Look up, look down: The highs and lows at Canyonlands

Highs and lows at Canyonlands National Park

Highs and lows at Canyonlands National Park

When friends knew we were embarking on a tour of Utah’s national parks, several told us, “Each park is different!”  And we remember thinking that red rocks are red rocks, so surely that’s not true.  But one mile into Canyonlands assured us it was.  Our first stop, Arches, wowed us with carved-by-the-wind openings and unimaginable vistas.  But Canyonlands offered above- and below-ground splendors entirely different.

Many viewing points allow you to see into the distance as well as into the deep crevices at Canyonlands.

Many viewing points allow you to see into the distance as well as into the deep crevices at Canyonlands.

The Colorado and Green rivers take credit for much of the creation of Canyonlands‘ formations.  But wind and natural erosion of layered sandstone have above-ground and below-ground beauty that is remarkably different from any other national park.  Because we’re not as hale and hearty as we once were, we mostly see national parks from our car windows and the well-marked designated trails, like those offered in the Islands in the Sky area of Canyonlands, a park that boasts over 20 miles of paved road leading to scenic vistas.

Looking up, we could see buttes from miles away:  towering, sometimes lone formations that reach to the sky, forming “monuments” of enormous size and scope.

Rugged land, some vegetation lead your eyes to the main attraction: the buttes of Canyonlands.

Rugged land, some vegetation lead your eyes to the main attraction: the buttes of Canyonlands.

We found more “up top” beauty by taking a short hike to one of the most photographed spots in Canyonlands:  Mesa Arch. And it was there that we found we were not alone!  (The word is out, by the way, that this is the spot to see, if you only see one.)

You have to wait your turn for a shot at Mesa Arch, but it's worth it!

You have to wait your turn for a shot at Mesa Arch, but it’s worth it!

But just as we found to be true at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, if you wait your turn, you can either pose for the folks back home or you can hold on to the spot so your partner can snag an “unpeopled”  shot. It took us about half an hour, but we did both!

Beautiful Mesa Arch at Canyonlands.

Beautiful Mesa Arch at Canyonlands.

You can even move in closely to see what’s on the other side.  Worth it!

Looking through Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park

Looking through Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park

To continue our tour along the route suggested in the Canyonlands brochure you can pick up at the Visitor Center, we hiked the Shafer Canyon area, along with families, lovers, and thrill seekers, anxious to climb the structures.

Climbing the rocks at Canyonlands

Climbing the rocks at Canyonlands

And some who braved it more than others, edging outward on any jut-out available. It’s a thrill you can’t find just anywhere, of course.

Just like the commercials: lovers sealing it with a kiss in Canyonlands!

Just like the commercials: lovers sealing it with a kiss in Canyonlands!

For a “look down” view of Canyonlands, we drove to the area known as Grand View Point where standing in awe at our own smallness and focusing on distant landscapes meant that we needed to stay a while.  It was a view, for us at least, reminiscent of our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon — a stare-down, if you will, into the interior of the earth. And a spot where you naturally think of your own place in the universe, albeit a small one.

Looking out and down at Grand View Point, Canyonlands

Looking out and down at Grand View Point, Canyonlands

It’s here at Grand View Point that sandstone monuments rise from finger-like chasms knows as Monument Basin, and old trails wind their way around the openings.  It’s a “look down” we won’t forget!

Canyonlands supports all that our friends told us and more:  It really isn’t like any other national park.  And just maybe, it has the most to offer with its highs and lows. It’s definitely worth a visit, so take advantage of its can’t-beat hours:  open year-round, 24 hours a day.

Capturing the "lows" of Canyonlands -- a selfie with the canyons in the background!

Capturing the “lows” of Canyonlands — a selfie with the canyons in the background!

We’re hoping for a return trip.  And if we go back, we’ll be staying ’til dark.  After all, we’ve heard the view of the night sky from Canyonlands is the best anywhere in North America. We gotta see that!

Friends were right: Canyonlands is unique -- and different from any other national park. Don't miss the highs and lows you'll find here.

Friends were right: Canyonlands is unique — and different from any other national park. Don’t miss the highs and lows you’ll find here.

For more information:

Canyonlands National Park official website: https://www.nps.gov/cany/index.htm

Visit Moab/Canyonlands website: http://www.discovermoab.com/canyonlandsnationalpark.htm

Tips:

  • No lodging is available in Canyonlands.  We recommend a stay in Moab, about 32 miles from the entrance to the park.
  • For boomer travelers:  Islands in the Sky region is easily navigable by car.  Hiking to scenic spots is quite “doable,” but some trails may have slippery sand or elevated stairs.  A walking still makes a great companion.
  • For photographers:  Sunrise and sunset are the best times for photographing the red rocks at any of the Utah national parks.  And you’ll love a telephoto lens to catch the distant vistas.

For more posts on Utah’s national parks, visit our Travel Series:  We Saw Utah!

 

About Oh, the Places We See

Met at University of Tennessee, been married for 47 years, and still passionate about travel whether we're volunteering with Habitat Global Village, combining work at Discovery with pleasure, or just seeing the world. Hope you'll join us as we try to see it all while we can!
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10 Responses to Look up, look down: The highs and lows at Canyonlands

  1. Amazing, Rusha! We were at Arches in May — not enough time to see that and Canyonlands both. But now I want to go back and see Canyonlands. Fantiastic photos!

  2. K. Leigh says:

    Wow! Some beautiful photos! Must have been a great experience with breathtaking views.

  3. HesterLeyNel says:

    My stomach plunged when I saw the “sealing with a kiss” photo, but the views from up there must be breathtaking.

  4. Vandy Leake says:

    Really takes your breath away! Plus your descriptions make it come alive and see what I didn’t see at first.

  5. dawnkinster says:

    I’ve been to Bryce, Arches, Zion…but never Canyonlands. Obviously I need to remedy that.

  6. Jodi says:

    Beautiful! Just returned from AZ where we viewed the beauty of red rocks in Sedona!!

  7. Two favorites of Peggy and mine for sure, Rusha. Glad you have been able to discover how unique each of Utah’s National Parks is. Seeing those roads down in Canyonlands made me think I wanted to be on them. Maybe next time we go, we will take our four wheel dive pickup! 🙂 Thanks for the reminders on the beauty of Utah. –Curt

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