Smoky Mountain Road Drive

Escalante, Utah

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This road traverses one of the Lower 48’s most remote regions. The 1,400-foot ascent/descent on the switchbacks and shelf of the Kelley Grade, at the south end, is fun and the scenery awesome. Near the northern end, narrow, high-walled Left Hand Collet Canyon is a terrific adventure. There are views of Lake Powell, Bryce Canyon and Navajo Mountain as well. Spring and fall are the best seasons to visit. From the south, the asphalt ends 2.1 miles from U.S. 89, and the roadbed becomes graded two-lane dirt and gravel. This red and yellow desert, the Warm Creek badlands, is forbidding, harsh and barren. Yet its stark beauty is overwhelming, the hues infinitely varied. To the left (north) rises Nipple Bench. To the south is Lake Powell. Ahead is Smoky Mountain, named for its burning underground coal deposits. The 600,000-acre Kaiparowits Plateau, a high, wedge-shaped block of mesas and incised canyons, is the middle of the monument’s three components. To the east are the Canyons of the Escalante. To the west is the Grand Staircase, a series of cliffs that rise north of the Grand Canyon, and which bear the names of their hues.
Utah Byways

DESCRIPTION FROM:

Utah Byways

by Tony Huegel (Wilderness Press)

This road traverses one of the Lower 48’s most remote regions. The 1,400-foot ascent/descent on the switchbacks and shelf of the Kelley Grade, at the south end, is fun and the scenery awesome. Near the northern end, narrow, high-walled Left Hand Collet Canyon is a terrific adventure. There are views of Lake Powell, Bryce Canyon and Navajo Mountain as well. Spring and fall are the best seasons to visit.

From the south, the asphalt ends 2.1 miles from U.S. 89, and the roadbed becomes graded two-lane dirt and gravel. This red and yellow desert, the Warm Creek badlands, is forbidding, harsh and barren. Yet its stark beauty is overwhelming, the hues infinitely varied. To the left (north) rises Nipple Bench. To the south is Lake Powell. Ahead is Smoky Mountain, named for its burning underground coal deposits. The 600,000-acre Kaiparowits Plateau, a high, wedge-shaped block of mesas and incised canyons, is the middle of the monument’s three components. To the east are the Canyons of the Escalante. To the west is the Grand Staircase, a series of cliffs that rise north of the Grand Canyon, and which bear the names of their hues.

©  Tony Huegel/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.

Activity Type: Mountain Biking, Off-Highway Drives
Nearby City: Escalante
Distance: 90
Trail Type: Shuttle
Difficulty: Easy to Difficult
Duration: 5.5 - 6.5 hours
Season: Best spring and fall
Local Contacts: Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument
Local Maps: DeLorme Utah Atlas and Gazeteer
Driving Directions: Directions to Smoky Mountain Road Drive

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Apr 2018