Just a few more Canyons, and a couple Arches for good measure.
Canyonlands National Park is made up of three very different sections, cut off from each other by deep canyons carved by the Colorado and Green Rivers which meet in the middle. The Western corner, The Maze, is accessible only by 4×4 and remains the most remote part of the park. We spent 2 days in the Needles, the eastern end and another 2 days in Island in the Sky in the north.
The Needles gets its name very obviously from the ridge of tall spires that dominate the skyline in this part of the park. At the visitor center a helpful ranger recommended a few good hikes for us and we set out. We did an awesome 12 km loop up one canyon and back another, scrambling up over the canyon rock at the end to get a much closer view of the needles.
The small campground was full in the park but we found free camping just outside the gate on BLM land. The next morning we set out on another 12 km hike to a lookout over the area. We were rewarded with amazing views in an absolutely spectacular landscape.
On the way into the park we stopped at Newspaper Rock, an amazing amount of well preserved petroglyphs.
We left The Needles and headed to Moab, the outdoor activity centre of Utah (or so it appeared). We’d read that this area can get very busy, but were not really prepared for what we met here. Driving into town on a thursday morning was not so bad, but trying to find space to move on saturday was another matter. The town has a cool vibe though, lots of bikes, ATV’s, 4-W-drives, and anything else that moves people about outdoors. Anyway, from Moab we headed back to Canyonlands, Island in the Sky.
I’m not really sure where the name for this part comes from, I must have missed that part of the info sign. But here we were on the top on the mesa looking down at the canyons below. There were great view points and a few glimpses of the Green River.
We didn’t do any of the big walks in this part of the park (for some reason our feet were a little tired) but stuck to the lookouts and short climbs.
Luke had seen pictures of sunrise at Mesa Arch and the ranger advised we come 1-2 hours early if we wanted a spot to get a good photo. Yeah right. But turns out she was right. We got there at about 5:45, half hour before sunrise, and Luke couldn’t even see the arch there were so many people. So we tried a different spot, had the place all to ourselves and got a good shot anyway, just minus the arch.
Our next destination was just down the road, Arches National Park. We cruised in in the early afternoon and headed along the scenic drive. We had read that this park can get crazy busy, and there were a lot of people and the campground was full again, but it was ok. We easily found parking at all the viewpoints and the trails were not too crowded.
We decided to try our luck with a popular sunset arch this time, Delicate Arch. It is a 1.5 mile hike uphill to get to it, so we thought maybe it wouldn’t be too busy and set out at around 6pm once it had cooled off a bit. We were wrong to assume it wouldn’t be busy, and came around the last corner to a large crowd gathered for the event. Delicate Arch is impressive, and although we did not get a spectacular sunset it was worth the climb up.
We’d left the bigger walk for the next morning, hoping to start early before the day got too hot. So we headed back to the park gate at around 8:00, and found ourselves at the end of a mile long queue of traffic. Realizing that it was Saturday and that we didn’t actually feel like seeing anymore arches we headed further up the Colorado River along a scenic drive to some other canyons we’d read about. However, the busy day carried on and we couldn’t find anywhere to park so just enjoyed the drive along the river. It’s a beautiful area and so worth a visit, but perhaps not on the weekend.