Every year over a million people visit Arches National Park because it has arches. The famous Delicate Arch has even become the symbol on licence plates in Utah. But forget about Arches! Canyonlands, the national park lying opposite of Arches has a lot more to offer. Let me unveil the well-kept secrets of Canyonlands and show you why it’s cooler than Arches.
Canyonlands has less than half a million visitors a year or 1.240 visitors a day. You might think that this is still a lot. But what if I told you that park stretches over 1365 square kilometers? Technically that would mean you would have at least 1 square kilometer to yourself. So, the greatest thing about this park is that you can walk around for hours without meeting a single person. It’s just you and nature.
An Island in the sky
Canyonlands is divided in 3 different areas by the Green and Colorado river: The Maze (including Hoeshoe Canyon), The Needles and Island in the Sky. Island in the Sky lies more than 300 meters above the surrounding terrain thus overlooking The Maze and The Needles. I found the landscape even more impressing than the Grand Canyon. Especially in the morning, when the mist hanging in between the mesa tops created the illusion of really standing on an Island in the Sky.
The Green River and the Colorado river not only run through but collide in this park, creating world-class white water rafting areas. Woot!
Meteorite crash site
Upheavel dome is a peculiar circular impact crater an unlike the other rock formations at Canyonlands. There are several theories as to how the crater came to be. The first theory suggests the crater was created by the upheavel of a salt dome. Hence the name ‘Upheavel Dome’. The second theory suggests the crater was created by a meteor crash. Whatever theory you prefer, it’s a beautiful place to sit down and enjoy the natural beauty of the landscape.
There is a rock that looks like a whale! Do I need to say more?
Island in the sky has some great hiking trails such as the Murphy Point Trail (5,8km) that are marked by tree logs and cairns. It’s a bit of a follow the yellow brick road feeling.
Now you might still say: ‘But Arches has arches!’ Well surprise! Canyonlands also has an arch and it’s more impressive than any arch you’ll find at Arches. Mesa arch is standing on top of a cliff with a canyonland backdropview. No wonder it used to be a Windows background shot.
Still not convinced? Watch the trailer from 127 hours which was shot in Canyonlands.
Do it Yourself
Take US Highway 191 north of Moab, Utah Highway 313 leads to the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National park.
There is a $10 entrance fee. You can also use your America the beautiful card.
You need a day to see the highlights. Extend your visit to 2 or 3 days if you like hiking.