Getting There and Getting Around southern Utah

A tunnel through a red rock fin along Scenic Byway 12 in Red Canyon, Utah. Credit: National Scenic Byways Program/photo by Jessica Dungan A tunnel through a red rock fin along Scenic Byway 12 in Red Canyon, Utah. Credit: National Scenic Byways Program/photo by Jessica Dungan

To get to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, fly into either Salt Lake City, Utah, or Las Vegas, Nev. By vehicle, the monument can be accessed from three directions: south from Torrey, Utah, or east from Bryce Canyon, both via Scenic Byway 12, or north from Arizona via the unpaved Cottonwood Canyon Road. Southern Utah is home to half a dozen other national parks and monuments, so you’ll probably want to combine your trip with visits to some of these. Allow at least three to four days to take in all of the features mentioned in this article.

Southern Utah canyon country is a high desert environment, which often means extreme daily temperature swings — an 80-degree day can be followed by a 30-degree night. Spring and fall are typically the most pleasant times to visit, although if you’re planning to camp, nights can be chilly. Summer nights are warmer, but the days can be hot, with temperatures climbing above 100 degrees. Winters are typically cold, and ice can make slickrock trails dangerous.

Lodging options range from motel rooms and bed-and-breakfast inns to rustic cabins and campsites. Bryce Canyon City and nearby Tropic offer more options, but staying in Cannonville, Escalante or Boulder will get you closer to the sites in the monument. Campsites are available at Kodachrome Basin State Park and Escalante State Park (both have hot showers). The campground at Calf Creek Recreation Area is small (14 sites) and on a first-come basis, but it has a very scenic setting next to the creek. Arrive early to get a site there, especially during busy summer months and holidays. Check out lodging and dining options at www.brycecanyoncountry.com.

Laurie J. Schmidt

Laurie J. Schmidt is a freelance science writer in Arizona. She was living in Hawaii during the 2011 tsunami and received a PTWC tsunami alert on her cell phone just minutes after the earthquake struck Japan.

Sunday, January 1, 2012 - 06:00