Earlier this year, ADG Founder Joel Anderson, ADG bookkeeper Patty Anderson, and author/historian Daniel Pierce traveled to the Grand Circle. The result of their trip? Our newest coffee table book, the Illustrated Guide to the Grand Circle!
Fun Facts About the Grand Circle
The Grand Circle is a region in the U.S. that encompasses much of southern Utah and northern Arizona. Parts of the Grand Circle edge into southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico, but most GC attractions can be found in Utah and Arizona. This area is called the Grand Circle because one could drive a "circle" through this region and visit much of America's most beautiful national treasures and natural wonders in the process.
The Grand Circle is home to several National Parks, these parks being considered the flagship highlights of this region. But beyond that, the GC is also home to State Parks, National Forests, State Forests, National Monuments, and protected recreation areas.
Unlike many National Parks in northern regions of the U.S., the majority of the parks in the Grand Circle are open year-round, offering visitors a range of seasons and climates in which to experience these national treasures.
In addition to its many natural attractions, the Grand Circle is also home to rich paleontological and anthropological records. From dinosaur fossils to ancient cliff dwellings, this region offers abundant historical knowledge for scientists and visitors alike.
From hiking to sightseeing, kayaking to horseback riding, photography, birdwatching, scenic drives, camping, off-roading, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, and boondocking, the list of potential activities in the Grand Circle is endless. If you like adventure in the great outdoors, this is a region to add to your bucket list!
The National Parks of the Grand Circle
The main draw to the Grand Circle is definitely the region's National Parks. These are:
Arches National Park. This famous park is known for its thousands of sandstone arches, like Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch.
Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce Canyon is known for its red-orange rock spires (called hoodoos) and the stunning amphitheater from which one can look out over thousands of these spires.
Canyonlands National Park. This region is less traveled than other Grand Circle attractions, allowing visitors to connect with nature along the hiking and biking trails of Canyonlands.
Zion National Park. Zion Canyon and the Virgin River that created it are the main attractions in Zion National Park, including several highlights like the Narrows, Angels Landing, and Observation Point. This park offers stunning views and excellent photo ops, any time of the day or year.
Grand Canyon National Park. One of the wonders of the world and likely the most famous attraction in the Grand Circle, the Grand Canyon offers scenic roadways from which to view the canyon, including pull-offs, hiking trails, camping areas, mule tours to and from the bottom of the canyon, and white water rafting along the mighty Colorado River.
Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef is a 100-mile long wrinkle in the Earth's crust, offering stunning geological formations, canyons, domes, buttes, shelves, and river valleys. This park is much less visited than the others, as only one road travels through the park, making the quiet, peaceful nature of the region a hiker and backpacker's paradise.
State Parks, National Monuments, Recreation Areas, and More!
The National Parks are certainly the most famous attractions in the Grand Circle, but they are by no means the only highlights of the region. In fact, you are very likely to have incredible experiences in some of the State Parks, National Monuments, and recreation areas throughout the region, as these often receive fewer visitation and use, allowing one to stretch out and "have the place to themselves," in a way.
Here are some of the other attractions in this region that inspired us to create the Illustrated Guide to the Grand Circle. Click on any of these attractions to learn more about them, or just order the Illustrated Guide to the Grand Circle book, which features a wealth of information on all of the following attractions!
Unique, Fascinating, and Intriguing; Other Places of Interest
The National Parks and natural wonders of the Grand Circle region are just some of the main reasons why we were inspired to write a book about this slice of heaven in the southwestern United States. Other aspects of the region that we found inspiring and that we covered in the book include:
- A Rich History. Author and historian Daniel Pierce spent months researching, studying, and examining the rich human and natural history of the Grand Circle, which we then explored when we visited the region.
- Dark Sky Parks. Many of the parks in the Grand Circle are also certified Dark Sky parks, meaning they offer some of the best views of the night sky in the world. Stunning natural beauty, day or night!
- Dinosaurs/Fossils. The Grand Circle has some of the best archeological finds to date, adding another fun and educational element to visiting the region.
- Hollywood and the Grand Circle. Several Hollywood movies have been filmed in the Grand Circle, adding another element of significance to the region, as visitors get to walk in the footsteps of famous actors who starred in iconic movies like Forrest Gump, the Outlaw Josey Wales, and Stagecoach.
Travel Tips for the Perfect Adventure
While visitors to the GC can have an incredible experience exploring this region in one week, we strongly recommend adventures take two weeks to get the full Grand Circle experience. Really, the more time you can spend there, the better! If it would be better to break the adventure into two distinct trips, we encourage that too!
While some tourism and travel agencies offer chartered adventures within the Grand Circle, we strongly recommend having your own mode of transportation. The full Grand Circle tour covers about 1,000 miles of road, so having your own car lets you maximize your enjoyment of this natural wonderland.
As exciting as this region is, it is quite rural, meaning you will need to plan your stops, overnights, and provisioning accordingly. Some great towns to check out for hotels, grocery stores, restaurants, AirBNBs, outdoor outfitters, and visitor information include Kanab, Moab, and Escalante.
One of the reasons we created the Grand Circle book was to give folks a detailed guide of the region. Not only does the Illustrated Guide to the Grand Circle offer an extensive review of GC attractions, but we added key information on how best to enjoy each attraction covered in the book. And in case you'd like to take the book with you and you'd like something more lightweight and easy to pack, we also printed a softcover edition.
The Grand Circle; One of America's Most Cherished Natural Lands
Traveling to the Grand Circle reminded us just how valuable our National Parks and natural lands truly are, and the importance of conserving these lands for generations to come. That's why we set up a fundraiser in which a portion of our profits from the Illustrated Guide to the Grand Circle will be donated to the National Park Foundation. Your purchase helps fund vital conservation efforts in America's beautiful National Parks!
We hope you enjoy this book and your own adventure to the Grand Circle. Next week, we'll explore the history behind the Grand Circle and what makes this region so meaningful from a cultural and anthropological stance.
Anderson Design Group Staff Writer