Grand Staircase-Escalante NM, Utah
The Wahweap Hoodoos, a congregation of impossibly white rock spires topped with reddish-brown capstones, are quickly becoming one of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument’s most recognized formations. The hoodoos are generally described as three separate groupings—the White Hoodoo, Hoodoo Central, and the Towers of Silence. The three groups are separated by just a few miles and you can visit all three in one morning without a problem if you follow the route described below—I say morning because the best light for photography purposes is from sunrise to early morning, but you can enjoy the hike at anytime of the day.
There are two ways to reach the trio of hoodoo groupings—you can hike 9.2-miles roundtrip from Big Water, Utah, or you can access them from the southern end of Cottonwood Canyon Road (located near Churchwells, Utah) for a mere 2-mile roundtrip trek. The mileage calculations mentioned here assume that you consider the Towers of Silence, the most interesting visually of the three groups, as your primary destination. Obviously, the longest route to the Towers of Silence is via Big Water and the shortest is from the Cottonwood Canyon Road access—we decided to take the shorter route, since we were only interested in exploring the Towers of Silence hoodoos. Whichever route you choose, you will be hiking through Wahweap Wash, a normally dry, hot and shadeless trek—be prepared with adequate water, sunscreen, and protective clothing.
We drove our rental car, a Toyota Highlander, along the BLM roads that lead to Wahweap Wash without issue. However, you will encounter three cattle gates along the way. If the gates are closed, simply open them, drive through, and close them behind you—a few of the gates take a bit of effort to fasten and unfasten, but you should be able to manage without too much trouble.
When you arrive at the wash, look for a sign along a rickety fence that reads Wilderness Study Area, No Vehicles, foot and horse travel permitted—park here and start hiking south along the wash. We set off down the trail armed with sunscreen, bottled water, and sun visors—after hiking in the wash for about thirty minutes, we caught our first glimpse of the towering white pedestals—wow!
The hoodoos of the Towers of Silence, rising like white ghosts, are breathtaking to behold—truly a wonder of the geological world. We spent close to an hour exploring the area, being careful not to disturb or damage the delicate formations with our feet or tripod legs, before returning to the car.
On our return hike, we stopped at several points to enjoy the numerous wildflowers that were blooming—decorating the area in May of 2009 were beavertail cactus, sego lily, yellow mariposa lily, fishhook cactus, and yucca.
NOTE: The driving route we describe, followed by us in May of 2009, required no off road travel and was in fact outlined to us by a BLM representative stationed at the Paria Contact Station. It is possible that access could one day be restricted due to the fragile nature of this beautiful area, so be sure to obtain the latest information from the BLM Visitor Center in Big Water before setting off on any of the BLM roads described on our website—we in no way encourage hikers to disregard land restrictions or park regulations. Please follow the rules and keep these beautiful places open to all.
GPS Coordinates for the Towers of Silence 37°09’45” 111°42’45”