Surprisingly, one of the best hikes of our road trip was not in a national park, but just a small trail starting from the side of the road on the border of Utah and Arizona. We had just left Zion National Park behind us and spent a night in Kanab. Then we headed towards Page were we had our next hotel reservation. While looking at the map I spotted some interesting rock formations—hoodoos, close to the road, and when we saw the sign for it, we decided to stop.
BEAUTIFUL BUT DISPUTED GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE
The hoodoos are along the Toadstool Trail and they are part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. When Bill Clinton made this area a national monument some critiqued him and questioned the president’s authority to designate such a large piece of land as a monument. The Grand Staircase-Escalante has multiple interesting rock formations, gorges and canyons shaped by rain water, and even petroglyphs. They have also found many fossils and animal prints from these areas, as it used to be habited by dinosaurs. In fact, in 2013 they found a completely new species of dinosaur. The name Grand Staircase-Escalante comes from it’s massive rock wall that looks like a staircase. Escalante is a river running through this area.
In 2017 President Donald Trump ordered the size of the national monument to be reduced by 47%. By doing that he opened some doors to mining and road building on the Grand Staircase-Escalante. There are several law suits pending against this reduction.
TOADSTOOL TRAIL AND THE HOODOOS
The trail that takes you to the hoodoos leaves right from Highway 89. There is a small parking lot and sign which has information about the trail. When we arrived there, there were a few other cars and some people were ready to go hiking. The trail is not very long, only 1.5 miles (2.4 km), and it is easy enough to take kids with you. Most of the hike is done on a sand bed, that appears to be a dried river or such. A few times we had to climb on top of some rocks, but nothing too difficult. Our older daughter enjoyed jumping on the rocks and our smaller one took a little nap in a carrier backpack.
The first toadstool we saw was quite impressive, and one can see it from far away. There were only a few people among us. It was so nice to be able to enjoy this place without huge crowds and take photos at your own pace. These rocks have been shaped by wind and erosion. On top of the softer sandstone there is a harder shell of rock. The harder rock will wear down more slowly than the softer rock, leaving the top rock bigger. A toadstool is another name for a mushroom, and that is exactly what these rocks remind me of. Some day the erosion will shatter the pillar of these rocks and they will fall. How sad is that!
I read from somewhere that if you follow the trail on from these rocks, you will see more and more hoodoos. To be honest, we were not sure what way to go since the trail is not marked and there were several paths that looked like a continuation of the trail. We tried one but it ended on top of the hill, and another one looked like it was a really steep climb. We decided we had seen enough rock formations and we headed back to the car. The day was getting hotter and it was close to lunch hour. Because of the hot weather, I would recommend this trail early in the morning. There is no shade anywhere on this route. We were there in April and it was already getting quite hot there. So I can’t imagine what it is like in the summer time. It is also easier to find parking in the morning.
This was an awesome little hike, so if you are ever driving around in this neighborhood, you should definitely stop there. We on the other hand, headed towards Page and on to new adventures at Lake Powell and famous Antelope Canyon.