This is the confluence of the Green and the Colorado River both of which run through Canyonlands National Park. The confluence separates the Needles and the Maze sections of the Park. I took this photo from the Needles section. It is a very short hike from the parking lot
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
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 was a hoot as it's up the sides of two slickrock buttes to the ruins of some ancient grainaries and one heck of a view. It's bigger than it looks here - the picture was from some distance away - and the backside is nearly a sheer drop straight into the canyon.
It's about a 2-mile trek RT from the parking lot to the top of the butte, with a 225 ft. elevation. The top is flat but you used to be able to work your way down and around the canyon side to some of the grainary sites (see bottom pix of my title page). Unfortunately, a section on the larger butte has become unstable so hikes are limited to the smaller of the two. I'll update this tip if they decide to reopen it.
The Island in the Sky unit of Canyonlands NP is 32 miles from Moab and the park has another 20 miles of paved scenic road. Figure on driving 40 miles within the park as the road doesn't loop - you'll double back on all branches. Park entry fees are $10 per vehicle, $5 per motorcycle or bicycle, or use your annual NPS park pass if you have one. Entry fees are good for a week and cover the Needles unit as well (no entry fee needed for the Maze or Horseshoe Canyon). Entry fees do not cover camping, river use or other permits so see the NPS website on those.
There is one small campground (Willow Flat) open year-round on a first-come, first served basis. It has 12 sites with picnic tables, grills and toilets but no water, firewood or hookups. Site fees are $10.
The Visitor Center at the park entrance is open 9:00AM - 4:30 PM daily with some longer hours March - Oct. You can talk to a ranger about the best activities for your abilities, get backcountry permits and maps, and purchase bottled water (no drinking water sources within the park). There's no restaurant so pack your own food and water for the day, and bring a bag to pack out your trash.
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.
The Aztec Butte trail in Canyonlands takes you past several Anasazi graineries and to the top of a giant butte. This hike is not for hikers with a fear of heights but the view from the top is unbelieveable!
Mesa Arch in Canyonlands is a rare granite arch. Perched at the edge of a cliff, the arch frames beautiful photographs of the La Sal Mountains in the distance. The trail to the arch is a short half mile loop trip and is an easy walk.
While we did not get to hike to the canyon floor on our most recent trip, I did it on my own in 1995 and this is a photo of the Green River from the trail's end. It was a tough hot hike on the way back up! The Taylor Canyon trail is a 20 mile round trip hike from Alcove Spring Trailhead to the Green River that drops about 2000 feet in elevation. As with such canyon trails, it drops steeply over a series of switchbacks before meeting up in a rocky wash that leads to a broad steep-walled canyon. From there you can follow the four-wheel drive road to the Green River. This can be done as a backcountry trip and four permits are available to camp at large.
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.
Mesa Arch at Sunrise is just spectacular. The underside of the arch glows a bright orange red with the expanse of the valley stretching beneath it. One of the most famous formations out in that scene in the washer woman arch. The rocks really do look like a woman bent over a bucket full of laundry....You must get up quite early to witness this spectacle though. At least an Hour and a half if not 2 hours before sunrise if you are coming from Moab. We only had a couple other photographers as company when we were there, but I do hear it can get quite crowded at times....
The trail head is located just off the road as it forks. The trail is about a half mile long.
This viewpoint is worth a look. Not only do you have great views looking east toward Dead Horse Point, but you also have a good view of the Shafer Trail which descends 1000 feet to the canyon floor via a series of exhilerating switchbacks down the canyon wall.
There are also a series of interpretive signs here that explain the history of the Shafer Trail. It was first carved into the canyonside by early ranchers in the 1880's who used the sheltered canyon floor for winter grazing for their herds of cattle and sheep. The Shafer's were one such family of ranchers. Each fall the herd would be led down the narrow and dangerous ledge and then back up again in the spring. Many animals were lost as they fell off the trail.
In the 1950's the trail was improved to allow the passage of trucks and 100 more miles of road were created on the canyon floor. This was paid for by mining companies who were looking for uranium in these hills. The uranium market declined, but the roads remained, opening up new areas of the park to be explored by visitors in 4 wheel drive vehicles or mountain bikes.
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.
The hike is fairly easy and takes about 40 minutes for 2 mile venture to the point at the end of the trail, and then return the same way. There are too many people trying to get the hike, and it creates congestion at some points. The trail is at the end of the road and overlook and it goes from there
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.