My core goal during our mini-vacation in Moab was to visit Arches National Park… Canyonlands for some reason just wasn’t on my radar. We ended up arriving in Moab sooner than we expected, so we decided to spend the late afternoon at Canyonlands. To say I have no regrets about it would be an understatement.
We chose the Island in the Sky portion of the park, as it is much closer to Moab. For those not familiar- Canyonlands essentially consists of ‘The Island in The Sky’ in the North and ‘The Needles’ further South. Dead Horse Point State Park forks off from the entrance to Island in The Sky, but does have separate entry fees since it is not a national park (which is why we choose not to go there in our short window of time).
The drive into the park itself was stunning. Even if you’re not one for hiking, the drive is well worth the dramatic views and overlooks that you’re rewarded with. However, if you get squeamish with heights it might not be the thing for you. Since our exploration time was dependent on daylight we decided to hit the infamous Mesa arch first. It’s beautiful and only takes 10-15 minutes to reach, I’ll give it that. But the crowds (all conversing in seemingly different languages) were enough to make me want to leave quickly after capturing a few pictures.
Our second destination was Grand View Point, at the southern-most part of the upper rim. It’s title is appropriate, as you get an unrivaled view of Monument Basin, Junction Butte, and Murphy Range (check out my map links below to know where to look for all of these). A lot of tourists simply go to the Grand View Point drive-up overlook and then head back to their vehicles. In my opinion, you don’t truly experience the beauty of the overlook if you do this. Take the full wilderness trail out to the very end. It’s about an hour and a half to do the whole hike, and offers little shade, so make sure you have your hats and hydration ready. It’s 100% worth it…I promise. You can break up the hike too by chilling out at the overlook for a bit, because who wouldn’t want to stare at a breath-taking Apple screensaver for a bit?
Make sure to check out all the neat overlooks scattered throughout the park as well. It’s a great way to break up your hikes while still exploring. Two of my favorites were Shafer Canyon Overlook (sometimes you can watch Jeeps wind their way down into the canyon from here) and White Rim overlook.
I’m already planning my agenda for my next visit to Canyonlands:
- Check out Upheaval Dome trails
- Visit Dead Horse State Park
- Journey to the lower rim if I’m feeling really ambitious!
Dead Horse State Park Information– you’ll want to check here for entry fees, trails etc.
Island in the Sky Trails – great visual of the trails and overlook points along with the length and hike time
National Park Service Site – your go-to site for Canyonlands
Video of Canyonlands – so pretty it makes me want to cry, all credit to the original creator