Next up on our tour was Canyonlands. This is a much larger park than Arches, with three different sections that you have to enter separately. We went into the park twice. Our first visit was in the Island in the Sky district, which is predominantly along the top of the mesa, looking down into the canyons from above.
Our first stop was at the Mesa Arch. This is probably the most well known photograph from the park. Photographers line up well before sunrise (no, not us!) to catch an image with the underside of the arch glowing from the light reflected off the canyons beneath. Despite arriving mid-morning, it was still a beautiful scene.
We hiked out to “Grand View Point”, which is about a mile long hike along the south rim of the canyon. This provided some interesting looks at the wide variety of canyons and buttes around the park. We also did the brief hike to upheaval dome, which is an interesting, and apparently geologically mysterious rock formation.
Our second trip was into the Needles district on our way out of Moab. We didn’t realize just how difficult it was to reach the entrance (roughly 30 miles along a narrow, winding road), but this gave this section of the park a much more remote feel. We had another couple of short hikes. First was the Big Spring Canyon, which is a cool little canyon with some unique formations.
Then we hiked the Cave Spring loop, which takes you through some wide, shallow “caves” (really just under rock outcroppings) which have provided shelter for numerous cultures over the eons. There are some rock paintings from Native American civilizations, and furniture left over from an old cowboy camp. It was worth the time to visit, although given the size and remote access, you’ll definitely want to plan at least a couple of days to take in the Canyonlands.