Miles driven: 278.8
Miles hiked: 5.3+
I camped outside of town last night and awoke slightly after 6:30 this morning before heading back into town. I meant to get gas while I was in town last night, but completely spaced out and forgot about it. Canyonlands’ closest entry point is 31 miles from Moab and since I knew nothing about the park, I wanted to make sure I had enough gas to get there, drive around, and get back.
The biggest thing I noticed was the lack of people. There was almost no one at all in the park compared to Arches. Every place I stopped had ample parking, with the exception of Upheaval Dome, which I had to circle around twice waiting for a spot to open. I only did the Island in the Sky area of the park, as the second entrance for The Needles area is almost 100 miles away from where I entered. There’s also a section called The Maze, but it’s very remote and the only roads out there are for four wheel drive vehicles.
My first stop was the Shafer Trail Overlook. This is a 4×4 road that goes down into the canyons and leads out to the White Rim Road, a 100-mile long road that follows the white rims of the canyon. I’ve seen pictures people have taken from the trail and it looks awesome, but Henrietta would not be able to make the drive. The trail itself reminds me a lot of the Moki Dugway. Google for pictures of the Shafer Trail, as the view from the overlook does not compare.
It’s an interesting drive through the park, as almost every stop focuses on the canyons, but the drive itself is entirely plains.
Next stop was the Mesa Arch, a very easy 0.5 mile hike out to the arch I’ve seen on tons of postcards. The second picture of the arch below looks like dragon skin to me.
From there, I headed down to the Grand View Point Overlook, a fairly easy 2.0 mile hike along the rim of the canyon. It’s hard to capture the depth and magnitude of what you’re looking at in photographs. There’s a bulldozer in one of the pictures, but it’s impossible to see except in the original picture size; that’s how small it looks compared to everything else.
Next I headed over to Whale Rock, a 1.0 mile hike up a huge rock (kinda looks like a whale… imagine that).
Just around the corner from Whale Rock is Upheaval Dome, which was by far the most crowded of all the stops in the park. There’s an 8.3 mile loop around the entire area, but I was not feeling it. Instead, I just did the two overlooks which is only about 1.8 miles. There was a really awesome tree at the first overlook. I’ve seen a lot of cool trees in the past few days.
My last stop was at the Green River Overlook. It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but the river is green, if you didn’t guess. I’m not sure what causes it, as I didn’t read all the information boards (assuming one of them said why).
It seems like most of the stuff in Canyonlands is more for those who have offroad vehicles. In most of the pictures you can see the 100-mile White Rim Road and it gets so close to all of the places in the park. The Maze is another thing that would be awesome to see, just based on the name, but Henrietta is not a Jeep. Oddly enough, I did sell my Jeep to build her.
I ended up driving over to Capitol Reef National Park later in the evening. I got there around sunset, and although it was sometimes blinding to drive with the sun kicking my eyes’ asses (yes, my eyes have asses), it was an extremely beautiful drive through the park. Capitol Reef is a narrow, but tall park, so the drive across it is less than 30 miles. I drove all the way through the park just to get an idea of what was there and got gas on the opposite side before driving back and camping out at a small parking area just outside the East side of the park.