Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Aside from Arches, Canyonlands National Park was the other major attraction to see on my Moab trip. Canyonlands is a very different land than Arches.  In Arches, you look up or climb up to see most of the landmarks.  The rock formations sticking up from the ground are is due to periods of geological turmoil and uplift, plus erosion.  In Canyonlands, you look down to see the landmarks.  The Colorado and Green rivers sculpted the land lower and lower into a deep and wide canyon, from years of gravity’s exertion and erosion.  Canyonlands as actually rather similar to the Grand Canyon.

Canyonlands is located just over 30 miles from Moab, right next to Dead Horse Point State Park. Here’s a detailed, interactive map of Canyonlands, from the official park website.  You can click on the map to enlarge.  As you can see, Canyonlands is a fairly big park.  The park is actually divided in three areas: Island in the Sky, the Maze, and the Needles.  Separating the areas are the canyons carved by the Colorado and Green Rivers, which flow in a y-shaped path through the park.  In fact, the canyons are so big that you can’t cross between the areas; you need to leave the park and go around in order to get to a different area.  Most people, like me, only visit the Island in the Sky area.  If you have extra time, you can visit the Needles.  The Maze is very remote, with few marked trails, and it requires something like a 4×4 plus a hiking permit.  Canyonlands’s multiple areas is similar to the Grand Canyon’s – the North Rim and South Rim are entirely separate. 

Green River Overlook

The Green River is one of the two rivers that is responsible for carving the terrain of Canyonlands National Park.  It’s actually a tributary of the Colorado River.  One neat thing about Canyonlands is that you can see the rivers in the canyons pretty easily.  In the Grand Canyon, you need to hike pretty far in order to see the Colorado River.  Seeing the rivers up close makes it easier to understand how their forces could have sculpted these deep canyons over millions of years.

Mesa Arch

Canyonlands has its own famous Arch, Mesa Arch.  There are only a few arches in Canyonlands, as opposed to the dozens of arches in Arches.  Mesa Arch is pretty cool though, and there is a great view behind it.

There were plenty of visitors at the parks. Not nearly as many as Yellowstone, but enough. Especially neat was that many of the visitors were either French or German. Bonjour! Guten tag! It’s fun to include other visitors in your travel photos 🙂

Viewpoints Galore

There are lots of places for hiking and viewing in the Island in the Sky area.  Here are a few.  The first photo is of Candlestick Tower.  The second is of the cool dirt road you can take down the Shafer Canyon.

Grand View Point

The south end of the Island in the Sky area is Grand View Point.  It’s as close to the center of Canyonlands as you can get.  As the name suggests, there is quite a grand view of the park here.  Below you are more river gorges and canyons.  In the distance, you can see the Needles and the Maze areas of the park.

Here’s a closeup of the canyon.  All those needle-like pillars are neat.  You can see a lot more of them in the Needles area of the park. 

Here’s a panoramic view. Click on it (or on any photo) to view in full screen.

Sunset at Upheaval Dome

Upheaval Dome is located in the northwest corner of the park. It is an interesting geological landmark because there was some kind of event that flipped the layers of rock. You can see the white “salt dome” sticking out of the ground in the lower-right of the photo below.  The salt layer is supposed to be covered by many other layers of rock.  Scientists think it was either some crazy movement of the salt bed, or it an asteroid hit it. Or maybe aliens came here? 🙂

Most of my photos of Canyonlands were taken on Sunday, during the day. However, these pics from Upheaval Dome were taken on Saturday evening, after my visit to Dead Horse Point. To be honest, I didn’t pick the best spots for a sunset. But oh well, you will have to look at my sunset pics anyways 🙂

Next article topic: Arches National Park, part 2

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