Best of Canyonlands National Park

      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.

Needles in the Needles District

      Our favorite stop in the Needles District was at the Wooden Shoe Overlook where we got this excellent view of an intriguing arch.

Wooden Shoe

     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.

Grand View Point Overlook

   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).

Upheaval Dome

    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.

Green River View

    At Shafer Canyon we were able to see one of the many unpaved roads in the park which lead into the canyons.

Shafer Road

   Not for the faint of heart!

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About gmazeman

Retired Science Teacher Currently Athletic Director at Johnston High School Travel is my passion!
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1 Response to Best of Canyonlands National Park

  1. hemp says:

    ………..Canyonlands is a large national park near Moab Utah that contains rugged canyons red rock spires and rushing waters. The Colorado and Green Rivers naturally divide the park into three districts Island in the Sky Needles and the Maze. Although each district shares the same climate each is completely different and offers exciting and unique experiences for visitors. Canyonlands offers hiking biking and 4×4 trails and has very good road systems for the less adventurous to take in Mother Nature s majesty. Thrill seekers can also raft through the rapids contained in the park s two rushing rivers. . .The Needles District is located about an hour and a half south of Moab and is separated from the Island in the Sky by the Colorado River. This section of the park received its name from the dominant Cedar Mesa Sandstone spires that dot the landscape. Unlike the Island in the Sky the Needles District does not look down into canyons. Rather it meanders straight through some impressive rock formations. The Needles District even has a handful of arches much like those seen in Arches National Park except these in Canyonlands are much more remote. . .First time visitors should first take a drive to the Big Spring Canyon Overlook at the terminus of the Needles road system. There are a number of other good pullovers alongside the roads with some great views of the surrounding rock formations. Also be sure to also take a drive on the three-mile long dirt road to Elephant Hill which offers some good vistas to the far off Needles. .A number of good and short trails include Slickrock and Roadside Ruin which leads to ancestral Puebloan ruins like those seen in in Colorado. The most popular hiking trail of greater length is the Chesler Park Viewpoint trail which is six miles roundtrip and takes hikers through some towering spires. In all there are over 60 miles of trails in the Needles on top of an extensive network of four-wheel drive roads..

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