Grand Staircase-Escalante’s Great Unknown
The St Louis Post Dispatch published this interesting travel feature on Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument – the scenic, rugged, remote area sandwiched between southern Utah’s national parks and play areas.
The article provides great descriptions of some of the monument’s attractions: Calf Creek Falls, the Burr Trail, and the slot canyons off Hole in the Rock Road.
The article also mentions a problem some have encountered using online travel planning services. The driving directions these services generate sometimes route travelers down the Cottonwood Canyon Road, and sometimes even the Smoky Mountain Road, into the remote, rugged heart of the monument.
The article includes this quote about truck drivers: "Mapquest will route them right through the heart of the monument, and not one has made it - every single one has had to be towed out," said Dave Hunsaker, who oversees the monument for the Bureau of Land Management.
People in rental cars also get into trouble on those roads. They are great roads for high clearance vehicles. During stormy weather you may need four-wheel-drive to get through.
BLM has contacted Mapquest and others, encouraging them to modify their recommended routes through this country. Today I did a quick test, requesting driving directions from Boulder, UT, to Page AZ. Mapquest kept me on the paved highways but MSN’s Maps and Directions routed me down the Cottonwood Road.
The article calls Grand Staircase-Escalante a “grand great unknown.” That’s a pretty good description. It’s a marvelous destination for people who like to explore off the beaten path.
But the 18-wheelers need to beware.