There were some very nice displays inside the visitors center explaining the geology and formation of the land and the people and animals that live (or lived) here. There is also a nice hands-on display for the kids.
The best place to begin your visit to Canyonlands National Park is at the Island in the Sky Visitors Center. Here you can get a brochure and newspaper for the park; look over maps; and get recommendations from the helpful rangers (they had a very cute volunteer who did not want her picture posted here) on how to best enjoy your visit based on your interests and the amount of time you have to visit.
The camera's lens often can't capture the depth, breadth and impact of what the eye can see. Even worse, we ended up here under grey, rainy skies with just a few rare peeks of sunshine: whatcha gonna do. Out of desperation for a few interesting snaps, I set my Canon on vivid color to try and breathe some life into a fantastic but cloud-dulled landscape and tried like to devil to have it in my hand when the sun DID make a fleeting appearance. While not exactly accurate, they're at least a little more fun. So don't worry if the weather or light doesn't cooperate - just play with some pre-set effects until you find one that makes you happy.
Thank goodness for those no-brainer buttons 'cause we had a lot of rain on this trip and just clicking over to few of those pre-sets made this novice shutterbug very happy.
This is one of the best mountain bike rides in the world. It is not technically challenging but it is spectacular. It travels in a loop around the Island In The Sky on a layer of hard white sandstone. It is straight forward, challenging and just fantastic.
The ride is logistically straight forward. You can easily support the 3 to 4 day ride with a 4 wheel drive or you can do it unsupported. I prefer unsupported as it allows you to really get more into the place.
You will need to reserve camping site with the National Park Service. Be sure to carry enough water as none is available on the trail.
The ride begins with a blistering decent. The terrain is rolling and open. The ride ends with a side splitting climb backup to the Island In The Sky.
I have done this ride in a 4 wheel drive as part of a big horn sheep count and I found it less than fun. On a bike with everyone from kids to grand parents it was a great trip. After several times I still would do it again. Hop on and ride it.
As you do it think about the people that ride it in one day!!
The Canyonlands offer amazing views - many believe my photos of the Canyonlands are actually the Grand Canyon, but they are not! The Canyonlands offers excellent walking, sightseeing and it is reletively quieter than the similar tourist areas of places like the Grand Canyon. Well worth the visit.
This is a bit like the Grand Canyon - totally unphotographable in one shot, and in its own way equally impressive. The problem with Canyonlands from the accessible roads is that the scenery is on such a vast scale as to be pretty much uncommunicable without getting closer to the detail.
The Needles are a panorama of rock formations forming a wall against the skyline which come into view relatively soon after passing the visitor centre. Apart from the Needles themselves there are many odd formations in the area, usually standing alone, who all I assume have names but I can't seem to find out what they are!
There are over 100 miles of back country roads in the Island of the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park, however you must have a high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicle, or a mountain bike and some experience on how to use them!
The White Rim Road is accessed via the exhilerating Shafer Trail which descends 1000 feet down the canyon side by a series of switchbacks.
The White Rim Road then loops around and below the Island mesa top to various campsites and viewpoints. Trips usually take two to three days by four-wheel-drive vehicle or three to four days by mountain bike. All vehicles and bikes must remain on roads and ATVs are not permitted.
Permits are required for all overnight camping in the backcountry and you are advised to make reservations well ahead of time, esp in the spring and fall.
This is a section of petroglyphs along the highway 211 on the way to Needles. It is a rather long section and high up on the rock face. It is fenced off to deter vandalism and markings by today culture. The petroglyphs are from 1,000+ years and etched by Pueblos in this area and Anasazi that lived here
This trail hike of only 3/4 mile RT is over some sand, up a couple of ladders, and then to the backside of the cave view over some slick rock trekking (a bit steep) to get back to the parking lot. This trail shows the use of it by cowboys from the mid 1800's until 1975. Outside the park they still have open range cattle grazing. A guy named John Scorup started the operation of ranching in late 1800's and continued using this area and the trails in the park are form cattle roundup paths. The cave spring area was a place for cowboys to sleep and rest and they may have stayed out here for weeks and months. Items left form those days are in the cave overhangs.
This is a short 6/1- mile round trip over some slick rock that takes you to the edge of a view overlook. The rock is for sure filled with potholes, and when it rains, I imagine the feet get wet by not avoiding holes filled with water.
This is at the end a a side road to the southwest of the visitor center about 8 miles. At the end are some parking spaces and the entry to go on if you like with a 4WD vehicle up the hill. NOt for me, though. It looked rough. You can hike to the rock mounds that surround the area, and I did that.
Entry to Needles District is off Hwy 211 and that is 36 miles west of Hwy 191 turnoff. The Slickrock trail is to the north of the visitor center 7 miles and at Big Spring overlook. The hike at Slickrock was 3 miles and took 1 hr 10 minutes. There are boulders to climb and walking on the angle of slickrock facing. Cairn markers are about every 10-30 feet to direct you to keep on the trail. The hike was between easy to moderate in my opinion. The views at the end are worth the trek.
The more adventuresome can take the Confluence trail from Big Spring for 5.5 miles one way and ends at the Colorado river.
This is one I did not take, and it is not advised unless you have a 4WD vehicle. Even then it is said the "trail" or road path as you may call it is treacherous, and only for the adventuresome. Access to the trail is located close to the Island in the Sky visitor center and goes off to the east for about 20 miles before connecting to a paved Potash Road that is another 17 miles to get to Hwy 191. The 4x4 drive from what I read takes you up and to Goosenecks Park area, and many scenic overlooks to the Colorado River. To get there, the climb is steep and so rough even a lot of 4WD vehicles cannot make it past the first few miles. Then the road becomes single lane while going up the road, and some areas are washed out with cracks from erosion that you have to drive over. The rough rocks also have sharp points that can ruin a tire. This is to be investigated before trekking further.
There is usually a series of Ranger class sessions that discuss the creation of the parks formations and the park itself. They are interesting and informative. They last about 45-60 minutes and maybe have 6-20 in a park each day at various points on interest.
This is by far the most unique feature of the park. It is at the north end, about 12 miles form the visitor center. Hiking here can be done, and a shorter for 8/10 mile round trip to a view, and longer, more rigorous for 2.2 mile hike. The second leg is up some steep rock and on angle, then at 2/3 point the overlook hangs you out to the edge of the cliff. It then proceeds another 1/2 mile to get another view of the dome. Theory is a meter crashed here and caused the ground to create a huge crater. It is 2 miles wide and 1 mile deep. Salt deposits from blast heat to the meteor blew out of the ground, and today this is the dome. The salt has dissipated a lot, and the minerals left create the color of the dome and caldron