.2 miles long and takes about 2 hours.
It is best to start hiking the Cottonwood narrows entering the narrows from the lower (Southern) parking area. This creates a hike with increasing scenic views up to the slot like canyon in the upper narrows. Once back into the wash it’s a straight forward stroll with the canyon walls getting closer and closer to you. There is still a slightly steep climb out of the wash at this point but, again nothing too technical or exposed.

The walk along the road allows great views of the Cockscomb (mostly on the west side of the road). Although these narrows are not as tight or technical as some formal slot canyons in the west, there is still the chance for flash flooding if heavy rains occurred in the area. Spring and fall are the best times and even in the dead of winter if road access allows.
This is a full day tour lasting about 6-7- hours total.
Day Tour $199 per person
Photo Tour $269

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The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is a huge chunk of public land engulfing much of the Southwestern Utah desert. The national monument is a 1.9 million acre (1,870,800 federal/15,000 privately owned) oasis of mostly primitive land strewn with streams, monoliths, slot canyons and scientific treasures galore. This parcel of land dominates the rural southern section of the state of Utah, protecting as much as two-hundred-million years of history within its boundaries. This vast oasis provides a record of geological, biological, paleogical and archeological data that will be used to fill many text books in our future. The remote and pristine Grand Staircase-Escalante has preserved a wealth of original populations of flora, fauna, new species of dinosaurs and Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) artifacts.

The Antiquities Act: The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a large area of primitive land that was set aside by presidential proclamation so that historical data can be studied and preserved. Congress gave Presidents the authority to designate land a monument through the Antiquities Act of 1906. In 1996 President Clinton used this law to protect the vast wilderness of southern Utah.

Colors and Age of the Grand Staircase:
The Grand Staircase is made up of five tilted, southward, facing escarpments called stairsteps. The stairsteps rise 5500' and range from the North Rim Grand Canyon through Zion canyon to the uppermost riser, the pink cliffs of Bryce Canyon. Although there are other exposed areas of claron formation, geologists usually think of Bryce Canyon, Red Canyon and Cedar Breaks when speaking of pink cliffs. The steps of the Grand Staircase are described by their colors: chocolate, vermillion, white, gray and pink. The bottom step is made of limestone and is known as the North Rim Grand Canyon. Interestingly however, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument does not include Zion, Bryce, Red Canyon, Cedar Breaks or the Grand Canyon although they are all part of its geological make-up.

Oldest: Chocolate Layer - Grand Canyon
Chocolate Step - The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is the oldest and the bottom layer of the Grand Staircase. Made up of Kaibab limestone, it formed between 200 to 225 million years ago. The Chocolate layer is found between Kanab and Fredonia and the bottom layer of Kaibab limestone forms the rim of the Grand Canyon and the surface rock underlies most of the Kaibab Plateau.
Vermillion Layer - Kanab
Vermillion Cliffs - These reddish or vermillion colored cliffs are about 165 to 200 million years old and are found along highway 89 near Kanab. They are made up of deposited silt and desert dunes.
White Layer - Zion Park and Mt. Carmel Jct.
White Cliffs - These are the magnificent white towering Navajo sandstone cliffs seen in Zion National Park. The White layer is the eroded cliffs in the Navajo sandstone of Zion Canyon and the White Cliffs found in Mount Carmel junction. This white capped thin layer was deposited about 150 million years ago on top of the temple cap formation during the time when streams moved over the Navajo Desert and was later covered by great dunes of sand.
Skutumpah Terrace - The Skutumpah Terrace is located between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon inside the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It's made up of carmel formation limestones.
Gray Layer - Between Zion Park & Bryce
Grey Cliffs - This step is made up of soft Cretaceous shale and sandstone that was deposited around 130 million years ago. It is as old as the dinosaur and is seen in Mount Carmel Junction and north of Kanab. These are the middle areas of the Grand Staircase, along highway 89 between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon.
Youngest: Pink Layer - Bryce Canyon
Pink Cliffs - This 50 to 60 million year old rock is the exposed claron formation found in Bryce Canyon, Red Canyon and Cedar Breaks.
Paunsaugunt Plateau - Bryce Canyon is the jagged edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau bordered by hwy 12 to the north and hwy 89 to the west. Paunsaugunt means "home of the beavers" and the name was given by John Wesley Powell.