Moab Stories and Tips

Touring Canyonlands

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member

With one look at Canyonlands, I wonder why it doesn't enjoy a more significant reputation. Whereas the Grand Canyon was just big, Canyonlands was more intimate. With less crowds and closer viewpoints, it was much easier to appreciate the geological process at work here, creating the delicate buttes, canyons, rivers valleys, that made up the canyons within this park.

Canyonlands was vast, with a 18-mile scenic road that runs north to south. As we drove from one viewpoint to another, it was like getting a first-hand experience in canyon-making. Looking down into the canyons, we could easily see how giant floods in the past swept across the riverbed, creating a basin. Then, later on, a river would carve a deeper canyon on the bottom of the basin, forming the double canyons that we saw. One especially scenic stop was the Green River Canyon overlook, where the river had carved such a gigantic hole in the bottom of the basin that it looked like two canyons were stacked on top of each other. Then, from another viewpoint at Buck Canyon, the scenery must look like what the Monument Valley had looked like millions of years ago. From this viewpoint, we saw numerous baby buttes starting to “rise” out of the river basin.

Also, another unexpected attraction was the Upheaval Dome. The name was unique and peaked our interests. So we hiked the 0.5-mile trail to see the dome up close. As it turns out, it's a grayish dome located in the center of a 1-mile-wide crater of red rocks. On the overlook, a poster said that there are two theories about its origin; one is the meteor impact theory, the other is the salt layer erosion theory. Judging from a crack in the crater, where I think rainwater must exit, I sided with the salt layer theory.

One part of park also featured another trail that lead to Mesa Arch. We decided to take on this short 0.5-mile hike to visit it up close. It is not a giant arch like Delicate Arch. However, it is still quite beautiful, as it is surrounded by flush desert vegetation and slick rock all around.

After we finished touring Canyonlands, we also paid a visit to the nearby Dead Horse Point. For a fee of $7, we got ourselves a panoramic view of the Green River Canyon in its most significant display, where it snakes around a bend of rocks before heading out of the horseshoe like canyon that it had created. On top of the viewpoint platform, I took a peak over the guardrail, looking down the cliff below my feet, and the 3,000-foot drop in elevation below made me queasy in my stomach.

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