Too Much Fun in Canyonlands National Park

Trip Start Oct 10, 2012
Trip End Oct 26, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Yesterday we headed down into the area known as Canyonlands National Park. It's a massive area, the largest national park among Utah’s five incredible national parks. We were in search of a doable trail in a park known for tough trails and otherworldly beauty found chiefly on 4-wheel drive trails or rugged, multi-day hikes.

On the way to Canyonlands, we dropped by Dead Horse Point State Park to follow up on a lead for a good trail there. We were frankly shocked at what we found! The "point" is a mesa jutting out over the same lower plateau system that makes up Canyonlands. In fact, we were looking down at the Colorado River, the famed river system that starts in Colorado, cuts through the Grand Canyon, forms Lake Powell and Lake Mead – the two largest reservoirs in the USA, before draining into the Gulf of California in Mexico.

The trail hugged the mesa rim for the first several kilometers, then cut across the mesa top through stands of pinyon pine and picturesque old snags. We decided we’ll probably bring the bus down to the “neck”, the narrowest part of the point, to pick us up after 4 kilometers, allowing time to walk in Canyonlands as well.

That turned out to be a great decision. Our next trail test was the Grand View Point Trail, at the southern tip of a section of the Canyonlands called Island in the Sky. As mentioned, Canyonlands is a big park, poorly connected by roads. The visitor really needs to focus on one section of the park at a time. Because of the super-rugged terrain, getting to another segment of the park requires a long drive on a windy network of roads.

Island in the Sky is aptly named. The geological situation is similar to Dead Horse Point, but we were delighted to discover it was even more impressive! The trail is an out and back – about a mile each way. The views were nonstop, first on the southwest side of the mesa, then on the northwest side. The valley floor 2000 feet below was flat as a pancake, but interrupted by a variety of formations rising up at intervals, and long, dark canyon fingers piercing deeper than we could see.

By the time we reached the turnaround point, we suffered from an inebriated sensation caused by an overdose of natural wonders, a giddy feeling of “I can’t believe I’m seeing what I’m seeing”. It was really unbelievable! To celebrate, we climbed on top of a pile of oversized boulders and just sat there in silence, drinking it all in: joyful, worshipful, thankful, warm inside.

Believe it or not, tour planning really is a tough job. We are “working” whenever we are awake, and our nights are often too short. There is far too much to review and test in the time we have, and never enough time to document what we learn. It’s the kind of work one must do at intervals, with time off to rest as soon as a project is finished.

But this trip has really been a highly compensating delight, an indescribable delight in Unbelievable Utah!
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Tink McTaggart on

Please, Dan, do not take any more steps at Dead Horse Point or they might have to rename the site!

friesendm on

ha ha - pretty funny Tink. We tried a new trail in Canyonlands yesterday that was equally "stimulating". Pretty amazing place!

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