In another post (the last post probably) i’ll tell you the story of driving up from north Texas through the belly of Kansas and through the heart of Colorado to end up in this most splendorous corner of Utah. But for now, lets skip past the 2am drive through creepily empty cornfields and move onto the beauty that is driving through Utah. I did it this past March a good bit but crossing into Utah from Colorado after a 12 hour overnight drive was even better than a hot cup of coffee at soothing my weary, and at this point, very dusty soul.
Theres something about the landscape- the land itself- that i’ve been unable to find a likeness to anywhere else that i’ve been to in the USA and even knowing all the other places I would soon see, it was hard to leave at the end of our stay here.
This isn’t to say it was all fun and sunshine however. The title of this post is called Canyonlands, but this photo is actually from Arches. Because see, that was the plan for our first day in Utah…hit Arches early in the morning, spend the day there and then go checked out Canyonlands for sunset. Of course the weather had other plans and a hellish storm followed us in from Colorado and blasted the landscape while we rested in the night, to the point where even running on no sleep, me and the bf still woke up in the middle of the night to what sounded like the norse gods having a rave out in the desert.
We attempted to follow through with the plan though, optimistically thinking that perhaps since we were about 45 min away from Arches in Green River, the weather wouldn’t be so bad there. We got to the park well before sunrise and managed to clamber up to the Windows arch view point during a lull in the rain….at which point the heavens let loose everything they might have possibly been holding and we were pelted with rain that quickly turned to sleet and while I held out as long as I could (being the insane one) the bf eventually talked reason into me….but not until both our clothes had been soaked to the last stitch, we’d been pelted with ice and i’d almost fallen over the arches ledge from the strong winds.
To me it was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life, watching the sun climb its way up the mountains while being violently pelted by the forces of nature and grinning like a blind loon as I clutched the slick rock of the arches ledge. The bf was more practical and made sure my camera didn’t get ruined, got us plastic bags to sit on so we wouldn’t ruin the seats and gently made me see the light in regards to running around the park with soaked clothing. We headed back to the hotel to shower, change, and reassess.
So, there are three different (and separate) parts to Canyonlands National Park. And yes, I do mean separate as none of them connect to each other by any main linking roads. Did I know this before setting out to Utah? Of course not, you’re talking about the person who went wandering around icey Bryce Canyon in traction-less shoes. Anyways.
Island in the Sky is the most popular part of the Canyonlands park, and it’s easy to see why. Not only is it much closer to the more popular Arches NP, there’s a incredible view almost everywhere you turn up there, something akin to surreal beauty that’s almost heavenly.
The Needles is…well, for one it’s much more out of the way to reach. It takes you quite a long time to even get on the road that leads you to the actual park, and once your on this road, its about an hour before you even get to the entrance station. And given there are no actual grand overlooks, or even that many overlooks in general, most people choose not to make the drive out there. I can tell you with full honesty the park ranger who met us at the entrance station seemed almost puzzled that we were there.
The drive out there is magnificent though, I can’t stress that enough. If you only have time for one part of Cayonlands NP, yes, do Island in the Sky (the other part is called the Maze and unless you have 4-wheel drive, it’s utterly inaccessible, we didn’t even attempt to make it out there this time) . But if you’ve got the time, like we did, it’s so very much worth the effort. One of the reason I love traveling to national parks in general is the chance to get away from it all, perhaps not to get in touch with nature since i’m still a creature comforts type of person…but the chance to be awed by nature and the way it shapes the land. That feeling of aloneness that never feels like loneliness when you’re just looking out over a vast landscape. And while Island in the Sky has the “awed by nature” part, it’s generally full of people wherever you go and you won’t be buffeted by winds so much as stray shoulders.
Wandering and exploring around the Needles part of Canyonlands NP was the perfect, though unexpected, way to start our Utah part of the roadtrip though I will say the best views to be seen and experienced lie just before the park boundaries (as the last two photos above where taken half an hour before we even got past the entrance to the actual park). A remote and vastly under appreciated part of the park that i’m glad we made the trek out to experience.