Escalante was one of our favorite little hiking towns on our first Big Trip. This time we were farther into the off-season, so many stores and restaurants were closed, but we still had our two favorite hangouts, and found a new one! And, of course, the hiking in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was phenomenal.
A gold star goes to Cottam Auto Service who pulled a screw out of one of the Airstream’s tires and had us patched up and on the road in 20 minutes for $25. Amazing customer service!
The park we stayed at last trip is closed and reportedly about to change ownership, but without even knowing that we booked a site at Escalante Cabins and RV Park, a new park a bit closer to town. It’s clean and quiet with a pretty backdrop, and it has a great dog-walking path at the end of the road. We’ll stay there again.
On the way to Escalante from Kanab we stopped to hike the five-mile Peekaboo Trail at the magical Bryce Canyon. But we did most of our hiking in the National Monument, which I’ve detailed on the page dedicated to GSENM. The BLM office is across the street from the Escalante Cabins campground, so make it a first stop and get some hiking advice from the rangers. A word of warning when hike planning: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area has some sections where dogs aren’t allowed. If you’re targeting a specific hike in Glen Canyon, confirm it’s dog-friendly before you go (AllTrails has a “dog-friendly” filter and a “no dogs” tag).
The hikes we did in GSENM were (more detail on the GSENM page):
Cosmic Ashtray: a gorgeous 8.5 miles over slickrock with no marked trail to a crazy geologic wonder. There’s no shade or wind cover, so dress appropriately.
Peekaboo/Spooky/Dry Narrows slot canyons: a wild 5-ish mile ride through twisty, tight slot canyons, with some scrambling and rope-assisted descents. While dogs are allowed here, this adventure is not really suitable for dogs.
Golden Cathedral, as described online, is an easy and fun 9 miles to a grotto beneath a cool rock formation. Our experience was less happy: trailfinding was frustrating, the river crossings were freezing and harrowing, and the cathedral itself was just ok. This is clearly a summer hike!
Leaving Escalante, on the way to Dead Horse Point State Park (here’s our post from visiting there during Big Trip #1) we stopped in Capitol Reef National Park for a quick hike with some pretty vistas on the 3.5 mile Chimney Rock trail. See the Airstream at the bottom of the photo?
Eating and drinking
On Day One in town, we bought some gear at the Outfitters, and had beers (and chips and salsa, because you have to order food too in Utah) while planning our hikes. On Day Two, we had an uninspired breakfast and wifi time there, and on Day Three we were back for delicious post-hiking soup. And beer.
Hell’s Backbone Grill is a real gem. We went twice last time in Escalante, and twice again this time. They serve incredible food built from seasonal ingredients sourced locally, including from their own farm and gardens. The drive from Escalante over Hell’s Backbone is an experience, too–try to catch sunset on your way down the hill from Escalante.
It’s not really a restaurant, but the High Adventure gas station on the main drag in Escalante sells treats from a local baker and the butterfinger rice krispie treat we chose was SO GOOD. We had vague recollections of their phenomenal baked goods from last trip.
We were also pleased with two new finds. 4th West Pub is new to Escalante and is an actual bar where you don’t have to order food! It’s the only one along the Route 12 corridor! And after breakfast at Hell’s Backbone, we walked next door to the cute little Burr Trail Outpost for coffee (“The Best Coffee on Highway 12”) and snacks for the road. Stop there for local crafts and gifts.