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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Top Things to do in Canyonlands National Park

Explorer Lens


Despite being the largest national park of Utah, it is often overlooked and overshadowed by the other famous national parks of Utah like Arches, Zion and Bryce. But it has plethora of surprises and things to explore.

Canyonlands National Park is among the 5 iconic National Parks of Utah, which are also known as Mighty 5. In our ten days roadtrip to Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, we also planned to cover this national park.

After exploring another unrated gem of Utah - Capitol Reef National Park, we were on our way to check out the offbeat places of Canyonlands National Park.

Canyonlands is made of five different areas – Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, the Rivers and Horseshoe Canyon. While the overlook points of Island in the sky are the most popular among tourists, the Needles also provide great hikes, scenic views and magnificent pillars and spires of sandstones.
The Colorado and Green river flows through Canyonlands and provide opportunity for white water Rafting, kayaking and canoeing. The Maze is the remotest and least accessible region of Canyonlands.
You need 4 × 4 vehicle, permit, proper hiking gear, great level of planning and a very detailed map to explore it. Horseshoe Canyon has great hikes and also known for its significant rock art and petroglyphs.

While there is a lot to experience and explore in Canyonlands, we planned to visit the more accessible famous districts - Island in the Sky and the Needles.

Here is the list of major attractions in Island in the Sky:

1. Visitor Center Viewpoint

The first viewpoint of the park is right at the visitor center. Just park your car at the visitor center and get to the other side of the road to have a stunning view of Canyonlands. There are canyons, dirt roads, mesas and La Sal Mountains off in the distance which create a great first look of the park.

Distance – 0.2 miles round trip from parking
Time – 15-20 minutes


2. Shafer Canyon Viewpoint

After visitor center viewpoint, this is the next overlook to stop and have a view.
It gives you a close-up of the iconic Shafer Point Road winding down the massive sandstone cliff.
You can stand at the edge of the mesa which is 1,400 feet above the canyon and take in the incredible view.

Distance – 0.3 miles round trip
Time – 30 minutes

 


3. Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch gives competition to the arches found in Arches National Park. It is one of the most popular spot of Canyonlands National Park and the best time to visit it is during sunrise. As the sun rises, it illuminates the arch, creating a mesmerizing view.

It can get crowded during the peak afternoon hours, so try to visit during the start of the day or late afternoon hours.

Distance – 0.5 miles round trip
Time – 45 minutes

 


4. Green River Overlook

Green River Overlook is one of the most famous viewpoints of Canyonlands National Park.
It is easy to access and the overlook is just a short walk from the parking lot.

From 6,000 feet above, you have unobstructed stunning view of the green river carving it’s way through the canyon, numerous cliffs, buttes, mesas and also the Maze district.

Distance – 0.2 miles round trip from parking
Time – 20 minutes

 


5. Buck Canyon Overlook

As you drive towards Grand View Point from Green River Overlook, this is a great viewpoint on the way.
You can see numerous buttes to the left and canyons carved by the river to the right. Definitely worth a stop for few minutes to absorb in the amazing views.

Distance – 0.1-miles round trip from parking
Time – 15-20 mins

 


6. Grand View Point

Another spectacular overlook in Canyonlands is Grand View Point. It has a large parking, but because of its popularity, it fills up fast.

At the overlook, you get absolutely incredible views of the Canyonlands National Park stretching far into the horizon with endless alleys of canyons formed by the Colorado River. You can also see the Needles Area of the park from here.

You can also choose to hike the Grand View Point hike which starts at this point. It is a 2 miles roundtrip and offers stunning 360° views.

Distance – 0.2 miles round trip from parking
Time – 20 minutes

 



7. Upheaval Dome

It is a unique place in Canyonslands and the views are completely different to what we have normally seen in the park. Though we didnt get time to visit it, but you should definitely have it on your list.

 

8. White Rim Overlook

It is a 2 miles roundtrip hike to the overlook point, so he decided to skip this. If you have an extra hour, you can definitely check it out.

 

9. White Rim Road

It is the 100 miles iconic dirt road which loops around the Island in the Sky mesa. It takes an average of 2-3 days with 4×4 vehicle and even more with a bike. This is a totally different way to experience Canyonlands National Park.





There are few more scenic hikes and overlook points in the Island of the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park and it totally depends on how much time you have to cover them.

Here is the list of major attractions in the Needles:


1. Wooden Shoe Arch Overlook

This is the first overlook of the Needles. You can see a wooden shoe shaped rock formation which looks amazing. The shoe rock is a bit far away, so you would need a zoom lens to get a good view.

 

2. Slickrock Trail

If you don’t have time to hike to Chesler Park and only have time for one hike in the Needles, Slickrock trail is the recommended one. It offers incredible views of the Needles and Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park.

