Canyonlands is the second national park we planned to visit from our base camp in Moab. Little did we know, mother nature would have a few nasty surprises in store for us following our near-miss while hiking in Arches National Park.
Regardless of the rainy, frigid weather, we were able to visit the northern part of Canyonlands, named Island in the Sky. Our third day in Moab brought rain, more rain, and cold. Luckily the sky cleared around noon and after warming up in the local internet cafe, suitably caffeinated, we were ready to hit the road.
We stopped by the visitors center to check on trail conditions and figure out what we bothered doing that afternoon given the less-than-ideal weather situation. Turns out there were still plenty of scenic stops and short hikes along the road. Mesa Arch, pictured above, was our first taste of the park.
Views of the surrounding canyons and mesas continued to impress as we drove the 20 mile stretch down the Island in the Sky.
The possibilities for panoramic photos was astronomical. Our cameras couldn't do the landscape justice. Marcell - you need to plan a trip out here!
A couple of the scenic viewpoints were a mile or so from the main road. We decided to brave the 40 degree weather and light rain to capture a few shots of the Canyonlands under dark clouds.
This is a shot of White Rim, a bench of white sandstone that circles the entire Island in the Sky. Off road enthusiasts can take a five day 100 mile trip along the edge, which we'd love to the next time we're back in Moab.
The columns of rock in the middle of this canyon are called "needles". The southern part of the park is famous for forests of these tall pillars.
Our boy Blue awaits our return on top of a wet hill of sandstone.
At the end of the Island in the Sky is a vista called The Grand Viewpoint. Click the image to see the full jaw dropping panorama.
That night the weather drops. A lot. A cold front moved in after the rain and it was easily 30 degrees. Water bottles are frozen, our kitchen is covered with frost, and we jump in the car to escape the frigid wind.
Our plan for the day was to go on a 6 mile hike called Spring Creek. It drops down onto a sandstone shelf and loops around The Neck, a narrow strip of land that connects the northern and southern parts of the Island in the Sky.
The first half of the trip involved a 350 foot descent, followed by up, down, up, down through the small creeks along the edge of the mesa. A little more than midway through we climb back on top of the mesa, scrambling up steep sandstone rocks.
Once back up top we're greeted with the best view of the hike, looking out over the western side of the Canyonlands. Click the photo for a full panorama.
Another odd geological structure we found on top of the mesa. I'll let this caption write itself.
Piles of rocks called cairns lead us back to the parking lot. It would be very easy to get lost without these markers.
Just before the parking lot we stopped for one last glimpse of the Canyonlands. The road on the left of this picture, nearly 1100 feet below, winds up the canyon wall and eventually leads to the White Rim trail.
Up next, the mother of all canyons - The Grand Canyon.