Canyonlands National Park

Hiking Canyonlands National Park

We went to Moab, Utah in the spring of 2008, and spent our days hiking in the high plains/desert as well as the deep canyons. We went from cold barren areas where hail and snow fell on us to the hot desert sun warming us.

The two National Parks, Arches and Canyonlands are parks worthy of your life list of places to see. The parks are different yet so close to each other. Walk among the rocks and you will feel as small as an ant and realize your lifetime is nothing compared to the massive mesas, buttes, fins and spires that soar above you. You are walking through history – from the petroglyph’s to ancient ocean fossils to the pieces of red rock the size of a house clinging on only by gravity.

Yet that snow that fell on us was bringing forth the early flowers of a desert spring. The colors would grab your eyes. The thing that played upon my eyes is how hard it is to judge distance in the high desert. What looks to be a mile across is maybe a 1/4 mile – the colors of the rocks and shrubs/flowers toy with your eyes.

And there is little like slickrock. You feel superhuman as you walk on it. It really is enjoyable to not slide on algae encrusted rocks for once. At home here in the PNW I don’t ever trust walking on rock – it shifts, moves or you slide on it. An awesome hike is Delicate Arch in Arches – the slickrock section of the trail would be a scramble at home, yet there you walk right down the rock like you are on a sidewalk. It is an incredibly harsh, yet awe-inspiring area.

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Island In The Sky
Island In The Sky is the section of Canyonlands NP that is close to Moab. It is located on a paved road a shy 30 miles in from the highway and about 10 miles out-of-town. It is a remote park – it sits high on a plateau with a couple of roads covering the main parts of that section. It is also where one of the entrances to the White Rim Road is as well as passing Dead Horse Point State Park a few miles before the park. There are though a nice campground, vast vistas and nice picnic areas on top of the many trails. It is very windy though being what it is: an island up high with no mountains nearby to stop the wind and nothing for shade. But totally gorgeous.

The Merrimack and Monitor buttes, which sit on BLM land. For those who wonder, they were named after the Civil War era ships due to their shape. Kirk quizzed me as we drove up and I got it right on why they were called that. Hah! Thank you Military Channel….

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Looking down at The Neck (Shafer Road) which connects to the White Rim Road (Jeep trail) down below. Kirk has done the White Rim before.

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Hence why it is called White Rim….Looking out at the La Sal Mountains.

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A much younger Ford checking out the edge.

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A short but steep trail of steps and dirt takes you to a slickrock viewpoint.

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Looking down the trail.

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The Upheaval Dome:

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Another view:

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Walking a backbone ridge of slickrock.

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Ford on the “trail” across the slickrock:

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Even in small rocks arches form. This rock was about 1/2 the size of Ford:

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Looking out across the White Rim. The road follows the rim – what appears to be a “road” in the photo is a wash.

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Looking over the edge, a straight 1,500 ft drop to the floor of the rim.

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Looking down at The Neck. Far down you can see four trucks, two going up, two going down.

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Needles District
Our day started by walking out to freezing temperatures. Within a couple of miles out-of-town we encountered snow on the ground that got heavier as we drove towards the Needle District. It was around 28*. But oddly, not far past Newspaper Rock the snow just quit and the temps went up. From that point on it was blue skies.

On the way to Needles you pass Wilson Arch on the side of Hwy 191. It is being built up near it, as it sits near private land.

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Snow covering much of the land.

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Looking at the mountains in the distance as we approach Needles District.

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Petroglyphs:

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Another view:

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Covered in snow, with better weather coming:

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Ruins of a granary.

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Close up of the granary under the rock outcropping.

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Rocks with small “mushroom caps”:

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Potholes of water, from the melting snow:

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Designs on a massive rock, near a wash:

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Looking across to the Needles as a rain system moves in fast:

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Going down the road to Elephant Hill. Kirk has done Elephant Hill as well, and well…from his vivid description of it? Nooo thanks. I’ll sit out on that one!

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On our way home (a nice 1100 miles or so) we crossed Soldier Summit on Hwy 6 where we encountered temperatures of 21* and blowing snow. A bit white knuckled driving it in a sedan but once down in the Salt Lake Basin the sun came out to gorgeous weather all the way home. We took the Mercedes for its great gas mileage and was not disappointed by any means 😉

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