A day trip to Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

After I had visited Arches National Park, the next day I decided to visit Canyonlands National Park.  It was the 31st National Park when it was established in September 1964.

I had been staying in Moab and so it was only a 35 minute drive to the park.  The entrance fee for this park is $25 but I had my annual pass bought for $80, worth the fee if you are visiting a few parks.

There are two parts of the park which are not joined and I decided to see the area near Moab which is the Island in the Sky (this is also covers the largest area).  I firstly stopped at the visitors centre to get my map and find out what there is to see in the area. I only had till mid afternoon to explore, as after this I was driving down to Williams where I would be based to see the Grand Canyon.  This was a 400 mile drive which would take around 6 and a half hours!! Luckily Arizona is an hour behind Utah so I had an extra hour to see the park!!

My first stop was Shafer Canyon Overlook, here you can park up and walk out onto the rock and see the view of the Canyon, it is an amazing view from here and one that made my instantly fall in love with this park.

Shafer Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

Shafer Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

I could have stayed here forever looking at this view, it’s stunning.  From near here you can also see the Shafer Trail road, this is a road where you will need a 4×4 and can actually drive into the canyon.  Once down there, there are lots of trails that you can do from 1 day to over a week.  There are also various campgrounds along the trail, though you will need to take your own water in with you.

Next I drove to Upheaval Dome, here it is a 1 mile hike to the first viewpoint, with the option of another mile hike to the second viewpoint.  It’s quite uneven ground but there is a path to follow and not too tough of a hike.

Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

They believe that Upheaval dome is an eroded impact crater caused by the impact of a meteorite somewhere around 60 million years ago.  The white rock in the centre that has been pushed up into a dome certainly stands out against the redness of the rock everywhere else in the surrounding area.

There are quite a few hikes in this area, you can go around the crater, into the crater and down into the canyon to the river.

Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

From here I got back in the car and drove the short distance to Whale Rock.  It gets its name from the huge white sandstone it is made from and looking at it from a distance it looks like a whale.  You can climb to the top, from the car park it is about 1 mile, though for some people it might be quite tough and some bits you need to use your hands and bum.  The views from the top though are amazing, you can see the surrounding valley and as I was here alone, I decided to take a break and read my kindle and have a snack for a short time.

Whale Rock, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA Whale Rock, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

I then continued driving back towards Green River but on the way saw the view of Holeman Spring Canyon and decided to stop at the overlook.  From the car park you can walk right up to the edge and see right into the canyon.  I decided to stop here and sit down and have lunch and just stare at the views.  Just breath taking and I was lucky that there was a rock at the right height to get a pic!!  Near here there is also a trail that leads down into the canyon.

Buck Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

After having my lunch and admiring the view I got in the car to continue on to Green River Overlook.  The view from here down into the canyon is amazing.  It is different to the Grand Canyon but still as amazing.  You could also see cars driving the White Rim Road and they looked like little dots

Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

Next i drove the 6 miles down to the Grand View Point Overlook, here you can do up to a 2 mile hike along the canyon rim.  The views are amazing and I decided to do this, it’s an easy walk but be careful as in a lot of places there is nothing to stop you falling over the edge and down into the valley.  It is certainly worth taking the time to do though.

Grand View Point Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

Finally I visited what probably makes the park most famous, Mesa Arch.  This is actually only 6 miles from the visitors centre, but I was told that the lighting would be better later in the day so I decided to visit on my way out.  Many people visit at sunrise to get the shot of the sun coming through the arch, when I visited in the afternoon luckily there were only a few people there.  The view looking down into Buck Canyon is amazing.

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

It’s a short half mile round trip from the car park, though the ground is quite uneven.  It is stunning though and worth the visit and one of the highlights of the park.

After this it was back in the car for the 400 mile drive to Williams, where I would stay for the evening before heading to the Grand Canyon the next day.

To see everything I saw you need around 5 or 6 hours at the park, but you could easily spend a full day there or shorter if you decided against doing some of the hikes.  For more information on the park or the different hikes, click here.

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