Monday, November 5, 2012

Utah - Canyonlands National Park

Utah is a very beautiful state.  Nearly everywhere you turn there is a State or National Park of some sort.  While in Moab, we were able to visit two of the National Parks.  Arches and Canyonlands.  These two parks offer very different experiences.  Arches is pretty high and dry, with many rock formations in beautiful shades of orange and red.  Canyonlands is where the Colorado River and Green River have cut through the landscape creating many mesas, buttes, and of course canyons.  There are also arches to be found in Canyonlands, but they are not the primary focus.

Canyonlands National Park is divided into several districts:  the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, Horseshoe Canyon, and then the rivers themselves.  There are no roads directly connecting the districts, to travel between each one takes up to six hours.  So, you can really only see one district per day.

We only had one day, so we visited the Island in the Sky district.  The Island in the Sky is a very large mesa with sheer sandstone cliffs that drop 1000' down (straight down!).

To pay the park entrance fee, you go into the visitor center.  It was so nice to be able to just show our pass and be on with our day.  The kids all got their Jr. Ranger books while we were in there, too.

We drove all through the park, stopping at each overlook we came to.  Most of them had areas with railings, but not all.  I was not a big fan of the ones without!  I guess we were there in a sorta shoulder season, families weren't out so much because school has started and it was a bit early for most of the fall visitors (still too hot).  It was nice, anyway.  Very quiet and easy to drive around and find parking spots at each place we wanted to see.

There were many options for long or short hikes.  Our kids all love to hike, so of course we wanted to do one with them.  We chose the Upheaval Dome Overlook Trail, we had never seen a crater and it sounded interesting.  There are two different theories about the origin of this crater.  That it is an eroded salt dome or that it was created by a meteorite impact.  Whatever...God made it and it is beautiful :).

At the top of the trail, we were suddenly standing on the edge of nothing.  Yikes!  The earth in front of us fell away and provided a panoramic view of the crater, which is three miles across, and the surrounding area.  We were the only ones up there, so neat.  I wish I had a picture to share with you, but I didn't take a camera up there.  (I think Dan took a picture with his phone, if he did I will add it later.)

It was a short hike, only 1 mile.  The going was uphill on smooth rock.  The most difficult part of the trail was these wide steps cut into the rock.  To move from step to step was a stretch, especially for little legs.  The coming back was much easier, all downhill.  Some of the kids commented after we got back to the car that they really liked hiking on the rocks.  I had to agree with them.  The rocks were huge and smooth allowing you to move fast.  It felt good :).

As usual for us, we stayed in the park as long as possible and had to hurry back to the visitor center for the kids to turn in their Jr. Ranger books.  The ranger who went over their work with them was very thorough and spent quite a bit of time talking to them.  The kids did pass all of his quizzes and were awarded their badges ;).

Another fun day of exploring and learning!

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