The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is a fairly newly designated national monument (~20 yrs) and one of the first to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) instead of the National Park Service (NPS). The GSENM covers a huge area in Southern Utah. The monument isn’t hugely accessible like some national parks are, and it seems that most of the activity and hiking happens near the outside edges of the park. Of course, that is my perspective as someone looking for hikes that are do-able with young kids. I’m sure there are people who explore the interior. But safe to say overall it is not very well traversed.
On our rainy day earlier in the week, we stopped at the GSENM visitor center in Kanab for the boys to get their Junior Scientist badges (L says that is his favorite one – bigger than the NPS ones!), and while we are there, we saw lots of interesting displays about the geology of the area and a movie about the monument. The most interesting part of the movie for me was hearing about all the research that scientists are doing in the monument. This area is a hot bed for dinosaur fossils, and it was cool to see the paleontologists working on uncovering dinosaur fossils. *Small Note * This is one of the sites that is under review to LOSE its status as a national monument. That would be a shame!
On our way out of Utah, we stopped to do a hike to the Paria Toadstools, part of GSENM. It was a really fun hike and the scenery was out of this world. It felt like we were on the moon!
We started the .8 mile (each way) hike in a parking lot just off the main road between Kanab and Page, our next stop. We started walking on a mud path, clearly where the water flows when it rains. However, since it had rained the day before, the path went from a little muddy to the point where, much to the excitement of the kids in front of us, the mud was so thick, it was basically impossible to get your foot back. So we headed for higher ground, and enjoyed the fun little hike in to the toadstools
After turning a corner, we look up and can see our first glimpse of the toadstools and cool white wall behind it
We climbed right up into the area with the toadstools. C & A decided to climb the structure, while the rest of us sat on the rocks below for water and a snack.
The boys quickly decided to explore the area. It isn’t a huge area to explore, but it is a good space for a restless dad and his 3 young kids. The rocks were awesome – based on my vast knowledge of what rocks on Mars would be like, I’m sure these rocks are just about the same!
The boys love running around and I love that there is a big flat area, so I don’t have to worry about anyone falling off a cliff edge (not that L would get ANYWHERE near a cliff edge!) Of course, C does manage to find a cliff edge and the boys follow him up!
There is another smaller set of toadstools and since our attempts at any selfies were unsuccessful (not that we don’t all look super, it is just we can’t manage to get all the people and the toadstools in at the same time!)
We manage to find a nice, helpful older lady who very diligently takes pictures of us in front of the toadstools, changing the camera from portrait to landscape and having us change poses. So nice! Except when we get the phone back, we realize EVERY.SINGLE.ONE has her finger in the corner. I guess you get what you pay for!
Fortunately, we know people who know people, and like magic (or photo editing) – finger gone! Thanks CK!
Then, C takes the little guys exploring and finds some other cool toadstools, while I get to climb with A up the big ones.
We could have spent hours exploring that area, it was really cool! However, we had things to do and borders to cross, so off we went back to the car and headed for Page, Arizona!