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Grand Staircase: Covers a lot of area in Southern Utah; we were based in Kanab.
The National Monument covers over one million acres in three different units, much of it inaccessible without high-clearance 4×4 vehicles or backcountry hiking. It would take weeks to see a significant part of it. We only had an afternoon.
We checked in with the GSENM Visitor Center to see if they could recommend something easy, short, and close by. They gave us two possibilities and we chose Lick Wash Slot Canyon. It involved a 30 mile drive, the first 16 paved, the other 14 on a graded dirt/gravel road, and took us into the White Cliffs, the third step (out of five) of the Grand Staircase of sedimentary rock deposits.
This was one of the most enjoyable hikes we’ve done. I had wanted to hike a slot canyon for awhile but most of the ones I saw in hike descriptions said the canyon was at the far end of the hike. This one was just a few hundred yards from the trailhead. The whole hike was four miles one way but the slot canyon was only about a half mile long so we turned back when we saw that it opened up.
The beginning of the trail, through the wash.
Entering the canyon.
The canyon was wide enough for easy walking. Some of the slot canyons in the National Monument get as narrow as 10 inches.
Trail through the canyon.
The canyon walls are Navajo sandstone, formed from wind-blown dune deposits. In Jurassic times, the winds laid down tiers of sand one way in the summer, and another way in the winter to form cross-bedded layers and different patterns in the rock.
I think hese cavities are called tafoni, hollowed out by freeze-thaw cycles and smoothed by wind-blown sand.
I think these may be fossil snails.