Canyonlands National Park was the second destination in our national park quintet. Established by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Canyonlands is known for its dramatic desert landscape carved by the Colorado River. The park features towering rock pinnacles, remote canyons, whitewater rapids, and Native American rock paintings.
The first formations we encountered were the Monitor and Merrimac Buttes, pictured here, near Tusher Canyon. We opted to spend our afternoon touring Island in the Sky, a huge, flat-topped mesa with panoramic overlooks and a 34-mile round-trip scenic drive.
Highlights included Shafer Canyon, Buck Canyon, and the Green River overlook, culminating in Grand View Point, which lies at the southernmost point of the drive. From there, we could see the White Rim, The Maze and The Needles, as well as the La Sal and the Abajo mountains.
White Rim sandstone is a hard layer of white sandstone that forms a sharply defined rim above the lower level canyons. Made of ancient coastal sand dunes, the White Rim lies about 1,300 feet below the observation area. The Needles is a district of Canyonlands located about 12 miles south of the overlook. Up close, it’s a land of colorful, sculptured rocks with arches, canyons and needle-like spires.
A unique feature of Grand View Point is Monument Basin, a series of steep-sided walls, columns and pinnacles, all punctuated by Totem Pole, a spire of eroded sandstone that stands 305 feet high, making it the basin’s tallest feature.
As we toured Canyonlands, we learned a few things worth sharing:
- Hydration is essential in the desert, so drink plenty of water.
- Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin.
- Be careful near cliff edges, and remember, it’s much easier to climb up than down, especially when wearing flip-flops.