Canyonland National Park is a very interesting national park, only 40 minutes Southwest of Moab, UT. Canyonlands is divided into four districts, which although close by geographically, require two to six hours by car between each. The closest district to Moab is Island in the Sky, also likely the most well known and accessible. Island in the Sky is basically a huge mesa top, with 1,000 foot drops and panoramic views in all directions.
The five or six major overlooks can all be visited in less than two hours by car. But there are also dozens of trails and campgrounds to explore. We visited Canyonlands in June, and were somewhat constrained by the heat. So, we focused our visit on the major overlooks and a couple of short hikes.
Green River Overlook was the most interesting and memorable to us, and is about seven miles from the entrance and visitor center. This overlook has a great view of the Green River as it makes it’s winding way from Northeast Utah’s Flaming Gorge National Recreation area to Canyonland where it joins the Colorado River. We had a special affinity for the Green River, since we had rafted the Yampa River a couple years prior and it flows from Colorado into the Green in Northeast Utah. It was really cool to see it from this vantage point!
We also enjoyed the nearby Mesa Arch, an easily accessible view from a hike of less than 0.5 miles.
The South end of the park road is the Grand View Point Overlook, which offers an amazing fiew of The Maze (another Canyonlands District) and the lower Green River.
Our last stop in Canyonlands added something to our “to-do” list for the future. The Shafer Canyon Overlook is really interesting in it’s own right, as it takes you out on an end of the butte that is completely detached from the rest of Island in the Sky except by a narrow path.
The view from Shafer Canyon Overlook is just as awe inspiring as the other overlooks, but then you realize there’s a road crossing the canyon below.
When you follow the road up the canyon wall, you realize that you could drive down the canyon to the road and across the canyon floor! This looked really cool, but we were pretty close to dark and at the end of a long day. We chalked the Shafer Trail up as something we might want to do the next time we visit Canyonlands!