This Utah trip has consisted of many firsts for me, including this visit to Canyonlands National Park. This park is unique in how many different, yet related, sections there are. My mom, Aunt Frances, and I kept marveling at how the land would change from flat pastures to the deepest canyons. The park map says, “Canyonlands preserves a wilderness of rock at the heart of the Colorado Plateau. Water and gravity, this lands prime architects, cut flat layers of sedimentary rock into hundreds of canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires.” There are three main sections of Canyonlands: Island in the Sky, the Maze, and the Needles.
Dead Horse Point State Park
This isn’t technically part of Canyonlands but it’s along the same road so it’s worth a stop. Since it’s a state park there’s a 15$ entrance fee. The park name comes from a legend in which cowboys used this area as a corral for wild horses. They then picked the best of the bunch, and left the rest to die from thirst in the corral for unknown reasons. In the park there’s a large visitors center with a museum and shop. If you take the road all the way, you see the money shot where the water makes a picturesque U-turn.
We spent most of our time in the Island of the Sky section of Canyonlands. This area has a popular Mesa Arch. The hiking trail to the arch is easy and well maintained. It’s about two miles there and back. It’s a cool arch because it sits on the side of a cliff and allows you to walk right up to it and see the rest of the valley beyond. Being afraid of heights, I was pretty uncomfortable standing right next to it. I didn’t realize just how close the steep drop-off was until I got too close for comfort.
Island in the Sky
Quite soon after the Mesa Arch trailhead, the road forks. We took the fork to the right in search of the Island in the Sky. There’s a small turnout on the road before the Holeman Spring Canyon Overlook that’s a great picture spot. This spot gets its name for the times of year when the fog rolls into the canyon and only the tips of the tallest rocks can be seen jutting out of the top. It requires a bit of imagination, but you can picture how stunning it would look when the fog does roll in.
We didn’t have time to drive every last road in the park, but what I did see of Canyonlands was impressive. I would definitely love to come back and explore the Maze and even see the Needles. Though I hear that those ones are typically only seen by backpackers willing to spend many nights out there.
Have you been to Canyonlands? What was your favorite part? If you haven’t been, what are you most excited to see when there?