Dec 30, 2013

National Parks- Canyonlands, the forbidding landscape!

Canyonlands- well named! The national park is home for countless canyons carved by Colorado river and its tributaries. Canyonlands National Park is another lesser known park in Utah. The remoteness and ruggedness makes it less popular. The park covers a large rugged area and is divided into three districts (MAP) by Colorado and Green rivers. There are no roads to connect these sections internally and it takes hours to reach each district by driving around them. Driving on those remote roads is at times an eerie experience especially during early mornings and late evenings when you are the only one on the road! But, that is fascinating huh? For- Life begins at the end of our comfort zone!

Grandview in Canyonlands National Park
Grand View

Out of the three sections Island in the sky district is much easier to visit and so has more visitors. The area is a high rising butte overlooking spectacular canyon formations. Needles district is remote and I saw very few visitors. Maze district is too remote and rugged, and was out of scope for me as it requires 4x4 vehicle to reach. I misjudged the remoteness of the park. Reaching each part almost takes 2 to 3 hours. It took 2 days to partially explore, I mean not much of hiking, Island in the sky and Needles districts. Reserve a campsite by reaching early in the morning if you want to explore and enjoy the park fully. Otherwise, it is too much of driving in and out!

Murphy's Point in Canyonlands National Park
View Murphy Point
Island in the Sky- There are short hikes to some of the attractions. The Murphy Point, 3.5 miles round trip, hike was the longest I hiked. The remoteness of the place is overpowering! Most of the times I felt I was being watched! May be that was because of a very strange and scary supernatural experience I had the night before in a motel I was staying in Green River. The view from Murphy Point is just awe inspiring. The trail goes down very steeply but worth all the effort. When I was standing there my heart exploded with excitement, I wanted to jump off! Just wanted to :)

The view of Buck Canyon through the Mesa Arch is beautiful. Ancient Anasazi ruins can be visited on Aztec Butte trail. A mile long trail to Upheaval Dome leads to an overlook. Upheaval Dome is a 2-mile wide  crater which is believed to be created by an meteoric impact. The center has a blue-grey rock surrounded by red rock. Very interesting geology! There are longer backcountry trails if you have more time to spend. I visited Dead Horse State Park and Arches National Park before heading out to Needles district. Yes! You need to drive all around to reach the other section of the park!

Mesa Arch and Wooden Shoe Arch in Canyonlands National Park
Mesa Arch and Wooden Shoe Arch

Needles-  Needles district of the park is remote and reaching it takes hours. To hike the longer trails it is better to camp in Squaw Flat campground inside the park. It is first-come-first-serve campground and was full by the time I reached. I hiked only 5-miles over slick rocks in whatever time I had. But, whatever length it was- wonderful! The rocks were absolutely unique in my opinion. Since I was the only one hiking in the late afternoon I kept all my senses alert. The only Ranger Officer I met on the way told me not to venture into the deep and to return before dark. When the day started fading everything looked like a severe mystery. Somewhere in my head I was aware of something- like some dark wind was following me. What if the cliff dwellers still existed, and they might be watching me from their abode hidden in a hole somewhere high in the walls of the canyon! Like an utter lunatic I ran over the rocks just to finish the hike before it was too dark.

Needles in Canyonlands National Park
Rocks in the Needles District

On the way to the Needles district there is a Newspaper Rock. It is a rock over which well preserved ancient pictographs can be seen. I visited most of the viewpoints, ruins and overlooks even after the sunset. One particular arch was really cool- Wooden Shoe Arch. I was driving out of the Needles District after sunset, it was so dark and lonely. I keep repeating this- the rugged landscape indeed is overpowering. The sun sank into the horizon completing his colorful ceremony and the silence of the place was spreading fear into the darkness. What an experience?!

Needles in Canyonlands National Park
Slick Rocks and Canyon in Needles

Before going to the Needles District I drove up to Needles Overlook. It is another miles-and-miles-of-driving-and-going-nowhere road. Below is a fraction of the view of that vast landscape. It is amazing to see the canyons, sub-canyons, rivers hiding behind those rocks, buttes and mountains in that vastness of the space fading behind the haze. Imagine driving in this landscape and hiking on those slick rocks and through those canyons! Awesome! Awesome indeed! My eyes followed the mesa, buttes and mountains as far as the horizon.

Needles Overlook in Canyonlands National Park
View from Needles Overlook

Well, if you are planning on visiting Canyonlands National Park and want to explore it (excluding Maze because I haven't seen it) then keep 4-5 days aside and have a campsite for you! I feel my time was spent in a lot of driving in and out and really couldn't explore the park at all. I just accumulated several hundred miles on the car's odometer. The park has an entrance fee of $10. I would go back to the land of canyons again and again to explore little more of that enchanting beauty of red-dark timeless land! May be to explore the Maze District, the slice of undiscovered paradise! Till then ...

Dear Readers, I Wish You a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!


Leave a comment to share your beautiful thoughts and constructive feedback. If you have enjoyed this article then connect with Google+, Twitter, Facebook or subscribe through email for more exciting updates every week!

Related articles-
Goblin Valley in Utah

This post is linked to Nature Notes.

If you want pictures please ask me :)
Creative Commons License
Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. Looks spectacular! Another place to add to the list. :-)

    Best wishes for the new year!

  2. Nice narration, Kusum. I like the way you concentrate on one destination before moving to the next. Earlier it was the lovely posts on Madhya Pradesh and now the unique formations of Colorado and surroundings.

    1. Thanks Niranjan for reading through :) I am trying to put across my road-trip experience exactly as it happened! I see you had a great time in Thailand :)

  3. Amazing record of rocky landscapes in canyonlands

  4. well worth all the driving i say.

    happy new year. here's to more adventures in 2014.

    1. Yes, it was! If camped one could get more!
      Yeah, more adventures in 2014!

  5. Beautiful. It is on my wish list for a long time now :)

  6. spectacular landscape and photographs

  7. Remmeber this wonderfull great ladscapes, never forget.
    。❊ * 。❊ 。 ❊ _█_ ❊ 。 * ❊
    _Π_____ (•.•) * 5☆★☆★☆
    ❊ /______/~\ ( ♥ ) ❊ 2014 Happy Day ❊
    |田 田 |門| ( ♥ ) Happy New Year❊

  8. Awesome views and scenic shots.. I enjoyed your travels in 2013, I can not wait to see more in 2014..

    I wish you all the best in 2014, a Happy and Healthy New Year!

    1. Thank you Eileen! Yeah, I will definitely try to get to some wonderful destinations this year too!

  9. This is fabulous...what are you planning this year I wonder.. Happy New Year dear Kusum....Michelle


I would appreciate to have your precious thoughts, suggestions and kind encouraging words in comments. Please do not include self-promotional links.I am encountering some problems because of these links and hence I may not publish them.