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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Canyonlands Part I: Shafer Canyon and Mesa Arch

Day 1 Part 1:  Canyonlands National Park,
Shafer Canyon and Mesa Arch.

After a great morning at Dead Horse Point Park, See my post here, we were excited to head one of the Mighty Five National Parks in Utah.   I want to see all the national parks I can in this lifetime and after this weekend 4 down, a ton to go!

 It is about a 15 minute drive from Dead Horse Point State Park, 
so it worked out well to cover these two parks in one day, and Arches National Park and Negro Bills Canyon the next day. 

First stop (after my necessary national park sign photo) was the "Island in the Sky" visitor center at Canyonlands.  The national parks in Utah are not dog friendly, the rule being your dog can only go where "your car tires can go".  They are allowed in your car and on main roads, but are not allowed on any trails, outlooks, or paved sidewalks.  As disappointing and annoying as this rule was, the national parks are very "car/driver" friendly.  Almost all the big scenery is accessible by your car and at a lookout area.  

Another disappointing fact about a first time Canyonlands visitor, was that "The Needles"at the other end of the park,  is accessible only by a different visitor's center (a 2 hour drive from this one).  We stuck to the "Island in the Sky" portion and promised ourselves to return to this park, without a dog and with bikes. 

If you are short on time, this is a great way to view the park.  We drove all the driveable areas and made sure to stop at the major sights.  The one short hike we did do (leaving Olive in the shady car with water) was Mesa Arch and one of my favorite places in the park.   The quick tour mentioned above involves:  Shafer Canyon, Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome, Grand View Point, Buck Canyon Overlook, and the Green River Overlook.  

The views were similar to Dead Horse Point at first. We also kept seeing all these cool rock "islands".  We left Olive in the car for a few minutes and walked the path out to this cool spot. 

I really loved all the cairns all over the park that marked the trail. 
 These block cairns were my favorite. 

I believe this was the Shafer Canyon Overlook.
But those mountains in the background, I mean really! 

And I made Thatcher take a picture of my silly pose.  
My idea is to eventually have a funny montage of me doing this all over Utah

Next, we headed to Mesa Arch.  It was only a half a mile each way so we left Olive in the shade (again, she was tired after our hike) while we hiked out to Mesa Arch.   This is the famous spot to watch a Canyonlands sunrise, and was my original plan.  We ended up hiking out to it in the afternoon instead and were not dissapointed. 

We got out to the arch and our jaws dropped at the sight of the really cool feature.  These brave souls climbed on top for a picture.  I got their picture up there because there was no way I was climbing up there.  The other side of this arch is sheer cliff down down down.  

I settled for a picture in the arch, instead of on top of it.  

Our first National Park, and our first Arch on Saturday.  
Canyonlands was off to a great start.
Check back in for my Canyonlands Part II post featuring the overlooks and the Upheaval Dome

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