The Toadstools of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are a unique geological oddity that simply must be seen in person to be believed. There are several places out west that boast having picturesque hoodoo rock formations and the Toadstools in this park certainly are some of the most fascinating to see. Upon first glance, the bare white cliffs and the elevated red sandstone platform that these hoodoos stand upon resembles a mystical temple of sorts, which creates a dramatic visual effect. The colorful setting alone is enough to thoroughly intrigue visitors and hours can be spent pondering over how these strange rock formations came to be. All it takes is one look to see why the Toadstools Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Grand Staircase-Escalante!
The Toadstools Trailhead is located on Highway 89 about halfway between Page, Arizona and Kanab, Utah. The trailhead is well marked and the parking area is adequate. Registering for the hike is required in this protected area, which is easy to do at the self-serve kiosk. The Toadstools Trail is an out and back trek that is less than 2 miles in length, but the skill level is moderate because of the terrain. The trail is smooth till it enters a colorful bare bedrock badlands area, which can be likened to a maze that has a few dead ends. The foot trail first stops at a dry wash ledge that requires either climbing up onto or taking the long way around, so those who have mobility challenges may require assistance. Traversing the rolling mounds of bare sandstone is something to overcome, but the strenuous short trek will be well worth it when the first Toadstool comes into view.
The Vermilion Cliffs and Glen Canyon are nearby, which are also part of the geological grand staircase in this region. The lowest tiers of the staircase can be found along Highway 89, which is mostly composed of red sandstone, volcanic tuff and cinders. When heading north into this park, the elevations rise and more eroded layers of the staircase are exposed. The grand staircase is composed of tiers of rock strata that vary greatly in color and hardness, so the erosive forces have sculpted this landscape in unusual ways. Where a hard layer once covered a soft layer is where hoodoos are usually formed with the help of wind and water erosion. After eons of time the resulting hoodoos appear as hard rock boulders perched atop narrow pillars of heavily eroded softer rock strata, which indeed resembles a toadstool mushroom!
There is one toadstool in particular at this destination that is often pictured in western travel brochures and this gigantic hoodoo is the first to be encountered at the end of the trail. Many famous artists have captured images of this famous hoodoo rock formation, which definitely has a surreal look that can only be described as being out of this world. Some of the very best late night star trails photos in existence have been shot from underneath this weird hoodoo, so the Grand Staircase-Escalante Toadstools truly is a photographer's destination. For this reason be sure to pack water and a good camera for the hike, so the memories of the surreal hoodoos can be shared back home!
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