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Hoodoos, petroglyphs & more: Mystery in the Escalante Desert

Between Zion and Moab lies the Escalante Desert, a strange and mesmerizing landscape

  • 12
  • 07:22
  • 260 mi
  • $46

Created by Kampgrounds of America - February 28th 2018

There are so many different ways to experience Utah. With five national parks, it's easy to spend a little time visiting each. That's definitely worth the time and effort, since all five of those parks are completely special and unforgettable. But, we're also big fans of diving deep into one little part of the state to explore all of its nooks and crannies. Utah has a lot of nooks and crannies, with its red sandstone gorges and hoodoos and cliffs and canyons and arches! One of the best places to immerse yourself? The Escalante Desert. It might not be as famous as Moab or St. George, but it's home to some pretty memorable sights, from Bryce Canyon National Park and Kodachrome Basin to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Cedar Breaks, and all points in between.

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Start your journey at the beautiful Cedar Breaks National Monument located in historic Iron County, Utah. Take in the sights of bristlecone pine, green meadows, towering geological formations and crystal clear skies overhead. With a wide range of gorgeous wildflowers and unique rock formations, you could easily spend days exploring here. Less crowded than the famous Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks nearby, but no less beautiful, you can take in the sights without feeling overwhelmed or rushed. This small park offers everything you can see at its bigger sibling parks, with a little extra quirky flair from the meadows around the amphitheater. With multiple picture-perfect overlooks, Cedar Breaks National monument is a hidden gem.

Cedar City KOA

Don't let a less than ideal camping experience overshadow the incredible sites on your trip. Book a few nights at the modern and incredible Cedar City KOA, and enjoy Utah to the fullest. It’s just a 20-minute drive from the Kolob entrance to the world-famous Zion National Park; you can start your morning at a world-class campsite and be in Zion in no time. Or in Cedar Breaks in no time, instead... it's only a 90-minute drive. Love to ski? Brian Head is just 30 miles away. Looking to take it easy instead? The Cedar City KOA property offers bike rentals, dozens of trails, and a pool for those looking to enjoy the water. Cedar City KOA also provides ATV rentals, a playground for the children, horseshoes, and ice cream. Not sure what to see in the surrounding areas? The helpful and friendly staff are sure to point you in the right direction. If you want to take your trip to the next level, this is the place you need to stay.

Parowan Gap Petroglyphs

It's not often you can get up close and personal with incredible rock formations created over 15 million years ago, coupled with drawings from ancient Indians! With thousands of drawings, the Parowan Gap is believed to be one of the most concentrated areas of petroglyphs in the whole country. Observe hand-drawn art of lizards, snakes, and mystical creatures, and get a first-hand look at how the natives of Utah’s land lived. Pace yourself throughout the day and stop for a picnic under covered picnic grounds; then get back to observing the incredible history of Parowan Gap.

Parowan Old Rock Church Museum

Next, make a stop at the Parowan Old Rock Church and continue taking in the rich history of Southern Utah. In one of the oldest settlements of the area, this beautiful church holds special importance to the Mormon Church, and is currently home to a historical museum that you can spend an hour or two exploring. See how the church was built, observe hundreds of photographs from past to present, and learn even more about this historic site through a quick and informative video. For additional information, be sure to stop by the incredibly helpful Parowan visitor center right nearby.

Panguitch KOA

If you're looking for a home base as you venture out and explore all southern Utah has to offer, look no further than the Panguitch KOA. Equipped with modern amenities and clean and spacious campsites, it's the perfect place spend a few days while exploring the area. Boasting RV sites, cabins, and plenty of tent space, this KOA campground is welcoming to any variety of traveler. The Panguitch KOA site gets its name from the Paiute tribe; "paiute" means "big fish," and there are plenty of fish to go around here. Panguitch Lake is a popular spot, home to some of Utah's best trout fishing. With popular destinations nearby such as Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, and Zion National Park, this KOA property puts you in the center of all Southern Utah’s fantastic attractions. Needing a day just to kick back and relax? There are dozens of restaurants and shops within walking distance of the campground.

