Posts Tagged With: Canyonlands National Park

Needles, Butler Wash, and Natural Bridges

We planned to miss the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park because the road to the entrance was an additional 50 miles off the highway. Then a ranger told us about an alternative called Needles Overlook that was only 22 miles off the main road. That fit our schedule better so we decided to have a look. I think there was one other vehicle the entire time we were there. This gem is definitely a well kept secret. We hiked to Needles Overlook and Indian Creek Viewpoint which were both easy walks with stunning rewards.


Jim on the trail to Needles Overlook


View from Needles Overlook


View from Indian Creek Viewpoint


Colorado River Overlook


Me on the trail where the soil surface and hard surface meet

Just west of Blanding on Utah SR 95 we stopped for a one mile roundtrip hike to Butler Wash Ruins, cliff dwellings of the Anasazi dating from 1200 AD. The trail begins on gravel but quickly becomes slickrock so be careful and mind the cairns to stay on the trail. Much of the trail is uphill going to the ruins which makes the return more pleasant.


Jim on the trail to Butler Wash Ruins


Jim climbing the trail to to Butler Wash Ruins


Butler Wash Ruins where Anasazi lived in cliff dwellings

Our final stop for the day before dinner and a hotel, was at Natural Bridges National Monument. Fortunately, we still had enough energy to tackle the bridges because it was intense. Or so we thought until we encountered an 80 something year old woman who went to the bottom of all three bridges…making us look like hiker pikers.


Natural Bridges National Monument

If you read my earlier post about Arches, your first thought may be, “What’s the difference between an arch and a bridge?”  A bridge crosses some kind of water at one time or another whereas an arch does not . Both are formed by erosion, however.

Your second question may be, “What’s the difference between a national monument and a national park?” A monument preserves a significant natural resource and a park protects a variety of resources within a significant area. Bridges National Monument, the first national monument in Utah, was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 to preserve the three natural bridges found here.

The trail to Sipapu is billed as a strenuous hike. Elevations ranging from 5500 to 6500 feet provided an additional element.  The trail began with stairs and as I climbed down, I told myself, “I have to climb back up at the end of the hike so keep a little in the tank for later.”


Stairs at Sipapu Bridge trailhead


Jim and more stairs on Sipapu Trail

We encountered a class that was listening to a lecture as we hiked to Sipapu Bridge. I wondered if they were resting on the way back.


Sipapu Trail

When we saw the views after some fairly rigorous hiking, we decided not to go all the way to the bottom.


Sipapu Bridge

The second bridge was Kachina and we decided right away not to go to the bottom since the view from the overlook was superb. If you can’t tell where the bridge is on the photo below, the green trees in the center of the photo are below the bridge.


Kachina Bridge

Finally, we hiked to Owachomo Bridge. We did go all the way to the bottom of this one.


Hiking to Owachomo Bridge 



 Owachomo Bridge




Selfie with Owachomo Bridge behind us




Beneath Owachomo Bridge


Owachomo Bridge above us

Whether you’re a hiker or not, this is a great place to spend some time. There’s a driving loop with stops and views of each bridge along the way and you can hike all or a portion of the trails with overlooks, too.

We planned to tour Capitol Reef National Park the following morning and wanted to spend the night near the eastern entrance. The drive on SR 95 was impressive.


Driving north on SR 95, Utah

Reception on my smart phone was very spotty in this area but I did find a room at the Rodeway Inn in Caineville. I also read there were no restaurants in Caineville so to prevent a restaurant search while hangry, it would be prudent to eat before our arrival. I think there were two or three eateries in Hanksville and we chose Blondie’s, a family owned burger joint. The extended family all seemed to be in attendance and our food was cooked while we waited–nothing fancy but tasty, nonetheless.


Blondie’s in Hanksville, Utah


Burger at Blondie’s

We easily found the Rodeway in Caineville, Utah, population 20, because it was the only building in this unincorporated town. The hotel was basic and overpriced including a gluten loaded breakfast of cereal and donuts. But it was the only option this side of Capitol Reef and our evening view was priceless.


