Our Return To Canyonlands National Park
Designated as one of the Mighty Five in Southern Utah, Canyonlands is 337,598 acres of breathtaking canyons, buttes, mesas, and arches. Canyonlands National Park is divided into four districts: Island in the Sky, The Maze, The Needles, and The River (Colorado and Green). On our most recent visit we spent a day in Island in the Sky, the district closest to our home base in Moab.
Bill and I first visited Canyonlands National Park in 1983 at the beginning of our two-week camping trip across the US when we moved from grad school in Utah back home to Virginia. I had done little research prior to our return visit and quite frankly, didn’t remember the park as well as Arches; however, once in Utah, we scoured through the national park visitor guide and created our itinerary on the spot.
Island In The Sky
Island in the Sky is a huge mesa standing 1,000 feet above the surrounding land. Views from the mesa to the various canyons are stunning and most vistas are easily accessed by a car. The highlights of Island in the Sky can easily be enjoyed by taking a 34-mile drive around the district with minimal hiking necessary to take in many of the sights.
Marveling At Shafer Canyon Overlook
Our first stop after the visitor’s center was Shafer Canyon Overlook where no hiking was required. We marveled at the size and depth of the canyon, and were grateful for the protective fence; something not present at all of the overlooks.
Looking into the canyon from a slightly different perspective, we were envious of the mountain bikers, yet happy that we didn’t have to make the long strenuous climb up and out of there. With a little research, we learned that the road is 18-miles long and quite dangerous with its many tight switchbacks and sheer cliffs. Apparently, it’s not for the faint of heart and I would do much better hiking or running than driving or biking.
Running At Mesa Arch On Global Running Day
Our next stop was at the trailhead of Mesa Arch where we were immediately treated to pink blooming cacti.
A short hike (.5 mile roundtrip) took us past interesting desert views…
Soon we were treated to the beautiful Mesa Arch. We arrived at a time when there were many other tourists visiting and milling around, but patience is a virtue and after a while we were practically alone and easily captured our pictures without being in the way of others.
The arch is precariously perched at the edge of a sheer cliff and without any sort of railing we were very careful as we approached the edge.
I was grateful for the ability to extend my selfie stick forward to capture the drop-off beyond the arch.
Washer Woman Rock and La Sal Mountains in the distance…
The day we visited Canyonlands National Park, just happened to be the first Wednesday in June which is annually Global Running Day. Resting after my Grand Teton’s Half just four days earlier, I didn’t plan on any significant runs while in Southern Utah; however, how could any self-respecting runner girl skip running on such a big day? To satisfy my itch, I ran a few strides back and forth in front of the arch for an epic trail running photo!
Green River Overlook
Next up was a quick stop at the Green River Overlook for a picture…
Stopping At Buck Canyon Overlook
And Buck Canyon Overlook for another quick picture…
A Hike To Upheaval Dome
Around 5 PM we pulled up to the parking lot at the trailhead to Upheaval Dome. Again, we were treated to blooming cacti, this time in yellow. We checked out the map and saw that we had a choice of either a .8 or 1.8-mile roundtrip hike and decided we’d make the determination as to whether to go on or not once we got to the first overlook.
The Upheaval Dome hike is considered a moderately difficult trail due to it’s steep nature. Stairs carved into the landscape help gain elevation without ruining the natural scenery. Interesting rock formations and trees dot the dusty trail making for a lovely hike.
Upheaval Dome is a unique geological feature, possibly the remnant of a meteorite strike.
And of course, Bill was in his glory with so many photographic opportunities!
Holes In The Ground
While leaving one of the overlooks, I heard a teenager tell his mom, “I’d rather eat a plate of fried rice than see another hole in the ground.” Apparently he didn’t like fried rice and was getting bored of stopping to see so many canyons. I couldn’t help but smile…
Final Thoughts On Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands is a beautiful park, but we didn’t get a full feel for it’s beauty and wide expanse since we were only able to visit one of the four districts. We’re already dreaming of an extended trip so we can visit the other Magical Five parks and return to explore more of Canyonlands.
- Have you visited Canyonlands National Park or have you visited any of the other parks that make up the Magical Five?
- Would you rather do an active vacation or a spa-type vacation?
- Which is your favorite National Park?