Canyonlands is another of Utah’s incredible national parks and another look at the geological results of the Colorado and Green Rivers’ relentless downhill flow to the sea. In a sense, part of Canyonlands is simply a prequel to the Grand Canyon. The Green and the Colorado cut deeply through the red sandstone as they meander southwest, creating precipitous canyon walls and an otherwordly landscape. The rock exposed by the rivers and the subsequent uplift of the American West has been further molded into fanciful and unusual shapes by the forces of erosion, specifically wind and rain. Thus, we have a beautiful and interesting collection of needles and spires, mesas and buttes. What a place!
The park is actually divided, physically, into three districts: The Maze is a fairly inaccessible area, far from existing public roads and is really only available to off-road vehicles or boats; The Needles is the most southerly district, characterized by thousands of upright stone monoliths, huddled close together; Island in the Sky is the most visited and most convenient of the districts. It is also the most well-developed area, with miles of paved roads. We visited two of the districts on our recent trip to eastern Utah.
On our visit to the Needles, we walked the Pothole Point Trail to get this view of needles.
Our favorite stop in the Needles District was at the Wooden Shoe Overlook where we got this excellent view of an intriguing arch.
The vistas were more expansive and more memorable at the Island in the Sky District. Here we first stopped at Grand View Point which offers dramatic evidence of the action of rivers on sandstone.
We walked the trail to Upheaval Dome to see evidence of a salt intrusion into the sandstone (you can tell by the colors of the rock).
Our favorite observation point in this district was the Green River Overlook, where we could actually see one of the engineers of this wonderful landscape, cutting through a canyon.
At Shafer Canyon we were able to see one of the many unpaved roads in the park which lead into the canyons.
Not for the faint of heart!