While Grand Canyon National Park sees annual crowds of millions of visitors, its more humble neighbor, the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, is a land of solitude, isolation and adventure among amazing vistas, beautiful forests teeming with wildlife and impressive geology. The monument was established in 2000, especially due to the support received from Secretary of Interior, Bruce Babbit. It covers over 1 million acres (424,000 ha) of land co-managed by the BLM and the National Park Service (NPS), and fully protects the watershed of the rivers and waterways which flow in the Colorado River and carve an amazing, complicated landscape. If you access this large conservation area from the west, coming from Gold Butte National Monument, you’ll find a sign that lets you know you’ve entered a land designated as the “Parashant International Night Sky Province”, a place recognized for its outstanding stargazing opportunities. The monument is considered one of the most remote, wild places in the contiguous 48 states, as only a small percentage of its territory has been explored in the last few centuries. There are hundreds of miles of unpaved, truly remote and rough roads crossing the monument, but you are advised to be well prepared before venturing out. Full spare tires, high-clearance trucks or jeeps, lots of water, gas canisters, food and other necessary supplies should not be missing from the list, since cell phone reception is rare and help is far away. Aside from exceptional geology, this vast land protects dozens of known historical sites that are thousands of years old. The most accessible one is known as Nampaweap and can be accessed via BLM1028 road (basic monument map here and detailed one here). On the NPS website there is a good description of the more accessible driving route we took while in the west side of the national monument, including a description of how to reach Nampaweap. You will find signage and important site markers while driving along these better maintained roads. We arrived to the east side of the monument from St. George, UT, a good gateway city from where to start your trip and get in touch with the local NPS/BLM office managing the national monument (highly recommended you do that to get the latest on roads and pick up maps). The drive south from St. George will still take some time due to road conditions, but it’s the closest larger city for accessing Grand Canyon-Parashant, and the route along CR5, a maintained gravel road, is very scenic. When we were there in late October 2017 we were told that the roads which go to the Whitmore Canyon Overlook and to the Toroweap Overlook in Grand Canyon National Park wouldn’t really be accessible with our car (Subaru Outback) due to recent rains. The road which leads to the spectacular Kelly Overlook with views of the western side of Grand Canyon is one of the roughest in the monument. For the Toroweap area you’ll need to obtain a camping permit ahead of time if you want to spend the night. For guided trips to Toroweap and in Grand Canyon-Parashant we could only find this company based in Kanab, UT and this one from St. George, UT. Alternatively, you could look into renting a jeep in Hurricane, UT, nearby St. George. Since our car couldn’t take us too far due to road conditions, we spent a couple of nights in the Mt. Logan and Mt. Trumbull Wilderness Areas, exploring the beautiful ponderosa pine forests and spotting the endemic Kaibab squirrels (local population introduced from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon). A description of the hike up Mt. Trumbull here, while the drive up Mt Logan is described here, although we took a side forest road to set camp and hike up for a couple of hours to reach the Mt. Logan Overlook. From the top of Mount Logan you’ll have at your feet the entire story of the Grand Canyon ecosystem: old ponderosa pine forests, the drainage basin for the Colorado River, with rock formations that took millions of years and sometimes even billions to reach their current shape, cinder cones, the dry Shivwits Plateau, the confluence of the floristic provinces of the Mojave, Sonoran and Great Basin deserts, vast tablelands, and the amazing Grand Canyon stretching in front of you in the distance. At sunset the stunning Hell’s Hole formation is the most scenic landmark to photograph from Mt Logan outlook. Before heading to this national monument read the Presidential Proclamation to learn more about its geology and historic heritage. If you want to get in touch with a local organization working to protect the monument and the Grand Canyon ecosystem, contact the Grand Canyon Trust.
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