Monday, February 13, 2017

CO & UT - Day Seven - Canyonlands National Park

Next on our must-do list was Canyonlands.  Another looooong drive down a pretty lonely stretch of road (this Park was much less busy than Arches), until we eventually found the entrance.  This visit would be less about the hiking, and more about the sheer vastness of the place and the magnificent views.

Canyonlands Park preserves an area of land at the heart of the Colorado plateau, where water and gravity have created hundreds of canyons, mesas, fins and arches.  At the centre, the convergence of the Colorado River and the Green River create three very distinct regions - Island in the Sky, The Maze and The Needles.  We were headed to the most accessible area - Island in the Sky (the other two areas are either day-long hikes or only accessible with 4-wheel drives...)

Even just a few steps from the car park at "Grand View Point", we were afforded sweeping views across hundreds of miles of parkland - almost too big to comprehend.  The views reportedly stretch 100 miles into the distance, with sheer sandstone clips towering 1000 feet above the surrounding terrain.

It was another beautiful day, and Hubby was keen to walk the short trail to Upheaval Dome to witness a possible meteor crater.  The trail was well-marked and maintained, with much larger and more obvious cairns than we'd seen in Arches, and steps cut into the rocks in places so we didn't have to scramble too much.

Posher cairns than Arches Park!

Upheaval Dome is actually a very large crater, 1500 feet deep and 5km wide.  Debate continues as to how it was formed - possibly a dome of mineral salts that rose up through the rock strata from ancient oceans over millions of years, possibly subsidence, or possibly (and recent studies support this latest theory), that it was carved by a meteor strike.  Again, it's hard to judge its size from the photos alone, and it was certainly a strange anomaly to find in the middle of so many canyons!

From Upheaval Dome we drove a little further on to the trail for Whale Rock - another easy hike, until you reached the base of a sandstone dome (the whale).  Then it was a steep but short climb / scramble up the bare slickrock onto the whale's back, and then another scramble up a little "nobble" to get a little higher and really appreciate the views back out across the Park.  


Centre: Candlestick Tower

And then it was onto our final hike of the day, to see Mesa Arch.  Another fairly easy, flat-ish trail leading to another cliff-edge arch, again with beautiful views towards the La Sal Mountains in the background.

After all the awe-inspiring sights, hiking and sunshine, and the long drive back to the hotel, it was time for a well-earned steak dinner at Rays Tavern in Green River!

Gerrof me chips!