While I’ve been to Kanab several times, I had done very little sight-seeing in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Like all the parks in Utah, it contains an abundance of fantastic scenery and hiking opportunities. The hiking is mostly pretty rugged. Some trails, some ‘just walk east on the wash’ and some hikes where good directions, map and compass are needed.
One of the most photographed places in the monument is “The Wave” - this is a tough hike to an amazing rock feature. The Park Service only permits 20 people a day to visit; permits are issued two ways; the first is an online lottery (10 permits) and the other is a walk-in lottery (10 permits). If you’re taking a dog, he requires a permit too! People spend years trying to get a spot through the online lottery. We took a chance on the walk-in lottery – 10 slots for over 100 people who signed up.
We didn’t get permits, but the lottery process was kind of fun (not sure I’d be up for coming every morning of my vacation just to try to get a spot!). In any case, there are a ton of really nice hikes in the area,, so I wasn’t disappointed.
Here’s the park ranger, running the lottery.
If you win, they give you directions for getting to the Wave and the permit is good for the following day.
Where we did hike – Wirepass Canyon
GSENM is definitely not Disneyland. Trails are not well marked and the roads are not well-maintained. It took us two passes and additional directions from a park ranger to find the road leading to Wirepass Canyon Trailhead. The road was on a blind curve from the highway (imagine traffic going a minimum of 65 mph around a curve while you are creeping along, looking for a poorly maintained, single-track dirt road turn-off. Yikes!! Once we found the road, it was about 9 miles of bad wash-board and deeply rutted dirt to the trailhead.
The hike itself was lovely.You follow a wash that gradually narrows and deepens before turning into a really lovely, slot canyon. Unfortunately, not too far in was a 5 foot drop that, while I probably could have slid down, didn’t look like I would be able to climb back out. I watched several much younger, and stronger folks having problems with it.
Having decided not to risk it, I was surprised at the offers of help from a family – people can be so kind.
Even though I didn’t get to hike the entire slot, it was a lovely hike. Next time I’m bringing rope! I’m not used to slot canyons – now I know to bring a bit of climbing rope for the drops and sandals for the pot holes.
We were just leaving the parking lot after our hike when we met a young family from France. They had started their hike from Buckskin Gulch and hiked through Wirepass from the far end. Altogether they had hiked about 6 miles (a long way considering a lot of the footing is soft sand) and they were looking at another 6 miles back to their rental car in the heat. Although we didn’t have room for all four, we gave the wife a ride back to her car so she could then pick up the rest of the family. Even this early in the year, it gets hot during the day and the hiking can be deceptively difficult.