Descending the Grand Staircase


    By Morgan Van Wagoner

    Explore Southern Utah?s untouched wilderness absolutely free. Coyote Gulch is one section of the canyon hidden beneath a massive rock desert in Southern Utah, part of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The Escalante River carved its way through the sandstone canyon, creating steep canyon walls that are wider at the base of the canyon than at the top. The Escalante River flows through the canyon today.

    Joshua Farnsworth hiked through Coyote Gulch earlier this year. ?Standing against the canyon wall and seeing it go above your head and out?it is so unlike any other place you?ve ever been,? Farnsworth said.

    Farnsworth found himself in awe of the grand scale of the canyon walls, and the lush vegetation near the river. The hike through the canyon requires visitors to cross the river several times and shoes that are waterproof or sturdy sandals, like Tevas, Farnsworth said.

    ?Bring a camera, he said.?

    The hike into the canyon can be dangerous if attempted without proper care. Farnsworth recommends bringing a rope to assist in the descent, although one is not necessary for entry. Once inside, hikers can explore slot canyons, view massive natural bridges, and see waterfalls cascading over sandstone.

    Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is almost 2 million acres of public land north of Lake Powell, open to anyone who is interested in exploring. Some areas are remote and inaccessible without a four-wheel drive vehicle, but almost any car will get you to the trailhead to Coyote Gulch.

    From Escalante, travel 4.5 miles east on Utah Route 12, to Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Travel about 36 miles then take a left on Forty Mile Ridge Road. A water tank and an open parking area are 5 miles down Forty Mile Ridge Road. Most visitors park at the water tank, where there is also a metal box with a log in which all hiking parties enter their names for Bureau of Land Management records.

    From the water tank hike toward the canyon edge, following cairns, or piles of stones which designate the path into the canyon.

    Hikers can travel down- or upstream, and can also spend the night in the canyon on the sandy banks of the Escalante River.

    Topographic maps and trail details are available at the BLM visitor center in Escalante.

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