Canyonlands National Park

canyonlands 001During one of our days in Utah we drove down to Canyonlands National Park.  Canyonlands has three distinct areas, with three different entrances into the national park (Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze).  The Colorado and Green Rivers cause this division.  Each entrance is at least two hours away from the other entrances and you can’t get to each part of the park unless you go into the entrance for that part.  We decided to go to the most accessible (and busiest) part of Canyonlands:  Island in the Sky.

Upheaval Dome - note the rocks sticking up in the middle
Upheaval Dome – note the rocks sticking up in the middle

Island in the Sky  – a broad mesa wedged between the Green and Colorado Rivers – is one long road with many viewpoints and several hiking trails along the way.  We started at the Visitor Center, which is the first thing you encounter along the road.  Then we drove to the northwest end of the viewing road – Upheaval Dome.  Upheaval Dome is an anticline (a bulge) surrounded by a syncline (a slope).  Geologists are not sure what caused the Dome but it looked like a meteor impact to us.  The difference is that there are spires of rock reaching up in the middle of what should be a crater.

The Green River
The Green River

Our next stop was the Green River Overlook.  From 1,000 feet up we could see the Green River winding through a canyon carved in the sandstone on the mesa below.  On the other side of the Green River canyon, we could see The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Our third stop of the day was the Grand View Point Overlook.  From the Overlook we could see the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers.  We could also see OHVs and bicyclists far below riding along the White Rim Road along of the Colorado River.  We hiked the two mile Overlook Trail and had amazing views of the canyons everywhere we looked.

Mesa Arch
Mesa Arch

We finished our visit at Island in the Sky by hiking the short loop trail to Mesa Arch.  This is a pothole arch that sits on the edge of a sheer cliff.  Many people were climbing on it to get their picture taken but it was too steep a drop for me.  I contented myself with taking some pictures with other people in them.

Tom says he’s not driving down that road!
Colorado River – if you look closely you can see the White Rim Road
The confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers – somewhere
The view from Shafer Canyon Overlook

We didn’t stay a long time at Island in the Sky but we saw most of the views and did a few hikes.  There is no food or water at Canyonlands, even in the Visitor Center, and the campground at Island in the Sky would not accommodate our big rig, so we looked a lot and hiked a little and then left.  The good restaurants and interesting shops in Moab were calling.