After Zion we expected to go north to Bryce but after looking at the weather forecast and temperatures in Bryce we opted for a warmer route. This took us to Kanab, Utah and the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. We have never been here before but the real draw was to see “The Wave” which is nearby in Coyote Buttes, Utah. This is a stock photo of what we wanted to go see.
We opted to make Kanab our home base for a few days since this is where you register for the walk-in permits. There is a whole process now for obtaining one of the 20 permits available to go see this area of the Coyote Buttes. In years past, they didn’t need to restrict the number of people going here but it is so popular now that they are concerned that all of the foot traffic will permanently damage the landscape. So now, only 20 people per day are allowed entry. Ten of these permits are available through an on-line lottery system that opens four months prior to your expected date of travel. For walk-ins, you can enter the daily lottery that takes place at 8:00 am every day at the Visitor Center in Kanab. You must be present to win so we camped at a nearby RV spot while we tried our luck at winning the Wave Lottery.
The good news is that we had lots of time to explore the Grand Staircase-Escalante and we were amazed at the beauty in the area.
When we first came into Kanab there were massive storm clouds threatening rain all day. We were looking for a place to camp so we went to check out the campsites at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. The park lived up to its name with the most unnaturally pink sand dunes that were even more brilliant against the dark skies.
The setting was gorgeous but after we found out that we would have to be at the Kanab Visitor Center by 8 am, we decided to find a place a little closer to town. We settled on the Hitch-n-Post campground which was run by a very friendly staff with clean facilities and hot showers. There was a convention of sorts for Greyhound owners in the town of Kanab during our stay. There were RV’s in our campgrounds that had 5-7 Greyhounds in them! I can’t imagine how they were able to fit so many dogs in such a tight space.
After our first rejection at the Wave Lottery we went to find a hike called “The Toadstools”. It’s off of highway 89 about 45 miles east of Kanab. You will likely see other cars parked on the left side of the road. The area isn’t marked very well but it’s about 1.5 miles east of the Paria Contact Station. We actually missed the trailhead on our first pass but easily found it on our second attempt.
The Toadstools are hoodoo formations that are the result of boulders of denser rock falling onto a layer of softer sandstone rock. The boulder protects the sandstone immediately under it from erosion resulting in these unique formations that look like toadstools.
We spent another day hiking out to the Wahweap Hoodoos. These hoodoos were much harder to find and they required a 10 mile round trip hike to access them. The only directions that we had were to walk down a particular wash that kept branching into other washes. As long as we hugged the cliffs on the western side of the wash we would eventually find them. We were lucky that we had very good directions. We ran into a photographer who was staying at our RV camp who hiked a couple hours too far, completely missing them.
After we gave up on the idea that we might get to see The Wave, we started to drive deeper into the Grand Staircase-Escalante. We never expected it to be so beautiful! The vistas were absolutely amazing. I never thought that the desert could be so grand.
The Grand Staircase-Escalante covers 1.9 million acres which encompasses a diverse geography. Before we left we wanted to hike through a slot canyon while we were there since we didn’t venture into the slot canyons of Zion. The Willis Creek trail fit the bill for us although on a much smaller scale than what Zion has to offer.