Distance – 2.4 miles loop trail
Time – 2-2.5 hours

 

3. Chesler Park

Chesler Park is the best spot in the Needles, as you get to see close-up view of hundreds of sandstone spires (which are called needles).

There are two hiking options here, the shorter one is 6 miles round trip, while the longer one is 11 miles loop trail. The shorter one takes you to the Chesler Park Viewpoint, from where you can La Sal Mountains to the north and Chesler Park to the south.


As we only had half day for the Needles, we did the shorter one. But if you have complete day for Needles, try the longer one as it takes you through the Chesler Park where you can have the best close up view of the sandstone spires aka Needles.

Distance – 6-11 miles loop trail
Time – 4-7 hours

 


4. Druid Arch

Druid Arch is considered to be one of the most popular destinations in Needles. The hike offers an iconic arch at the end of the trail which is said to resemble large rocks of Stonehenge.
As we were short of time, we couldn’t visit the arch, but it is definitely worth visiting.

Distance – 10.4 miles round trip
Time – 5-7 hours

 

Credit - Here

Tips from our experience and learning

1. Canyonlands National Park has a lot of remote, untamed and rugged places which are accessible via dirt road and will require a 4 × 4 vehicle, so do keep a note of that while visiting this national park.

2. Bring lots of water and food, as there are no cafes or restaurants in Canyonlands National Park or in the vicinity.

3. Get your tank full at Moab, as there are no gas stations in Canyonlands National Park.

4. Try to visit Mesa Arch during Sunrise and Dead horse point state park during sunset which lies in close vicinity to Island in the Sky district of Canyonland.

5. If you are visiting the park during summers the temperatures can soar to 100 Fahrenheit, so carry sunscreen and good amount of water.

6. If you are thinking of hiking the Maze, make sure you have that much hiking experience, supporting gear, a very detailed map of Maze, 4 × 4 vehicle and ofcourse Permit. Try for guided tours.

7. It is a 2 hours drive from Island in the Sky to Needles or vice versa, so plan your visit accordingly.

8. Try to keep atleast 2 days for Canyonlands National Park to visit it’s major attractions, unless you are planning to drive the White Rim Road which will take additional 2 days.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Top things to do in Capitol Reef National Park

Explorer Lens

This is one of the unrated and overlooked national parks of USA, but has plethora of surprises.
On similar lines as Death Valley National Park, this park is also known for dramatic terrains which keeps on changing every mile and magnificent mammoth rock formations.

Capitol Reef National Park is among the 5 iconic National Parks of Utah, which are also known as Mighty 5. In our ten days roadtrip to Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, we also planned to cover this national park.

After exploring the beauty of Arches National Park, we were on our way to check out the hidden gems of Capitol Reef National Park.

This park preserves the Waterpocket Fold, a wrinkle in the earth crust which is 100 miles long. This is a stunning landscape which looks like an extraterrestrial rift with incredible colors.
It is also home to several scenic drives, dramatic landscapes, gigantic rock formations, slot canyons, historical landmarks and otherworldly rugged terrain which can be reached using a 4 × 4.

There are lot of hidden gems here and miles of remote area to explore.
But, as we were on a road trip, short on time and didn’t knew much about the park, we could only cover few overlook points, scenic drives and some of the remote areas of the park. We definitely plan to visit this national park again in future.


Here is the list of major attractions:


1. Highway 24

Highway 24 is the main road that runs through the park. It is a very scenic road along the Fremont River which has stunning view of the massive red sandstone mountains, cliffs, domes and rock formation.
This part of the park is free and has many major attractions like Panorama Point, Sunset Point and hiking trails.

Distance – 16 miles
Time – 1.5-2 hours

 

2. Panorama Point

It is located just off the Highway 24 and is really easy to access.
It provides stunning views over the Highway 24 as it meanders through the park and also provides opening views of the Capitol Reef National Park.

There is a sign for Panorama Point where you have to turn and drive on a gravel road to the parking lot.

Distance – 0.3 miles round trip
Time – 15 minutes

 



3. Sunset Point and Goosenecks Overlook

These two points are located in close vicinity to Panorama Point. If you continue on the gravel road that you took for Panorama Point, the dead end is Sunset Parking lot. There are two trails from here, one goes to Sunset Point and other to Goosenecks Overlook Point.

Sunset Point is the best point in Capitol Reef National Park to view sunset. Goosenecks Overlook Point is not only famous for the gooseneck structure, but you can also listen to your echo by yelling in the canyon.

Distance – 0.8 miles round trip
Time – 1 hour to cover both the points

 


4. Capitol Reef Scenic Drive

Another stunning scenic drive to do here is Capitol Reef Scenic Drive. It is literally one of the best things to do here. The scenic drive starts as Fruita and ends at Capitol Gorge Road.

