I know there area better than most. If you are going to do Zion the only thing you want to check out is the Barracks. Its the East fork of the Virgin River. As for issues with the Rangers some places you need permits to enter like BuckSkin Gulch. All of the Grand Staircase /Canyons of the Escalante you need a permit if you are staying overnight ( backpacking). You can get the permit in Escalante. its free.
The terrain is unforgiving if you cant read a map. Canyons after canyons after canyons that are easy to get lost in if you arent prepared. If there are storms in the area stay out of the canyons unless you can hike on higher ground. Especially stay out of all the slot canyons during rain. Rain can be 40 miles away and still flash flood there.
The Escalante area is my favorite area. Get a lot of info. There arent many named and marked trails. The Burr trail is a good one to start with though.
Southern Utah is a whole other ballgame than say the PCT, JMT, AT and CDT. GPS's are worthless when you drop down into a canyon.
IMO death hollow is the best canyon to see in the Escalante and then maybe Choprock. Coyote gulch is pretty but full of people. As for Canyonlands the Needles, The Maze, Horshoe and Blue John Canyons are pretty awesome.
I will be there in Apr. My third two week trip there in a year