Road Trip-Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona: Part 2 Canyonlands National Park

Last week I told you guys all about the beginning of our 2017 road trip with our first main stop being Arches National Park. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, head on over to see some of our favorite spots in the park. (Click Here)

Moab, Utah: Canyonlands National Park

Road Trip Day 4

After hiking over 11 miles in Arches NP on Day 3, and spending my first night in a tent, I woke up a bit sore and tired. I was certain every noise I heard during the night was some sort of creature coming to attack us. But I survived! It was nice and cool as we got up, made breakfast and got ready for the day. We left our site up, paid for another night, loaded up our cooler with drinks, sandwiches and snacks and got the day started. We would be exploring the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park and had a lot of ground to cover. Canyonlands NP is the largest park in Utah with over 335,000 acres. There are over 115 miles of hiking trails and 20 miles of paved roads at the Island in the Sky District. There is a $25 entry fee, but we used our America the Beautiful pass to get in free.

Just across from the visitors center is the first spectacular view-Shafer Overlook. Take the short easy trail to the overlook and then go slightly right to Gooseneck Overlook and just look down at the crazy winding road below. Would you drive that? I would be an absolute nervous wreck!! What a view! I could have sat there all day. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was the first of many spots that had me feeling that way on this trip. It was the beginning of discovering an inner peace inside me that I didn’t know was missing and didn’t know how much I needed.

The view from inside Mesa Arch

Next up was Mesa Arch. This was fun because it’s not all that big and you could actually sit inside it. It is right on the edge so if you go with kids, keep them close. They don’t allow climbing or standing on top of the arch because of how close it is to the edge and to protect it (and you) but you can sit inside for some fun pictures. It’s an easy half mile hike so anyone can do it.

We continued on to Buck Canyon Overlook which brought more breathtaking views before stopping at White Rim Overlook and taking the easy trail there. We heading over to Grand Viewpoint which is one of the best views of the entire park. This is where the name Island in the Sky comes from. There was a park ranger giving a talk and answering questions when we got there so that was fun and informative. We took off onto the trail for some more up close views. My mom is scared of heights but even she could have done this trail. You can stay away from the edge and still see some great views. Or, you can walk right up to the edge and feel your stomach drop just a bit as you look down. Even those who are unafraid of heights might scoot back just a bit once they get close. It’s a loooong way down! It was such a freeing feeling to be that high up and that close to the edge staring into the vastness of Creation. To let go of fear, to count my blessings and take in the beauty around me was just what I needed.

It’s somewhat overwhelming to realize how small you are in comparison to the earth. You can see for miles and miles and there is nothing-no buildings, no people, no cars, no high line wires or radio towers. We just stood there and stared out into the openness admiring the work of the Colorado and the Green River as they have cut through and shaped the canyons. I couldn’t comprehend the size and dimensions of what I was looking at. It was incredible.

We made our way back up the road and stopped at Green River Overlook where you get a great view of the river and then at the Whale Rock Overlook before making our way back to Upheaval Dome. There are two theories about Upheaval Dome. One is that it is a salt dome pushed up by the layering rocks. The second is that it is a crater from a meteor. Either way, it was a really cool thing to see and worth the hike to get to it.

Chancing admiring the view at Upheaval Dome

Aztec Butte was on our way out and after a long day and over 10 miles of hiking we decided to skip that hike. If we go back, this is one we will definitely do. I’d also like to camp inside the park. It is known for its night sky. Canyonlands NP is much less crowded than Arches or the Grand Canyon and definitely worth your time to make the trip. It feels like a hidden treasure.

We got back to our campsite and as I mentioned in Part 1, the camping facilities are minimal with no showers. After 2 days of hiking we were desperate for a shower. Slick Rock Campground was nearby and allows outsiders to pay $6 to come use their bathhouse. You can take as long as you want, it doesn’t run out of hot water and there is electricity if you want to blow dry your hair, which I did. That was the best $12 we spent on the entire trip! We made dinner on our Coleman stove, started a fire and just enjoyed the rest of the evening stargazing at the campsite. What a beautiful spot we got to stay at. We highly recommend Goose Island Campground, Site #17.

Check back for Part 3 covering Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley.

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