Perched at the top of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the town of Escalante is a solid drive from the Front Range (10-ish hours!), but it’s worth skipping the crowds of Moab to explore this remote desert landscape. We based ourselves at the new Yonder Escalante (stayyonder.com) lodging.
On-site at Yonder Escalante, a food truck fills pangs of hunger with easy access. Stumble from your overnight abode for fruit and yogurt or made-from-scratch breakfast burritos. The food truck shuts down at 11 a.m., so you’re on your own for lunch. There’s only one grocery store in town, Griffin’s Grocery & General Merchandise, (30 W. Main St. in Escalante, 435.826.4226) and it’s only open from 8 a.m.–6 p.m., so plan ahead if you’re going to be out in the wilds for lunch. For dinner, there are a few restaurants in town and in the region (Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah, is a must if you are willing to drive). But if you would like to stay in for the night, Yonder Escalante offers a fun, fully supplied cook-your-own-dinner-over-your-open-fire experience. Entree options range from dry-rub BBQ chicken, local steak, and vegetarian. The meal comes complete with side dishes like veggies, sweet potatoes, and soft delicious dinner rolls (which also warm nicely in their foil packet over the fire). The whole shebang is actually already precooked sous-vide, so all you have to do is throw it in the provided cast-iron fry pan and warm it all up. Our family of four ordered two kits, and it was plenty. The “room service” is requested via text message, and the team at Yonder was prompt to fill all of our requests (extra firewood, dinner rolls, etc.).
From Escalante, the desert is your oyster. Just on the other side of town from Yonder Escalante, Hole-in-the-Rock Road offers easy (albeit bumpy) access to a plethora of excursion options, including Bighorn Canyon, Cedar Wash Arch, Zebra and Tunnel Slot canyons, Harris Wash, and—at the very end (for the particularly ambitious)—Instagram-famed Reflection Canyon on Lake Powell. We chose, however, to continue west from town and visit the stunning and very kid-friendly Willis Creek Slot Canyon just south of Cannonville. This out-and-back hike can be as long or as short as your crew chooses, but to see all the prime narrow sections of the canyon expect a 2 1/2-mile round trip—though it goes longer if you’re keen. With barely 300 feet of elevation loss on the way down and the creek mostly dry, it was easy for the kiddos, and they also enjoyed exploring the towering walls and narrow slots.
Yonder Escalante is a fun mix of clean and cute small cabins, fully remodeled and well-appointed refurbished Airstream trailers, and full-hookup RV pads and tent sites. One of the main differences are the modern and, indeed, luxurious bathhouses—they even have beautiful indoor/outdoor showers. There’s a pool, hot tub, and a vintage “drive-in” theater with classic cars permanently parked as seating. While Yonder Escalante does welcome children, the cabins and Airstreams only have one queen bed, so we ended up with one of each and split up for the night. Yonder Esclante is open mid-March through mid-November.