Escalante, Silvestre Velez de (late 18th century), a Spanish missionary and explorer in the Southwest. He was one of the first Europeans to visit what is now Utah. Escalante apparently went from Spain to Mexico in 1768. He joined the Franciscan Order and spent several years in the mission at the Zuñi pueblo in New Mexico.
The governor at Santa Fe, New Mexico, asked Escalante to find an overland route to California. In 1775 the priest made a short exploring trip into what is now Arizona. The next year he led a party northwestward to the Great Salt Lake Valley. The expedition then turned to the southwest but was stopped by an early snow. The return trip to Santa Fe was made across northern Arizona. Escalante kept an excellent diary of his 2,000-mile (3,200-km) trip.