Grand Staircase-Escalante Llama Hike, Utah

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14060B, Supported Trekking, Backpack


  • Hike into the wilderness of new National Monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante
  • Enjoy the comforts at camp without carrying 50 pounds on your back
  • Help with llama care and cooking our vegetarian-friendly meals


  • Pickup from Las Vegas Airport with transportation to Cedarberry Guest House in Kanab, Utah
  • Two nights accommodations at the Cedarberry Guest House
  • Llama/guide service (includes tips to the guide)


DatesApr 8–14, 2014
Difficulty3 (out of 5)
StaffRoger Grissette

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Our trip will emphasize enjoying the wilderness experience, learning to understand and appreciate the unique aspects of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and minimizing the impacts of our presence in the wilderness. The use of eight llamas will facilitate our ability to realize these goals. The llamas bear the weight of supplies and equipment that otherwise limit the scope and enjoyment of a wilderness outing. Because of their natural adaptation to the areas we will be exploring, llamas can be easily “employed” with minimal impact to the environment. Hiking with llama support lessens the restrictions imposed by wilderness regulations on those who are physically limited by age, injury, or handicap. Working with/relating to the llamas adds another dimension to the total experience.

Our trip will be formulated on basic wilderness principles, but tailored to individual needs regarding distance, pace, interests, activities, and menu.  You are responsible for providing sleeping bags and personal items (toiletries, clothing, daypack, cameras, etc.).

We will follow low-impact techniques in all phases of our treks. We emphasize leaving the wilderness resource in a condition that will be enjoyable for those who follow us. You will help with food preparation, camp setup, camp maintenance, and llama care. Our menus are planned to provide fresh, wholesome foods that take into consideration activity level, special needs, health conditions, or preferences. Activities such as day hikes, birding, swimming, and photography fill the time not spent on the trail or in camp. These activities as well as special educational programs can be incorporated into the trip format.

It should be noted that even though llamas lessen the physical effort required for these trips; altitude, temperature extremes, moisture, and unfamiliar exercise make physical conditioning and preparation prior to the trip advisable.


Day 1: You will be picked up from the Las Vegas airport in Nevada and transported to the Cedarberry Guest House in Kanab, Utah.   

Day 2: After breakfast at the Cedarberry Guest House, we will meet with the llama packers and guide. As a group, we will pack gear into panniers (llamas packs). The drive to the trailhead (45 minutes through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument) will give us stunning views of surrounding slickrock country.  At the trailhead, we will assist with unloading gear and llamas from trailers and with saddling and loading gear onto the llamas. With gear and llamas in tow, we will start a five-mile hike to camp. You will carry approximately 20 pounds in your packs. Frequent breaks for photos, water, snacks, llama adjustments, and terrain considerations will make this trek into camp take a full day.  We will arrive to our base camp with plenty of time to set up tents and the kitchen. Expect spectacular views!

Day 3: Every day we will go on a different day hike that varies in length and difficulty of terrain. All day hikes are subject to change due to weather considerations and group ability.  Our average day hike will be five to eight miles. That may not seem like much, but the terrain will make our hikes all day adventures!  Our agenda today includes a hike to Escalante River to explore side canyons. The proposed loop route is eight miles, and we will eat a packed lunch in the field.

Day 4: After a hearty breakfast, our plan is to hike overland (cross-country) to a side canyon with beautiful narrows and pools. This loop is six miles.  We will eat a packed lunch in the field.

Day 5: Our plan is to hike overland to the Escalante Canyon rim. Expect beautiful views. This loop is six miles with a packed lunch break in the field.

Day 6: After a hearty breakfast together, we will pack up gear, load the llamas and hike out to the trailhead five miles away. Our ETA to the trailhead is 3:00 p.m.  Expect to be back in Kanab around 5 p.m. Tonight we will return to the Cedarberry Guest House and spend the night (price of lodging is included). We will share a goodbye dinner together tonight.

Day 7: After breakfast, you will be transported from Kanab, Utah to the Las Vegas airport. This is a 3.5-hour drive, so scheduling an afternoon/evening flight would be best.



Getting There

Trip participants are expected to fly to Las Vegas, Nevada no later than noon on April 8. You will be transported by van to Kanab, Utah, where we will stay together in the Cedarberry Guest Ranch. After breakfast on April 9, we will meet with our llama wrangler/guide.

Accommodations and Food

We will be camping in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument all five nights of the trip. You will need to provide your own tent, sleeping bag, foam pad and backpack.  All meals are included for the seven-day trip.  

Trip Difficulty

This trip is rated moderate.  Most trails are not maintained, and we will often be traversing over slickrock or travelling cross-country routes. The elevations in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument vary from 4,500 to 8,300 feet. Our average elevation for hiking will be around 5,000 feet.  Elevation gain and loss will vary each day.  Participants will carry day packs with approximately 15-20 pounds of personal gear and two quarts of water.

Equipment and Clothing

All food and cooking equipment is provided.  Other equipment & clothing needs (provided by participant) include:

  • Water bottle
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen/lip protector
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Two sets of Polypropylene underwear
  • Clothing for camping/backpacking
  • Sunhat or cap
  • Socks
  • Hiking shoes
  • Sandals/shoes for relaxing in camp
  • Evening clothing
  • Bathing suit



Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) was established by presidential proclamation during the Clinton Administration in 1996. One of the crown jewels of the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS), it encompasses 1.9 million acres of spectacular lands over three distinct physiographic regions: the Grand Staircase, the Kaiparowits Plateau, and the Canyons of the Escalante.

The NLCS was established in 2000 to include public lands with special conservation designations administered by the BLM. It covers more than 40 million acres of national monuments, national scenic and historic trails, wild and scenic rivers, and wilderness study areas. In 2009 Congress passed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, signed into law by President Obama. The National Landscape Conservation Act, which permanently codifies the NLCS, was contained in this package of bills.

In 1996, President Clinton short-circuited decades-long negotiations over the use of contested western lands and stunned Utah’s political leaders when he designated close to 2 million acres in their state as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). Clinton’s proclamation charged the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), for the first time in its history, with responsibility for managing a national monument, and required that the agency manage the vast lands to balance conflicting multiple uses, including cattle grazing. Various statutes mandate that federal lands determined to be chiefly valuable for grazing be actively grazed. However, anti-grazing activists saw in Clinton’s action an opening to reduce or eliminate grazing on allotments contained within the newly designated national monument and found sympathy among the Monument’s new managers. The question remains for conservation advocates and Monument managers: in the absence of statutory change, can the administrative process be used to reduce or eliminate grazing in the Monument?

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.

While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Roger Grissette has led outings for many years in the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, as well as the Eastern Sierra, Utah, Mexico, and Hawaii. Leading four to five trips per year recently, he's thrilled to share these adventures and their sense of discovery with a diverse group of Sierra Club members. Discussing challenges that face the wild places his trips visit is always a highlight for him, as is the time he spends in the camp kitchen. "Sometimes I feel I'm preparing a dinner party," he says. When not backpacking, he spends his spare time playing traditional music with friends in a string band.

Assistant Leader:

After attending a Sierra Club trip several years ago, Pam Dalitz felt right at home. While enthusiastic about her love of nature, Pam wants to encourage others to get outside, while learning to preserve our remaining pristine wilderness. Pam has backpacked, hiked, bicycled, in the U.S. and Canada. She currently fills the role of Equipment Officer for the Rocky Mountain Sub-committee. Pam is a Wilderness First Responder, and works as a nurse in a very busy hospital. Pam shares her love for the outdoors with her two Golden Retrievers.

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