[Note – This is the fifth of five posts describing my 2010 Road Trip]
After we finished backpacking the Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon, the guys flew back home and I headed for Las Vegas to meet my wife. I got a room and some needed rest before picking her up the next morning. I provided her with a quick tour of the main drag in Vegas, and then a quick tour of Hoover Dam before we headed for Zion National Park (NP). We simply drove through Zion, a small NP straddling Hwy 9, stopping only for a few pictures along the way.
We continued southeast to Kanab, then through Fredonia, AZ where we camped briefly at Jacob Lake on the Kaibob Plateau. We got only a few hours rest before rising before morning light in order to drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, about 50 miles south. Hwy 67 was a dark, narrow highway, and we saw numerous deer along the roadway -needless to say it was slow going! We successfully arrived just before the sun was up.
After hiking around the Rim a bit and taking some pictures, we enjoyed a great breakfast in the Lodge. Then, once again we were back on the road, this time we headed north to Bryce Canyon NP, in southern Utah. We spent a couple hours at Bryce, taking pictures with all the other tourists. These initial stops were intended as only brief visits, since the focus of the trip was on Arches and Canyonlands National Parks where we planned to camp and hike. But make no mistake, both Zion and Bryce are beautiful and worthy of further exploration, as can be seen in the photos of Bryce Canyon, below.
Bryce Canyon occupies about 36,000 acres and was established in 1928. Elevations range from about 8,000 to 9,100 ft. The towering rock pillars are known as hoodoos. If you hike, bring plenty of water and a snake-bite kit wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
From Bryce Canyon, we caught I70 east and stopped to visit the John Wesley Powell River History Museum and spent the night in Green River, UT. Major John W. Powell, the one-armed Civil War veteran (and later head of the US Geological Survey), led an exploratory expedition of 10 men down the uncharted Colorado River in 1869. After 95 days, 6 men survived and the river was mapped. See The Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons, by J.W. Powell for the full account. Another excellent resource on Powell’s adventure is Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, by Wallace Stegner.
Next morning we continued east on I70 to 191 and south about 25 miles to Arches NP. Arches is a great Park and has many good trails -mostly short ones, and plenty of loops, to say nothing of the scenery. Be sure to carry lots of water, a map and compass. We lost the trail on one hike and being able to use a back-bearing probably saved us an hour or more in getting back on track. Again, a snake-bite kit is worth carrying if hiking the trails.
Moab is just south of Arches, and is a great town to visit after a hot day on the trails. There is always plenty going on in Moab, year around. Supplies of ‘everything’ can be readily found in Moab.
I believe it was a Bureau of Land Management Campground along the Colorado River where we camped for two days while visiting Arches. It was only about five miles from the front entrance to the Park, very handy. The Campground is east off Hwy 191 on 128, and the Campground is left off 128, visibly located between the road and the Colorado River. The Park entrance is just north off 128 on 191. And Moab is just south of 128 on Hwy 191. Canyonlands NP is about 75 miles south of Moab.
Upon entering the Park you’ll find the Park Avenue Viewpoint and Trailhead with a number of interesting rock formation located along about a two mi. hike (one way).
Most landmarks are located off of five trails within the Park. I especially recommend the Devil’s Garden section (including the primitive trail at the north end of Devil’s Garden Trail), and the Window’s section just northeast of Balanced Rock. The Park occupies about 73,000 acres, and was established in 1971. There are signs of human habitation at Arches that go back some 8,000 years.
One night we drove into Moab for dinner and visited a couple of local brew pubs, it’s quite the place and I highly recommend a visit. We had a cooler along and while in Arches, relied on sandwiches, dehydrated meals, filtered water and energy bars for sustenance. Arches is a small Park and you can see most landmarks and hike 10-30 miles in two-three days. It’s great!
We departed Arches, stopped for a meal in Moab, and headed south about 75 mi. to Canyonlands NP. Canyonlands was established in 1964 and encompasses about 338,000 acres.
The Colorado River runs through Canyonlands from the northeast to the southwest, and is joined by it’s main tributary the Green River, originating in Wyoming. Canyonlands is divided into three sections: Island in the Sky District in the north; the Maze District in the west, and the Needles District in the south. Canyonlands NP is a vast expanse of beautiful and often near-desolate lands. It is an amazing place! Bring lots of water, maps, a compass and a snake-bite kit!
We camped in Dead Horse Point State Park, just northeast of Canyonlands NP. It is a nice camping area and has an interesting history. Camping is also available within Canyonlands NP.
We only visited the Needles District for three days and barely scratched the surface; miles upon miles of trails and natural beauty. We will return to Canyonlands many times in coming years -there is just so much to do and see! And it’s less crowded than many of the National Parks around the country, at least in most places. It is vast, rugged and demanding! Don’t miss it!
My favorite hike in the Needles District on this trip was the Confluence Overlook Trail that led to an overlook of where the Green River joins the Colorado River. It is an 11 mi. round-trip hike, an excellent hike with varying terrain and exceptional scenery.
The Confluence Overlook Trail goes through this ‘keyhole’ before dropping into Elephant Canyon. Most of this trail is dirt, some runs over hard rock where the trail is marked with rock cairns you have to watch for. One section of trail before the ‘keyhole’ even has a ladder to climb up a steep rock wall, then the trail continues up and down over more rock.
And our quiet campsite in nearby Dead Horse Point State Park, provided a place to eat and get rested up for the next day’s activities.Water was available, as were pit toilets. Plenty of other campers were around to share conversations and adventures with at the end of each day.
The campsite was at a higher elevation and got very windy, very often. It offered a cool night’s respite to the heat of the day, and a good night’s sleep! We will be back again to visit Needles District, as well as Island in the Sky District and the Maze District. It may take a few years, but we’re planning on it!
The time came to pack up and head to our next destination. We were headed southeast into New Mexico, passing through Gallup, driving sections of the old Route 66 and eventually meeting friends for a few days reunion. We visited the Gila Wilderness for a couple of days, then met friends up in Santa Fe before heading back to the Twin Cities.
Always good to get home after a long trip, but what memories!