Red Canyon

Red Canyon, also located in Panguitch, Utah, has fascinated tourists and locals for centuries with its seemingly endless supply of gorgeous red rock formations. The easily accessible Red Canyon is the perfect spot to really immerse yourself in the unique Utah landscape. Take your pick from three short trials (all of which are under a mile): Hoodoo, Pink Ledges, and Bird's Eye Trails. They all offer incredible views and won't leave you too worn out to continue your day of road tripping. Plus, it's another hidden gem that's less crowded than the popular National Parks in the area.

Bryce Canyon National Park is truly a can't-miss adventure. With access to views you literally can't find anywhere else, this national park is one of the country's most special. The sun in the Utah sky causes the red rock formations to almost glow, and at night, the park offers unparalleled views of the Milky Way. You know, the kind of view that's all but impossible in a modern-day city. With a handful of hikes and trails to choose from, you can really and truly experience all that Bryce Canyon National Park has to offer. Want to supercharge your experience? Visit the park just as the sun rises... you'll thank us later.

Cannonville / Bryce Valley KOA Holiday

Enjoy the breathtaking views of Bryce Valley at the Cannonville / Bryce Valley KOA Holiday. When you first settle in, pull out a lounge chair and just take in the sights in silence. This campground is only 12 miles from the entrance of Bryce Canyon National Park, so you’ll have easy access to one of the most popular parks in the US. With additional attractions such as Kodachrome Basin State Park, Grosvenor Arch, and Scenic Byway 12 nearby, you can't go wrong setting up at the Cannonville / Bryce Valley KOA Holiday. With so much to offer at prices that won't break the bank, you'd be wise to give the highly-rated campground a serious look during your adventure through Utah.

Kodachrome Basin State Park

Yet another gorgeous, can't-miss stop in the state of Utah, Kodachrome Basin State Park offers a little something for the entire group. This state park is home to incredible red rock views... without the tourist rush. Within the park, you can see no less than 67 monolithic stone spires that dominate the striking landscape. With seemingly endless shades of color and countless rock formations, it's the perfect stop on your way to the Grand Escalante National Monument. Be sure to leave plenty of time to explore here... you might find yourself spending longer than you planned!

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Proof that "age is just a number," Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument shows without a doubt that good things come with age. Quietly doing its thing for over 275 million years, this historic site offers views millennia in the making. Home to a wealth of modern and ancient culture, the grand staircase is still regularly providing scientists and tourists with new discoveries. Make your way up Grand Staircase to be greeted by some of the best views in Utah. Continue working your way to Kaiparowits Plateau (which is the highest location in the area at nine thousand feet), which is home to hundreds of Cretaceous fossils. Top off your visit through the Escalante National Monument by exploring the Canyons of Escalante, created by millions of years of erosion from the Escalante River.

Spooky Gulch

Spooky Gulch is a slot canyon located in the Grand Staircase section of Utah that earned its nickname from its narrow, twisting walls and remarkable ability to get dark, even during the day, as the tall cliffs can block out the sun in parts. Best paired with a hike to Peek-a-boo Gulch to kick things off, Spooky Gulch is totally unforgettable. You'll definitely want to bring along your camera for this one!


Escalante, UT

Finish off your Utah adventure with a final stop at Escalante's Devil's Garden. It's an easy, half-mile round-trip hike that takes you right up close to geological awesomeness. You'll pass by two stone arches: the stunning Metate Arch and Mano Arch. The hike may be short, but you'll want to leave lots of extra time to further explore the Garden’s rock formations. If you can't get enough of the scenery here, Hole-in-the-Rock Road offers several other hikes as well.

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Spend a week or two of hard-earned rest exploring all the amazing and historic sites Utah has to offer. Camp out in a tent or cabin, explore the world-famous Bryce Canyon to your heart's content, and get lost in the other breathtaking parks that call Utah home. If you're looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the modern-day world, Utah offers the perfect remedy.

Kampgrounds of America

Behind the Yellow Sign at KOA, we combine the great outdoors with great service. We offer modern sites, facilities and amenities designed to meet the needs of every kind of camper. And with 500+ campgrounds across North America, it’s easy to find an amazing place for camping fun!