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Unusually rough roads in Grand Staircase-Escalante

Published July 3, 2012 1:33 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

My tires met their match this weekend in Grand Staircase-Escalante.

My friend and I set out expecting a pretty low-key slot canyon adventure in the western reaches of the monument. Trail reports indicated most cars should be able to reach the trailhead in decent, dry conditions.

We popped into the ranger station in Cannonville to make sure there were no surprise hazards. The rangers hesitated. It turns out there is such thing as TOO dry.

Without any moisture to damp things down, tire-sucking sand had been blown over sections of Skutumpah Road and Cottonwood Road. Other sections had been stripped to washboard. Farther east, Hole-In-The-Rock Road was particularly bumpy, I was warned.

We picked a canyon on Skutumpah Road (to be unveiled in a coming Hike of the Week). I have to agree with the rangers: This is not a good trip right now without four-wheel drive. My friend and I made it in my Subaru Outback with a couple of tire-spinning ascents. A lesser car could have have some trouble.

The moral of the story is to check in with the rangers before venturing too far into the wilds of GS-E. It would stink to go a long way into the hot desert only to turn back, get stuck or drive off a cliff.

Of course, whatever is at the bottom of the cliff probably is very pretty.

—Erin Alberty