Half Day Trip in Canyonlands National Park
Are you planning a trip to Arches but don’t think you have time to see Canyonlands National Park? Think again.
Canyonlands' Island In The Sky district, the northern section of the park overlooking the rest of Canyonlands NP, is located only a short half hour drive from Arches National Park (Southeastern Utah). Here, the views are so spectacular and plentiful that you don’t have to work hard to find them. The area’s countless overlooks and short hikes practically spoon-feed you with some of the most breathtaking landscapes you've ever experienced and, conveniently, a lot of the best views are accessible with only easy to moderate hikes ranging from 1/4 to 2 miles round trip. As a bonus, well paved roads in this small section of the park allow you to travel between the sites quickly and easily.
Now, a little bit about those views: the name of this national park is definitely not deceptive; this certainly is the land of canyons...and they are quite stunning. The mesa top that is the Island In The Sky provides clear, panoramic views of the vast canyon lands below. And it’s kind of trippy, there are canyons within canyons within canyons. It’s like CANYON INCEPTION!
Map of half day itinerary in Canyonlands National Park: For interactive map, follow this link:
1. Mesa Arch
Hike a quarter mile to Mesa Arch at sunrise or early morning for the best light. This natural wonder creates a window through which one can view a breathtaking background landscape featuring, you guessed it, multiple canyons, buttes and spire-like formations. The view alone would be worth the hike, but the framing created by Mesa Arch and the shear cliff below it enhance the dramatic scenery for a truly unforgettable sight.
2. Upheaval Dome
Next up: Upheaval dome. Upheaval dome is a deceptive name for what you are about to see because this is actually a huge crater and scientists are still arguing about how it was formed. There are two prevailing theories:
1) Similar theory to the rest of the vast Utah area: prehistoric inland sea dries up, the salt from that sea was trapped by sediment and has since re-emerged in strange ways.
2) The more exciting of the theories - a big ol' meteor barreled into the earth creating this crater.
However it was formed, it’s a pretty impressive 2 mile diameter hole and only requires a 0.8 mile hike (1.8 miles if you want to do the second overlook) to check it out.
3. Green river overlook
We mentioned earlier something about canyon inception. Well the Green River Overlook is a prime example. This beautiful view includes the Green River about three canyons deep and, unsurprisingly, is surrounded by a good bit of greenery. Another cool aspect of this view is that you can see the Mazes District of the park out on the horizon. Plus, you only need to go about 100 feet from the parking lot witness all of the this!
4. Buck Canyon Overlook
The stark contrast of red canyons in the foreground with dark, jagged snow capped mountains in the background make for another terrific view. Even the crows stop to take a look.
5. Grand View Point Overlook
Grand View Point Overlook provides just that - the best seat in the house. It's the culmination of everything you’ve witnessed up to this point all in one place. Here, you will marvel at stunning panoramic views of snow capped mountains, expansive canyons, and intricate rock formations. Again, the overlook is just a few hundred feet from the parking area, but, you can also take an easy 1 mike hike along the rim to really soak in the scenery.
Have a great trip!
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