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  • Steve

Canyonlands National Park

Updated: May 15, 2020

Canyonlands is the 5th National Park along our journey so far. As far as parks goes, it is pretty young since it was only established as a National Park in 1964. The USA's first and oldest National Park, Yellowstone, was established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant. Here are the parks we have visited so far with their year of establishment:

Zion - 1919

Bryce Canyon - 1928

Canyonlands - 1964

Arches - Nov. 12, 1971

Capitol Reef - Dec. 18, 1971

Great Basin - 1986

A couple more facts about the park before I go into our hikes.

- There is no food, gas, stores or lodging in the park. All of this is located in Moab which is about 35 miles away.

- There is a campsites called Willows Flat near Green River overlook and it is dry camping with vault toilets and no potable water.

- In fact, the only potable water is at the visitor center. So bring LOTS of water with you if you are going hiking.

- There are bathrooms at the visitor center and most trailheads throughout the park, but they are all vault toilets (meaning no flush) They even had this option 😂

This was located at the visitor center. Apparently, they got tired of people trying to stand on the toilets. 😬

Day 1

We got there late in the day and picked up our Jr. Ranger programs, then watched the video in the Visitors Center. Afterwards, we got out hiking gear on and walked across the road for an amazing view at Shafer Canyon Overlook which looked out over the Colorado River canyon.

We then drove about 11 miles into the park to go hike the Upheaval Dome trail to both the lookouts. The trail started at 6000’ elevation and was about 2 miles roundtrip with 300’ of elevation change. I would say it is an intermediate hike mostly because you are walking on steeper rock trails. The view is pretty cool of this “dome” but as most signs say it looks more like a crater. They don’t really know what caused it, but they are think a meteor may have crashed there.

On our way back home, I decided to take a right down the road that said Green Valley Overlook because it was almost sunset. We were very glad we did…AMAZING!

Mom and daughter bonding at sunset.

Day 2

We went out to the Grand View Point Overlook for a Ranger Talk for the Jr. Ranger program. We asked the Ranger about hikes from here and he said there is a pretty flat one that is only 1 mile round trip that goes along the rim or about 1/2 mile up the road is the Gooseberry Trail that is the most strenuous hike in the park and it goes from the top rim of the upper canyons all the way down to the white rim bench rim above the river canyons below.(seen above)

Wow, he was not kidding! The trail was marked by these cairns all along but you had to really be paying attention if you were the lead hiker, otherwise, you find yourself off course and sometimes by a lot.

These are the trail markers. They are called cairns (aka stacks of rocks). Pretty hard to find on some trails

This trail is almost 6 miles long, roundtrip, and it takes you off a cliff for a 1550’ descent down a lot of switchbacks with the 1st mile dropping 1260’!

Once we got down into the dried out creek bed, we stopped for food and a break then continued to the edge of the lower canyon where there would be a waterfall if there was water ;) After playing around there for a while, we headed back up.

The first mile back wasn’t too bad except our lead hiker (Jen) wasn’t paying attention to the cairns and took us way off course. 😖(see map) Fortunately, Jen noticed something didn’t seem right and I had my All Trails app on with the pre-saved map and it help guide us back.

Oops! She was just following the foot prints. Apparently, some other person went the wrong way too.

After that detour, we needed to stop for some shade, water, and food.

Snack time

Now it was “GO” time for the big climb.

Unfortunately, the sun was still high in the sky for the first 2 miles back so combined with the ascent we took quite a few water and shade breaks plus one more food stop. Luckily, the last .5-.75 miles were mostly in shade. Lila did a great job and only needed her pack mule (aka dad) help her up about 20% of the last mile.

We were definitely sweaty and done after this hike.

Funny thing was, we all said we are done and tired and were heading back to the trailer to take it easy for the rest of the night.

Well, Jen got in maybe a whole hour of relaxing in the hammock (aka Instagram for Jen time)

before she jumps up and says I want to go for a bike ride to the view point. She always say she can relax and take it easy but that is no where close to the truth. This girl can only sit still for a little bit before she wants to go for another hike, walk, bike ride, etc… ugh!

I had already taken my shower, my legs are tired, and the AC feels great so I am out. Lila perked right up and now they are off!

Here are some pictures they got at the Dead Horse Point Lookout including a couple getting married out there.

Day 3

We kicked backed and relaxed most of the morning then finished our Jr. Ranger books for Canyonland. In the afternoon, we drove back out to Canyonlands Visitor Center (about 10 miles) and got our badges and a sticker for the RV. We decided we can’t put any sticker on the RV of a place that we didn’t do something significant there first. Here is what we have so far….

Once we got home, we decided to try out the mountain biking trails at Dead Horse. For the most part, we all did pretty good. Lila is getting a lot better and attacking the hills and rock ledges going up and down. We did hit a couple that none of us could get up. I would love to see how someone would climb some of these.

Today marked our last day for Canyonlands.

Tomorrow, we start our Arches adventures.

I was talking to my friend Eric today and he asked me what I thought this place was like in comparison to Zion. I told him I felt like in Zion you spend all your time down low looking up at the giant, sheer cliff walls around you and at Canyonlands, you spend all your time at the top looking down over/across these vast canyons. Both are truly amazing and I am torn between Zion, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands now for my favorite. Jen still likes Zion best but Capitol Reef may have stole it and Lila is still wishing we spent more time at Bryce Canyon.


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