Recently, I’ve posted several posts from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Given that many of you who follow the blog are not from Utah, you are not likely to be very familiar with this area. The monument is in the southern part of the state and is unusual for its size; it covers 1.8 million acres, which makes it just larger than the entire state of Delware. Its immensity and isolation makes it appear a bit impenetrable for the casual tourist. Also, given its proximity to the state’s National Park System, it is too often overlooked, although there are areas within the monument worthy of being in a National Park. There aren’t many paved roads in it, just a couple of dirt roads that traverse particularly scenic areas. The Cottonwood Canyon Road is one of them.
Cottonwoods along the eponymous Cottonwood Canyon Road.
It follows the Grand Staircase, or layers of sedimentary rock that descend from the newer Claron and Kaiparowits formations near Bryce Canyon, down to the oldest, the Tapeats formation, in the Grand Canyon. No matter where you go in the Grand Staircase, you are overwhelmed by this sense of change, time, and scale, and you are dwarfed by it. The Cottonwood Canyon Road is an excellent route through the Monument, especially if you start it at its northern end.
The first attraction along the route is the view of Bryce Canyon and the Kodachrome Basin.
Cute bespectacled kids and a view of Kodachrome State Park in the background and Bryce Canyon in the far distance.
Followed by Grosvenor Arch.
Followed by the Cottonwood Narrows.
Followed by many other strange and beautiful things along the way.
As you can see from my other posts, it is also a very good region for botanizing given the changes in the soil composition.
Lygodesmia juncea on the roadside.
If you ever make it down to Bryce, consider taking a day trip even further south. Just don’t try to travel the road while wet or be prepared to be stuck. But, for the record, we drove this in our minivan without trouble.
If you would like a closer look at these images, you can look at them in detail on my Flickr account. The link is in the sidebar.