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Rewarding Oases Require Exploration
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Grandstaff Canyon Trail

Grandstaff Canyon is comprised of a series of branching drainages that bisect the popular Sand Flats Recreation Area - where the world-famous Moab Slickrock Bike Trail, and the equally world-famous Hell's Revenge 4x4 trail offer views down into the abyss of Grandstaff Canyon.

Access to the canyon is by one of two ways:

  1. Hiking up from the trailhead near the Colorado River and Highway 128
  2. Rappelling down ropes into Medieval Chamber and then from Morning Glory arch

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Experience a Grandstaff Canyoneering Tour

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Canyoneering Moab: Morning Glory Arch & Medieval Chamber

An incredible canyoneering introduction, with two rappels: 100' into a hidden chasm, and 110' off a giant rock arch! Follow a winding canyon stream out to the Colorado River.

  • Duration: Approximately 5 hrs
  • Departure Times: Morning and Afternoon
  • Season: April - November
ADULT (13+)
$129
YOUTH (10-12)
$106
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History of Grandstaff Canyon

William Grandstaff, of Creole-African American descent, was an early pioneer in the area. Bill, or "Negro Bill" as his fellow settlers of the late 1870's referred to him, was a clever maverick. Alabama-born Bill Granstaff (Grandstaff, according to one journal entry) raised cattle in the naturally fenced confines of the very canyon system that now bears his name.

Until 2017 the canyon drainages had been referred to as "Negro Bill Canyon" but increased attention to the area by tourists on the Sand Flats Recreation Area on the Hell's Revenge 4x4 Trail and Slickrock Bike Trail began petitioning for a name change more aligned with modern terminology. Some debate followed, mostly over concern that Bill's unique ethnicity in the West, for his time, would be lost under the name "Grandstaff". There was even some debate on the spelling of his last name: was it Granstaff or Grandstaff? In a county named Grand County, there was cause for concern that the unique history would be lost on new travelers to the area.

Hiking trails within the canyon drainages have remained somewhat primitive with most visitors content to just view the abyss from the slickrock domes and rims above. The name change to Grandstaff Canyon, Grandstaff Campground, and Grandstaff Trailhead have brought increased attention to the area. The popularity of the sport of "canyoneering" or "canyoning" has revealed otherwise hidden Ephedra's Grotto, Morning Glory Natural Bridge, and the Medieval Chamber to hundreds more tourists in Moab.

Fun Facts About Grandstaff Canyon

Natural Springs in Grandstaff Canyon

A rewarding natural spring gurgles out from a fissure between the rocks at the top end of Grandstaff Canyon, just under Morning Glory Arch. This fresh spring water is a welcome sound echoing off the canyon walls, and helps to keep things lush in the canyon. The gurgling spring water from the fissure at the canyon's terminus is perfect for hydrating before walking the 2.2 miles back to the trailhead, whether you hiked up, or rappelled down.

Ephedra's Grotto, Where Are You?

Ephedra is a plant or shrub found in the southern Utah deserts with medicinal uses, but could it also be someone named Ephedra that named the grotto (wherever it is) as in the possessive "Ephedra's Grotto". What makes a name catch on anyway? In regards to the "grotto" vs the "chamber", there is some debate. Is "Ephedra's" an older name for the narrow "room" that has recently taken on the name "Medieval Chamber"? Or, is Ephedra's the green oasis at the bottom of Morning Glory Arch at the top end of Grandstaff Canyon? If we are handing out names, that's where we'd put it! Medieval Chamber seems descriptive of the upper rappel, while anything "grotto" would include greenery and gurgling water. Ah well, the fact about the matter is that we love these places even if we in Moab can't keep the names in the right places!


Questions about Grandstaff Canyon

How long is the Grandstaff Canyon hike?

The most popular hiking destination within the Grandstaff Canyon trail system tends to be Morning Glory natural bridge located 2.2 miles from the trailhead.

Why was Grandstaff Canyon renamed?

The canyon, campground, and trailhead were renamed for William "Bill" Grandstaff to reflect his legacy of farming in the area during the late 1870's rather than focusing on his ethnicity or skin color. Prior to 2017 the canyon had been known as "Negro Bill Canyon".

Is camping allowed in Grandstaff Canyon?

Grandstaff Campground located near the trailhead along Highway 128 is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. There are 16 individual sites, pit toilets, but no water or RV hookups. Wilderness or backpacking permits and camping policies apply to camping within the canyon itself. Contact [email protected] for more information.

Is Grandstaff Canyon considered a Wilderness Area?

Grandstaff Canyon, with a spring-fed stream that runs feeds a lush riparian ecosystem between the narrowing Navajo Sandstone walls was designated as a Wilderness Study Area in 2017.

Can you fly drones in Grandstaff Canyon?

Drones are NOT allowed in Grandstaff Canyon, not even with a permit. The canyon area is designated wilderness and enforced by the Bureau of Land Management. Morning Glory natural bridge and the Medieval Chamber slot canyon located just beyond the upper reaches of Grandstaff Canyon and therefore are just outside of the banned area.

How do I get to the Grandstaff Canyon trailhead?

From downtown Moab, head north (Highway 191) toward the Colorado River bridge. Just before crossing the bridge, you will turn right, or east onto highway 128, or "River Road" as the locals call it. The trailhead for Grandstaff Canyon trail is located about 6 minutes (3.2 miles) from where highway 191 and 128 meet.

Is there parking at Grandstaff Canyon?

A small parking lot is available at the Grandstaff Canyon Trailhead. If you are hiking up the Grandstaff Canyon trail, this trailhead parking lot is your starting point.

Guests of the Morning Glory Arch Canyoneering Tour will finish their hike out of Grandstaff Canyon at this parking lot where a van will be waiting to return you to Moab and the Moab Adventure Center.

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Sun Divider DarkFree Insiders Guide to Moab, UT

What to take, where to eat, where to stay, what to do, and a few little secrets on the side. Not unlike your own personal Jiminy Cricket, (minus the worries of the little guy getting smooshed) the Moab Insiders Guide will provide you with all the essentials for a perfect Moab experience.

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