The Breathtaking National Monuments of Southern Utah
By Barry Eitel
Southern Utah is home to five breathtaking National Monuments. Each boasts its own historical significance and is ready for you to discover. Enjoy many recreational activities such as hiking, biking, climbing and camping – there is no way to be bored at these natural marvels. Each monument is expansive and gorgeous and is not to be missed. Whether you spend your day hiking through forest terrain, watching the colors of different rocks melt into the horizon, or visiting one of the first Mormon settlements, it will be filled with adventure, laughter and fun.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Cedar Breaks National Monument is located just over an hour north and west of Kanab. It sits at the western edge of a large plateau of the Dixie National Forest, at an elevation of over 10,000 feet. The views are spectacular and the rock formations are hard to believe. Intrepid visitors often see deer, elk, porcupines, and more wildlife on this plateau.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
For a truly unique Utah hiking experience, go where the locals go: the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which expands over the largest land area of any national monument in the country. Stretching from Bryce Canyon to the Arizona border, the Grand Staircase is filled with vast and varied landscape and millions of years of geological history. This wilderness area is roughly the size of Delaware, and was the last region in America to be explored by settlers.
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Some of the most jaw-dropping geological formations in the world grace the area called the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. These awe-inspiring geographic formations sparkle like gems in the desert sand, and are on the bucket list of every serious hiker and photographer in the world. One the most popular of these formations is Buckskin Gulch, the longest slot canyon in the world and a tributary to Paria Canyon. Hikers will experience twisting turns and towering, narrow cliffs along this 26 mile adventure. Another of the breathtaking formations within this region is Coyote Buttes and White Pockets, a series of rock formations that will knock your socks off! These sandstone formations are swirled with bands of color like cream in coffee.
Kaibab National Forest
The Kaibab National Forest envelopes one of the world’s most famous natural wonders, the Grand Canyon. In its entirety the Kaibab National Forest encompasses almost 1.6 million acres. Wildlife often spotted in Kaibab National Forest includes elk, antelope, wild turkeys, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats and black bears. California condors, eagles and other large birds are also seen soaring above the forest.
Pipe Spring National Monument
When traveling near Utah’s border with Arizona, adventurous visitors will discover one of the best-kept secrets of the national park system: Pipe Spring National Monument. The monument is a historic pioneer fort located 20 minutes west of Kanab, Utah. ”Windsor Castle” was built by the Mormon Pioneers in the 1870s, but this natural spring served as a welcome oasis to explorers, Pioneers and natives for over 1,000 years. The surrounding grounds feature interpretive displays are open to visitors every day of the year. This desolate, remote desert area is home to many plants and animals, largely dependent on the spring water that provides much-needed moisture for life and growth.