A Gravel Wonderland
Emily and Spencer make quite the couple. Emily, a Fezzari Athlete, and Spencer, a Fezzari Design Engineer, took their Shafer gravel bikes to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. They covered about 150 miles and 14k vert in 2 days!
Emily documented her trip and had this to say:
Explanation of the route’s history
The land is so vast, beautiful, and surreal; from their website “the route was designed to bring awareness to this beautiful and threatened area.” The route was developed after a government plan to severely diminish its size and open the area to mining, despite the 2 billion years of geological history (including 75 million year old dinosaur fossils). I hope more people are able to experience the beauty of this sacred area in order to preserve and protect its status. Highly recommend the bikepacking.com website if you plan to attempt. Three days would definitely be ideal for more exploration of the slot canyons, lake Powell, and the city of Escalante, UT. Happy to help if you want to attempt and have questions 🏜✨
I had 4 bottle cages with a mix of electrolytes and water, plus a 2 liter hydration pack with just water. Spencer sewed me a custom bike frame bag the night before out of recycled waterproof materials, and I stuffed it with all the food on picture 3 (about 3500 calories per day, mostly carbohydrates with a good mix of fats and protein—bagels, muffins, nut butter, frozen burritos for dinner, oatmeal for breakfast, calorie dense energy bars, sweet candies, candy bars, etc). We stayed at a little motel at the half way point in Big Water, UT where we were able to refill our bottles, but there was not a single place to buy food along the way (including at the hotel) so we had to carry everything we’d need to eat for 2 days. A bagel with Laughing cow at mile 125 was unbelievably delicious.
I ran 45 mm Ramblers and thought they were a good tire choice. My only regret was that I wish I’d had one easier gear because the climbs have steep 25+ degree pitches the entire way and by the end it was tough to muscle through the super steep, rocky pitches even with a 40-44 gear ratio.
Dirt Road conditions
The gravel roads were pretty pristine most of the time. There was one especially tough spot: an approximately 5 mile rocky section up to and after Death Ridge (aptly named), and then another 5+ mile section of relentless steep uphills. Those sections alone took us several hours. Everything else was pretty smooth sailing and we are super grateful to not have had a single mechanical.
Photos from all along the Grand Staircase loop as found on @bikepackingcom!
We followed their route almost exactly, including their start/end location just outside Escalante UT; we unfortunately did not take a detour down to Lake Powell due to time restraints.