The Needles. The Maze. The Rivers. The Islands in the Sky.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands is not just one park, it spans from Moab far into Utah's southern parts and combines four very different parks in just one. This was our first trip to Canyonlands, on recent trips we visited Arches so planned two of our 6 day Southwest trip for this gem.
We only managed to visit Islands in the Sky this time and some of Canyonlands famous sights: magnificent overlooks, a glimpse at the White Rim road, Mesa Arch and False Kiva. However, for our next trips, "The Needles" and "The Maze" are definitely on our bucket list (likely to be visited via the 100mile 4x4 only outback white rim road).
Canyonlands is a beautiful park and with its close proximity to the eclectic town of Moab a great spot for Outdoor enthusiasts, artists and photographers.
Where to stay
Moab it is. I love this town.
Moab is a great, artsy, red earth and incredibly hot city right in the middle of Arches, Canyonlands and just a few hours away from Capitol Reef National Park. It's a fabulous place with good restaurants, cheap but also unique motels and a lot of galleries, small shops and other fun places.
We usually stay in a motel that is the cheapest on priceline.com as you don't really spend time there anyway. At least we don't, between Sunset shooting and Sunrise shooting there are usually just a few hours left to take a shower and nap a bit.
While in town, check out Tom Till's photo gallery, one of the local and worldwide acknowledged photographers of the Southwest.
Where to eat
Whenever we manage to get back early enough from a sunset spot back into town, we love to enjoy the signature pork chops at Buck's Grillhouse. Nothing better than an ice-cold Sierra Nevada and a steak to enjoy in their back patio after a long day of hiking.
Best photography spots
Ok, where to start. We've had a jam-packed itinerary for this trip but here are our favorites. We shot the sunset from Green River overlook. We checked out Dead Horse Point overlook and Grand overlook but picked Green River as the sidelit river, fighting its way through the canyon, was our preferred setting.
The next morning, we got up at 3:30am to start the hour long drive to the Mesa Arch trailhead and be there in time to get a decent spot for the often crowded sunrise behind Mesa Arch. We arrived there an hour before the first light and got good spots - but we were only second there. This is not a place you want to how up a few minutes before the show starts, there will be dozens of photographers fighting for the few spots which allow you to capture the sunrise with a full or partial shot of the Arch.
Our daytime trip was the strenuous hike to False Kiva, an ancient Indian stone circle located in a cave nestled in the rock. The first part of the hike was easy but the last part was just scrambling over lose gravel and rocks down the rocks and then back up into the cave. It was a very spiritual and inspiring place as we were standing there in the circle with the Canyon stretched far and far below our feet. We've stayed there a few hours but had to leave shortly before sunset as the weather changed. You won't make it back up there if the "trail" turns into a mud slide. On our way back, we captured some gorgeous sunset light amongst the desert flowers.
Check out the gallery below for some photos of these spots.
Where to play
Canyonlands is a playground for hikers, rock-climbers and photographers. We did the Mesa Arch hike which is a super easy stroll to the Arch, the described False Kiva hike and some short strolls around the view points.
But there is a lot more to do and to explore. We definitely plan to come back, get a Jeep and a tent and start the 2 day 100mile drive on the white rim road to explore the most remote parts of this beautiful park.