Even if it didn’t have a beautiful national park at each end — Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef — the Highway 12 Scenic Byway, which passes by and through Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument , would be well worth the drive for the richly varied scenery: red-rock spires and canyons, dense forests of tall
Despite covering nearly 1.9 million acres, much of the sweeping Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument is quite remote. Very few trailheads can be reached on paved roads. All others are accessed by dirt roads that range from good graded roads to unmaintained, rocky, or sandy doubletracks.
Grand Staircase is the westernmost section of the monument and is most easily accessed from Tropic, Cannonville or Henrieville near Kodachrome Basin State Park on Highway 12–also known as Scenic Byway 12– and Kanab or Big Water on U.S. Route 89.
Both of these Parks offer great outdoor activities for all ages. For canyoneering and rappelling, Zion beats Bryce . You’ll find world-class hiking in either Park, but in Zion you can find yourself hiking through streams or on sandstone ledges, like Angels Landing – one of the scariest hikes in the world!
Zion is just as beautiful, more accessible and less crowded much of the year than the Grand Canyon , where the rim walking paths and the main trails into the canyon can be packed with people during peak travel seasons. You won’t need your car much, either.
It is possible to visit both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in one day . These two National Parks are only 1.5 hours of driving time always from each other so with travel between parks it is possible and can be done fairly easily.
The Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument is partly named for the Escalante River, which flows from Boulder Mountain to the Colorado River. The monument is also named for the series of topographic benches and cliffs that, as its name implies, step progressively up in elevation from south to north.
The Wave is situated on the Utah-Arizona border, halfway between Page, Arizona and Kanab , Utah in the Paria Canyon/Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.
When to visit: The The Escalante Canyons National Monument is open 24 hours a day year-round. Check visitor center hours and find more travel information on the BLM website. Fees and Permits: Entrance is free. Overnight permits are required for car camping and backpacking.
Yes Capitol Reef is worth seeing . And going this route would not be a detour,its on the way. You can drive thru Capitol Gorge in the park and do the short walk to Pioneer Registry. There are also some nice orchards there where you can pick fruit if its in season.
If you were able to go off road, I would suggest three days in Capitol Reef as you could go down the Notom Road and Burr Trail and also up into Cathedral Valley. But since car rentals aren’t to be taken off road, I think two nights would work.
How long does it take to visit Bryce Canyon? It takes a minimum of 3 hours to drive to the 13 viewpoints along the park’s 38- mile (round-trip) scenic drive.