I was rather disappointed in the second stop on my trip, particularly as I spent two days checking the place out. But, in truth, I probably cheated my visit to Canyonlands National Park by not spending more time there; the place is so massive that it requires a great many days, particularly backcountry camping, to truly appreciate it. I didn’t have that kind of time though as I wanted to fit in as much as I could on my drive, even if it meant only seeing the highlights of places, so I had to make do with what I could.
The first day there I spent a few hours checking out the Island in the Sky district, which is on the north side of the park. From what little bit of the place I saw, this was the area that I actually enjoyed and found somewhat manageable. But, it also helped that I was given the tip to go there at sunset as that’s when the lighting was best. I definitely agree with this as the place was beautiful in an incomprehensibly expansive sort of way. The pictures I took may not best illustrate the true beauty of the area, but this is the part that I was happy I stopped to see.
When I drove into the park I first made for the Mesa Arch. Despite my planned trip the next day to Arches National Park, the Mesa Arch was tops on my list of things to see in Canyonlands. I wasn’t disappointed with my visit either as I found a beautiful arch perched high up on the edge of a mesa overlooking the canyons below. I’m not generally one to be scared of heights, but I definitely made sure to respect some boundaries on this one as I snapped a few photos around some annoying tourists that kept walking into my shots.
From there I continued on to the Grand View Point Overlook. This is the spot I was told I’d get the best views at sunset, and I was not disappointed. I know the other photographer I spotted carrying a tripod around with him wasn’t either as he commented to me on how wonderful the harsh beauty of the place was. And there’s really no other way to put it from what I can tell as it really is a completely inhospitable, albeit gorgeous, place with a great maze of canyons.
The next afternoon I drove down to the Needles District. It took quite some time to get there as the drive from Moab isn’t short, nor is the drive into the park from the main highway. I think because of that I found myself to be rather annoyed by the time I actually arrived at my first hiking destination at Pothole Point (left). It was just such a long drive that it really didn’t seem worth it to me as I was doing no more than ducking in for a few miles on the trails before heading back out to find a place to stay for the night.
The actual Needles aren’t anywhere really near where the road took me either. I had absolutely no problem seeing them in the distance, but after driving all that way to get into the park I was a bit ticked off that I couldn’t get any closer to them without throwing on a backpack and camping for a few days or taking some four wheel drive adventures. As I didn’t have the time for either I was left just appreciating them from a distance, which I wasn’t impressed with. But as my fatigue was pretty high at this point in the day from other various hikes, which I’ll talk about in my Arches National Parks post shortly, I didn’t really have the patience for it all and never really was able to have the time to give it all a fair shake.
The other part of this area that really bothered me was that all of my hiking was on solid rock. And when I say solid rock, I don’t mean paved paths, I mean solid rock. I was walking on top of various rocks that lined canyons in the area. On a few occasions I’d actually touch dirt for a moment, but it was so brief that it did nothing to help make my knees and ankles feel any better as I neared my eighth mile hiked in the day.
I’d like to go back another time and give Canyonlands another shot and try to see more of it, but as I’m not much of a camper, especially when it comes to the backcountry, this probably won’t happen. In a way that’s a bit of a shame, but there are so many other great places in Utah that I saw on this trip that I have no regret in this as I have a great desire to explore them more thoroughly before going anywhere else. But, that’s all a story for another post I suppose…