This one-way road has one of the best views of the park which includes otherworldly sandstone mountains and rock formations. It is a $20 fee for driving this road which can be paid at the self-pay station just past the Fruita Campground.

Distance – 8 miles one way
Time – 1-1.5 hours


 

5. Capitol Gorge Road

The scenic drive ends at Capitol Gorge Road. Capitol Gorge road is a gravel road which has gigantic canyon walls on both sides and the views are just spectacular.

Distance – 2.2 miles one way
Time – 30-45 minutes

 


6. Cassidy Arch

It is one of the two famous arches in Capitol Reef National Park. You have to take the Grand Wash Spur road to reach at the parking lot of the trailhead of this arch. The trail is a 3.4 miles moderate hike which features stunning views over Grand Wash and also a chance to stand on the Arch.

Distance – 3.4-miles round trip
Time – 2.5-3 hours


Credit - Here

7. Hickman Bridge

Hickman Bridge is said to be the most famous arch of Capitol Reef National Park. It is 1.8 miles moderate hike to the Hickman Bridge. It is one of the best short hikes to do in Capitol Reef. On the trail, you get to see stunning views of the Route 24 and surrounding Canyons.

Distance – 1.8-miles round trip
Time – 1-1.5 hours

 

                                                                      Credit - Here

8. Cohab Canyon

It is a popular hike in Capitol Reef National Park and is in vicinity of the Hickman Bridge. You get to hike past the slot canyons and the aerial views of Fruita from the top are amazing.

Distance – 3-miles round trip
Time – 2.5-3 hours

 

9. Cathedral Valley

Cathedral Valley is one of the remote areas of Capitol Reef National Park and is known for its otherworldly sandstone monoliths and colorful bentonite hills which are going viral among travelers worldwide.

There are lot of things to do here and it might take a complete day exploring the valley.
Here are the main attractions:

Cathedral Valley Loop – It is a 58-mile scenic drive through a well-maintained gravel road which takes you to all major attractions of Cathedral Valley.

Bentonite Hills – This are those colorful hills of Utah which are taking internet by storm. I have seen so many breathtaking pictures of these hills that I definitely want to visit them in my next trip.

Upper and Lower Cathedral Valley Overlook – These overlooks provide stunning views of the sandstone monoliths and other stunning rock formations in the valley.

Cathedrals Trail – It is a 2.4 miles easy trail which takes you closest to the sandstone monoliths. The best part of the hike is when you walk parallel to them. The trail ends at a small hill which provides scenic view of the Cathedrals.

Temples of Sun and Moon – Temples of Sun and Moon are the most photographed structures of Cathedral Valley. Most visitors visit Cathedral valley to get a close up view of them. Morning time is the best time to photograph them. Just a fact, the Sun Temple is larger than the Moon Temple.

 

                                                              Credit - Here

10. Strike Valley Overlook

This is the overlook from where you can get the best view of the iconic Waterpocket Fold. There are two ways to visit this overlook, one is with 4 × 4 vehicle where you need to only hike for a mile. The other one is where you will have to do the 6.2 mile trail.

                                                                Credit - Here

11. Navajo Knobs Trail

Navajo Knobs trail is one of the most amazing hikes in Capitol Reef National Park and offers incredible views of the park from the top. This 9.1 mile out and back trail is an extension of the Hickman Bridge Trail and Rim Overlook.


There are lot of other hikes and scenic drives to explore in Capitol Reef National Park and it totally depends on how much time you have to cover them.

 

Tips from our experience and learning

1. Most of the otherworldly attractions here are located in remote rugged areas which might require a
4 × 4 vehicle, so do keep a note of that while visiting this national park.

2. A lot of scenic drives and attractions are on the gravel road where you have to drive slowly, so make sure to plan your visit accordingly.

3. Cathedral Valley is impassable if it is raining or wet, so check the weather before visiting.

4. Do the Cathedral Valley loop in counter clockwise direction, so that you get to photograph Sun and Moon Temple at the best time of the day.

5. Bring lots of water and food, as there are no cafes or restaurants in Capital Reef National Park or in the vicinity.

6. If you have half day time, cover Highway 24, Panorama Point, Sunset Point and Goosenecks Overlook, Capitol Reef Scenic Drive and Capitol Gorge Road. You can also add a short hike if you start early in the day.

7. If you have one day for the park, do everything mentioned above and two hikes, like Cassidy Arch and Hickman Bridge.

8. If you have two days for the park, do Cathedral Valley loop on the second day.

9. If you have more than 2 days, you can cover most of the attractions listed above.

 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Top things to do in Arches National Park

Explorer Lens

We have learned about Arch in Mathematics during our school days.
I was quite intrigued by the arch questions, especially the parabolic arch ones.
When I found that there is a national park in USA which has world famous arches, I was surprised and equally excited.

