We had come to Canyonlands National Park to photograph its dramatic desert landscape, carved by the Colorado River. The park is divided into three sections— Island in the Sky, a huge, flat-topped mesa punctuated with sandstone canyons and colorful sheer walls, The Needles with its towering rock pinnacles, and the remote canyons of The Maze. My focus was on Island in the Sky.
Again we mixed this visit with driving and hiking, arriving first at Upheaval Dome, where we parked to take the Upheaval Dome Overlook Trail. The hike leads to two overlooks, one on the south rim of Upheaval Dome, possibly a giant meteor crater, and the other on the west side of the Island in the Sky.
The round-trip hike is 1.8 miles long and is marked by cairns (rock piles). The first overlook is short but steep, then splits off to the second overlook. The second section of the trail crosses slickrock pavement, and at one point footsteps were carved into the sheer rock to aid your ascent and descent. Wear hiking boots with good treads for traction.
From the overlook trail, we connected to Syncline Loop Trail, a 7.9-mile-long hike that begins at 5,694 feet. We hiked in about a mile and retraced our steps, keeping track of time, as we wanted to see the rest of Canyonlands, as well as Dead Horse Point State Park.
After our Upheaval Dome hike, we drove to the southernmost overlook, Grand View Point Overlook. With a good pair of binoculars you can see the Confluence Overlook in The Maze. Here the Colorado and Green Rivers merge. Another trip to add to our list—The Maze.
As we backtracked to the park entrance, we pulled into every overlook to enjoy the views and to take pictures.
From Canyonlands we headed to Dead Horse Point State Park, thrilled that we had the time to fit in this park, as well as Monument Valley, during our nine-day vacation of Utah’s Mighty 5—Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands. This first trip was what I call an overview, a chance to explore the area and to nail down some longer hikes for our next visit.
Note: Open range grazing. Watch for cattle crossing the road.