A hidden gem in the heart of Utah, Canyonlands is a nature-lover’s playground studded with skyscraping stone spires and burgundy buttes.
The sun’s dazzling rays flood the deep canyon with shafts of piercing light, illuminating bright boulders protruding from the underside of sweeping crimson arches. One of Utah’s five national parks, Canyonlands is a backcountry beauty where roaring rivers rush over red rocks and scintillating stars sparkle in the shimmering night sky. Here are four must-see destinations you have to visit to make the most of your unforgettable Canyonlands tour.
Start your trip at Mesa Arch, a curved stone landmark backlit by radiant sunbeams that saturate Canyonlands’ vast chasms with a glittery glow. For easy access to the viewpoint, take the 0.7-mile Mesa Arch Trail, an easy loop where scraggly green bushes splash bright pops of color across the otherwise-barren landscape. Upon reaching Mesa Arch, survey the immense cranberry-red gorge that stretches to the far horizon. Keep in mind that there is no fence to keep hikers from falling down the edge of the 500-foot cliff that supports the arch, so be especially careful if visiting with young children.
Colorful rock formations scrape the sky high above Needles District, the southeastern part of Canyonlands. Red-and-white striped sandstone towers whose thin shape gives the desolate district its name soar over rocky tree-lined canyons far below. Navigating the Needles is not for the faint of heart as bumpy backcountry roads crisscross the region, requiring a low-range four-wheel-drive vehicle to access. If you would prefer to pedal down a rugged trail, try the Colorado River Overlook, a moderate 1.2-mile path perfect for mountain biking.
A deep crater surrounded by pointed peaks, Upheaval Dome is the central curiosity in an alien landscape characterized by rich red soil and towering bluffs. Tan rocks protrude from the pockmarked pit that either came to be when a powerful meteor struck the earth millions of years ago or when salt rose underground, lifting and eroding rock layers.
Take the moderate 1.3-mile Crater View Trail for stunning views of Upheaval Dome. Keep in mind that the sun shines brightly on the trail and there is very little shade, so consider bringing a hat, sunscreen and plenty of water for your hike. If you hike to the second overlook along the trail, prepare for a steep climb over slippery stones with the ultimate reward of a beautiful view of the dome.
Island in the Sky
Finish your Canyonlands excursion at Island in the Sky, a magnificent mesa perched atop flaming red-orange cliffs. Take a short 1.8-mile hike along the Grand View Point Trail for terrific views of canyons, the Needles District and far-off peaks. Thrill seekers must stop by Shafer Trail, an unpaved backcountry road where daredevils in four-wheel drive vehicles run wild over the rough dirt path.
Make the most of your Utah adventure when you visit these four scenic attractions.