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Has anyone driven the unpaved roads through Grand Staircase/Escalante Nat'l Monument?


Has anyone driven the unpaved roads through Grand Staircase/Escalante Nat'l Monument?

Old May 3rd, 2002, 08:07 AM
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Has anyone driven the unpaved roads through Grand Staircase/Escalante Nat'l Monument?

As part of a family trip through the Southwest we will be driving from Bryce to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in early July. We are considering taking a slight detour to visit Kodachrome Basin and a portion of Grand Staircase/Escalante Nat'l Monument. I see from my maps that there are two unpaved roads which head SW across the monument, ultimately connecting with Rt. 89 near Kanab on the way to the North Rim. I was wondering if anyone has any experience or info about these roads and whether they are a viable shortcut. We could just re-trace our route on Rt.12 back past Bryce. Thanks.
Old May 3rd, 2002, 08:29 AM
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Think you may be referring to Cottonwood Road, which comes down from Kodachrome to outside Church Wells on 89. We did this ride in May 2001. The road is indeed unpaved, but is negotiable when dry. We did it in a 4WD, but we also saw RVs and cars on this road. While the condition of the road was good as far as unpaved roads are concerned, I think it can be another story when it rains. You may want to check with Grand Staircase-Escalante office before you venture out on it. Try this web site: www.ut.blm.gov/monument
There are some nice vistas, etc. on this ride, but don't count on making the same type of "road time" you would on a regular paved road. I think it took us about 1.5 hours to do the 46 miles. Hope this helps.
Old May 3rd, 2002, 08:52 AM
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Hi Neil!

I drove through Kodachrome Basin down the more eastern road coming out on 89 east of Kanab.

Kodachrome Basin is beautiful with a small campground. Worth seeing & especially for photos at sunrise, sunset. Short drive from the highway.

The Grosvenor Arch is one of the most beautiful & impressive I have ever seen! When we stopped there, we watched a pro protographer taking shots with his 8x11 format camera. Very interesting. We got some great shots ourselves!

The road: It's a long, slow drive! You will see some serious signs warning NOT to drive it if rain is threatening or if it's rained recently. This is because most of it goes through clay soils - like grease when wet!!! If dry, you can do it in a regular car, but I would highly recommend a 4x4. It is graded, but when we did it, it was extremely "washboarded". In case you don't off road, that's like driving over a zillion ripples a minute. You have to go very slow to avoid rattling loose both your teeth & every bolt in the car. Very little traffic, go fully prepared with food & lots of water.

The first half of the drive is very scenic. The second half gets old fast, but you will think you're on another planet! All you see for miles are barren, eroded clay hills. Almost NO plant life.

Once you're out to Hwy 89 again, the old pioneer settlement of Paria is very scenic. Multi-stripped mountains & you can drive your 4x4 up the Paria River a ways depending on water level. False-fronted movie set is still there from when Eastwood filmed "The Outlaw Josie Wales".

If you have the time & your family is very adventurous, go for it. If not, drive back through Long Valley & Mt. Carmel Junction. It's a pretty drive, normally green & beautiful, but this year is severe drought. Much faster.

Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip!
Old May 3rd, 2002, 09:57 AM
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Thanks RB and Dayle--just what I wanted to know.
Old May 3rd, 2002, 01:05 PM
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we drove from Bryce up to Escalante last summer, then back to Bryce and then to north rim. We drove the paved rodes. THe ride was very scenic. Personally, I didnt feel it was worth the road time. Much of the route near Zion (are you going there?) bryce and the grand canyon is spectacular. Adding all that extra road time to the trip ultimately seemed too much. But yes, it is very beautiful.
Driving in that area is slow--even on the paved roads.
Old May 4th, 2002, 02:09 AM
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We drove the road through the monument leading to Gros. Arch and Kodachrome Basin in June '99, and still refer to it as "the road from hell". It is indeed negotiable in a passenger car when dry, but is so washboarded and rutted that it will rattle your teeth loose - and we literally DID shake the CD player loose from the dashboard (we were in the family minivan). It took us 3 1/2 hours to negotiate the 30-some miles of the road. Great (but not spectacular) scenery - I wouldn't do it just for the scenery aspect of the trip. And as a shortcut it sucks - takes too long (we thought we'd save miles and see some unusual scenery at the same time). Hope this helps you make a decision.....
Old May 4th, 2002, 10:01 AM
Bob Brown
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I drove to Grosvenor Arch last May in a Chevvy Impala. It was dry; hence no problem. What's all the fuss about? Just another dirt road where you straddle the deep ruts and blast through the mud puddles so you don't get stuck.
(I grew up on dirt roads! So perhaps I have a different point of view.)

We just got back from Chaco and had read all kinds of horror stories about that road in from the north. BULL X.
Nothing to it; it is a boulevard.

Old May 5th, 2002, 03:34 AM
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Mr. Brown (above): I didn't just grow up driving dirt roads, I still live on and drive them every day, as I live in the rural midwest, and the day we drove through the monument the road was truly hellish. The "washboarding" made trying to drive even 15 mph impossible! I realize that conditions on roads like this change - we may have just had bad-luck timing after rain but before maintenance or some such. Our research (and questioning one local in the area) said "suitable for passenger cars when road is dry" - and I'd like Neil to know that, at least sometimes, this is not a "viable shortcut", which was part of his question. I wish someone had given us a heads-up on the possibility of the road being that slow and bad before we attempted it as a shortcut.....
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