United States, Utah

Getting Lost Above Canyonlands National Park

United States Utah

This past April 2017, my sister and I embarked on a road trip that would take us through 5 states and 4 National Parks.  The highlight of the trip and my favorite park we visited was Canyonlands National Park just on the outskirts of Moab, UT.

We arrived through the Island In The Sky entrance of the park and made our way to our first hike to get a first glance of our adventures over the next day and a half.  We headed to the Grand Overlook trial head and walked out along the edge of the plateau.  The view was indicative of the name on all accounts, grand and overlooking a mass canyon with gulches and dramatic drops further into the canyon. Judging by my riding boots in the pictures, this 2 mile out and back hike was easy for us and we took our time taking in the panoramic views across the canyon.

We had an unspoken goal to see every sunrise and sunset while on our trip and we did a quick search on the park map for a west facing view of the canyon where we could enjoy the sunset and have dinner. We found an easy short hike to some secret caves on top a butte.  Aztec Butte was about half a mile to get to and the wind had carved deep pocket caves into the side of the sandstone. These caves where perfect to sit in and watch the sunset light up the canyon.

As the sky started to turn colors and the cloud began to take on a pink glow, we heated up some water to reheat one of the camping meals that we brought with us. Dinner with a view!  We stayed until the sun went down and hiked back to our car in the dark with headlamps.  The hike out was easy enough and we took our time and stuck together as we navigated our way in the dark.

The next morning, we planned to see sunrise at Mesa Arch; one of the most popular arches in the park.  We arrived before 5am in the pitch dark to set up and see the sun come up.  However when got to the arch after a short half mile walk, we found that we seemed to be the last to show up!  There were at least 15 photographers who had set up their cameras to capture the magic hour just before sunrise. We found a spot on the side of the arch and heated up some cocoa and coffee for breakfast. Even though we weren’t directly under the arch for sunrise, the clouds created their own arch in the sky!  This was such a beautiful sight, especially for me as I love sunrises and seeing the world come back to life after a sleepy night.

After we caught the sunrise, we found another hike to the other edge of the Island In The Sky plateau. Murray’s lookout was a dramatic drop down to the canyon floor. Here you could see the wide sweeping space between the canyon’s cliff face walls.

Our last sunset in the park was a very interesting one. I anticipated the canyon glowing with light as the setting sun brought out the red in the rocks. However, as the sun went down, the canyon took on an eerie look as it turned colors into a deep monochromatic landscape. This was too, undeniably beautiful and breath taking.  In my mind, I only had one type of sunset.  But this canyon and this landscape opened my eyes to how dramatic the earth and look and shift mood right before your eyes.

With the last sunbeams coming through the clouds, my sister and I said, “See you next time!” to this amazing place.  We literally only scratched the surface of this grand National Park.  We didn’t venture deep into the canyon for any over night camping trips. We’ll save that adventure for next time as this place is definitely on our return list!

Contributed by Annie Kawasaki