Canyonlands National Park

Location: west of Moab, Utah
Date: April 15, 2011

The view southeast from Grand View Point

Canyonlands National Park in the desert of southeastern Utah encompasses the complex array of canyons formed out of the Colorado Plateau around the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers before flowing south into what was Glen Canyon (now Lake Powell).  The rivers divide the landscape into three major sections: Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze.  Popular activities in the park include driving and biking the backcountry roads, rock climbing, taking river trips, and hiking.

The view from the Green River Viewpoint

Only the the Island in the Sky and the Needles are easily accessible from the north and east, respectively.  The paved roads in these two sections remain atop the plateaus while several unpaved 4-wheel drive roads descend into the canyons.  The White Rim trail in the Island in the Sky is a 100 mile dirt road around the mid-elevations in this section.

Upheaval Dome

I only visited the Island in the Sky section because it is fairly close to Moab, while the Needles section is over a 100 mile drive from the Island in the Sky.  This section has many overlooks into the canyons below.  My favorite were Green River Overlook and  Grand View Point Overlook.

The Schafer Trail descending into the canyons

Mesa Arch
The trail to Mesa Arch is very short (0.5 mile round trip) trail to a natural arch on the edge of a cliff.  While I did not find the arch itself that interesting, the setting of the arch is perhaps the best of all the natural arches and bridges I have seen, being only comparable to Delicate Arch.

Mesa Arch

Grand View Point
The Grand View Point trail is a flat two mile round trip trail to southern tip of the mesa in the Island in the Sky section.  The view from here spans in all directions and encompasses the Colorado and Green river canyons.

The view from Grand View Point

Whale Rock
The whale rock trail is a one mile round trip trail to the top of a massive 100 foot tall rock just off of the road.   There was not anything special about this trail other than walking up a big rock, similar to what you see all over Arches National Park.

Upheaval Dome
Upheaval Dome is a large crater in the northwest corner of the park with a dome(ish) mound in the middle.  The origin of this crater is not certain, but the predominant theory is that it is the result of an asteroid impact.  To see Upheaval Dome you must hike a trail that is one mile round trip to the edge of the crater.  It is a further one mile round trip to a second and even better viewpoint.  There is also a trail that goes 8+ miles around the crater rim as well as to dome in the center.

Upheaval Dome

There is much more to Canyonlands National Park, requiring more time as well as travel to the backcountry.  Just to the northeast of the park is the very popular Dead Horse Point State Park, while Arches National Park is also nearby.

The view east from near Grand View Point

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.


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