Arches National Park in Utah is among the 5 iconic National Parks of Utah, which are also known as Mighty 5. In our ten days roadtrip to Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, we also planned to cover this national park.

After exploring the beauty of Bryce Canyon National Park, we were on our way to check out the fascinating arches of Arches National Park.

Arches National Park is home to more than 2000 natural sandstone arches and jaw dropping geological formations. Though, there is a lot to see here, a half to one day trip covering the major arches, viewpoints and geological formations would give you almost complete glimpse of Arches National Park.

So, here is the list of major attractions:

1. Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch is the most iconic attraction of Arches National Park. People from all over the world come to see this Arch. It is situated on the top of the mountain, so from the parking lot you need to walk uphill most of the times to get to the arch.

Expect a lot of crowd here. Best time to visit the Arch is mostly during sunrise, late afternoon or sunset.

Distance – 3 miles round trip
Time – 2-3 hours




2. Double Arch

When one is a treat, two calls for a party. Double Arch is nothing less than a party in Arches National Park. It is a fabulous display of natural beauty. Though, they look small from a distance but are massive in shape. 

Distance – 0.5 miles round trip
Time – 30 minutes

 



3. The Windows and Turret Arch

There are 3 arches in vicinity that can be seen along a short hike – North Window, South Window and Turret Arch.  As this is a popular spot, it might be difficult to get a parking spot easily.

Distance – 0.7 miles round trip
Time – 45 minutes



4. Devils Garden

Devils Garden is one of the best hikes to do in Arches National Park, as there are multiple arches to explore here. It is also home to the largest arch of the park – Landscape Arch.

Most people visit Landscape Arch and turn around to the parking lot, but there are many other amazing arches that you can visit, like Double O Arch, Pine Tree Arch, Tunnel Arch, Navajo Arch and Partition Arch .

Landscape Arch Distance – 1.9 miles round trip.
Landscape Arch Time – 2-2.5 hours
Side trails to Pine Tree and Tunnel arches will add another 0.5 miles and 30 minutes.

Double O Arch Distance – 4.1 miles round trip
Double O Arch Time – 4-5 hours

 


5. Park Avenue

If you are looking for something different than arches in the Arches National Park, this is the place to explore. Gigantic rock formations in form of interesting shapes from real life is a treat to the eyes, as it takes your imagination to the next level.

Also, it is a short hike which can be done by people of all ages.

Distance – 1 mile one way
Time – 30-45 minutes



 

6. Balanced Rock

You can see this amazing structure right from the road, but it is worth pulling over to get a good view. It is one of the iconic non-arch formations in the park and a must visit. You can go for a short hike around the rock to get an up-close view.

Distance – 0.3-mile round trip
Time – 15 minutes

 


7. Garden of Edens

Garden of Eden is on the way to Double Arch and Windows Arch.
This geological wonder is another quick stop to see some amazing hoodoos and sandstone rock pinnacles.

 


8. La Sal Mountain view

Attaining a staggering height of 13,000 feet, this second highest mountain range in Utah can be seen from Arches National Park.
360-degree panoramic view of the stunning red rocks formation and snow covered La Sal Mountains at the backdrop, is really a delight to watch.

 



9. Fiery Furnace

This is one of the popular ranger guided hike and the reservations fill up quickly.
You can also get a view from the overlook point which is near to the parking lot.

 

                                                                    Credit - Here


10. Sand Dunes Arch

Sand Dunes arch is located in between the fins of sandstone rock and gives you a different experience than most of the arches in the park. It is a short hike to the arch, but as we were short on time, we couldn’t do it.

Distance – 0.4-mile round trip
Time – 15-20 minutes

 

                                                                     Credit - Here


11. Skyline Arch

Located in the Devil's Garden area, Skyline Arch can be easily seen from the roadway.
The arch is impressive and can be reached by a short hike.

Distance – 0.2-mile round trip
Time – 15-20 minutes


There are lot of other arches and places to explore in Arches National Park and it totally depends on how much time you have to cover them.

 



Tips from our experience

1. Start your day early as early as possible, so that you get the parking spot and also get the views to yourself.

2. The Arches National Park is one of the most famous national parks in USA and can get packed pretty soon. You can see park full sign at 9:00 am also, so you really need to plan and start your day early or arrive in the late afternoon.

3. If you are visiting the park during summer time, carry a lot of water with you as the temperatures might even reach 100-degree Fahrenheit.

4. In case, you find Arches National Park full during your visit, plan a quick trip to Island in the Sky of Canyonlands National Park. It is totally worth the visit.

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