Canyonlands National Park

Vistas millions of years in the making

September 23, 2019

Filed under: southwest-usa

Canyonlands National Park is an enormous park, one of the biggest, in fact. The park is divided into four sections: Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the Colorado River, which unfortunately are not connected by paved roads. We only had one day to spend at the park, so we explored the closest area to Moab, Island in the Sky.

We were able to do a few shorter hikes where we saw some fascinating formations and arches.

Salt Dome canyon at Canyonlands

Canyonlands canyons

Canyonlands canyons

In Canyonlands, we had our first encounters with cairns, the small stacks of rocks used to mark desert hiking trails. Cairns add a sense of adventure to your hikes, as you have to keep an eye out for them in order to stay on the path and avoid wandering off into the desert.

During the drive between our morning and afternoon hikes, we stopped at many scenic overlooks and basked in the unbelievable vistas. We also even did a little bit of an off-trail hike to get some epic photos of a huge canyon.

Canyonlands canyons

For that photo, we were sitting at the very edge of an immense boulder which has eroded away from the canyon wall and is balancing on a small ledge, waiting for water to finish its work and send it to the canyon floor a couple thousand feet below. To get to it, you have to leap over the now 3-foot gap, which makes you feel like Tom Cruise. Supposedly, the rock is occasionally used for wedding ceremonies and vow renewals -- truly a unique place for taking a leap of faith.

One of the most popular activities at Canyonlands is an easy hike to a nearly 360-degree panorama. While the panorama is spectacular, even more astounding is walking along the edge of a cliff to get there. It's not the craziest hike of our trip, but certainly among the most hair-raising.

Canyonlands canyons

Continuing with our desert habits, we once again completed our outdoors exploring and adventures by mid-afternoon, and headed into Moab where we hung out at the excellent Moab Public Library for fast wifi and recharging our electronics. We also went to the local gym so we could shower. It was not nearly as luxurious as the Kodachrome showers but still a welcome opportunity to clean ourselves of a few days of sweat and dust.

That night we ate at a diner which was highly recommended online, but was just ok. We immediately returned to our futuristic grocery store to buy food to cook the next night at our campsite, vowing to avoid being disappointed by additional Moab eateries. Instead, we would attempt grilling steak for our final night of camping...