View from the Rodeway Inn in Cainville, Utah

Check back next week for our tour of Capitol Reef National Park and prepare to be amazed. We were.


Based on events from September 2015.

Categories: natural history, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Exploring Canyonlands and More

With a surfeit of red rock buttes, mesas, and canyons around Arches National Park and Moab, Utah, you may be tempted to skip Canyonlands National Park. Resist that urge. It’s actually the largest of the four national parks in Utah and the entrance to the Island in the Sky section of the park is just 35 miles from Moab. Four hundred thousand visitors come here each year but we didn’t fight hordes of tourists at the scenic overlooks or on the trails. The day we visited in late September, we had the place nearly to ourselves.

Utah State Route 313, Dead Horse Scenic Byway, to Canyonlands is an enjoyable drive with hairpin curves and splendid views including the Merrimac and Monitor Buttes, named for   Civil War ironclads.


Merrimac and Monitor Buttes from Hwy 313  

We stopped for photos and the rest area came in handy, too. Get used to pit toilets, however, because flush toilets were few and far between. This photo also illustrates why Jim is not often in charge of our camera.


Rest stop on Hwy 313 outside Canyonlands National Park

Our first stop inside Canyonlands was at the visitor center which is always the best place to get your bearings and a good introduction. We always make it a point to see the video program for background information and ask friendly rangers any questions we have.


Nearby Shafer Canyon Overlook provided the first of many magnificient views.


Shafer Canyon Overlook panorama, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Then we embarked on a moderately difficult hike out to Upheaval Dome. Watch out for the slickrock (smooth, polished rock that can be slippery) and some steep dropoffs along the way. Where the path is not readily apparent, you will see cairns (stacked stones) to mark the trail. I would have gotten lost several times without the cairns.



Trail to Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands NP



Cairns marking the trail to Upheaval Dome


Trail to Unheaval Dome, Canyonlands NP


Jim climbing the trail to Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands NP

When we reached the overlook, we struck up a conversation with a young woman who told us she was an aerial acrobat. Her goal was to have her picture taken doing a bridge at the edge of the abyss. I felt very brave standing further from the edge for my photo.



Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands NP




Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands NP


On the hike back from Upheaval Dome, Jim spotted this desert horned lizard, a prime example of apatetic coloration.


Desert Horned Lizard

After a light lunch at the picnic facilities when we returned from our hike, we drove on to Green River Overlook and finally to Grand View Point Overlook. The amazing, awe-inspiring views prompted me to remark that I believed Canyonlands was every bit as spectacular as the Grand Canyon, just on a smaller scale. More on that later when I post about our stop at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.


Lunch at Canyonlands NP


Green River Overlook, Canyonlands NP


Green River Overlook, Canyonlands NP



Grand View Point Overlook, Canyonlands NP




Grand View Point Overlook, Canyonlands NP

After seeing so much, we were tempted to skip Dead Horse Point State Park on our way back to Moab. This is one of those not-to-be-missed sights so stop there to avoid future regret. The entrance fee is only $10. Honestly, I hadn’t heard of this park before our visit but judging by the number of tour buses lined up, I’m in the minority. It’s definitely part of the tour circuit and you’ll understand why when you see it. The legend behind the name of the park is that wild mustangs were corraled on the point and for whatever reason, they were left without water and perished within sight of the Colorado River which they couldn’t access. The white rock in the canyon that looks like a horse is symbolic of the story.


Dead Horse Point panorama, Utah


I circled the symbolic horse on this photo. Can you see it?


The dead horse enlarged. If you still can’t see it, cock your head to the left a bit.

The other claim to fame of this canyon is the final scene in Thelma and Louise was filmed here. The car containing the dummies of Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis went much farther than anticipated, landed in the Colorado River, and required a crane to remove it. But guides will tell you all signs of the movie set were removed. “Leave no trace.”

This very full day had one more treat in store for us. The Moab area has a Rock Art Auto Tour with many examples of Indian petroglyphs and pictographs. Pictographs are painted or drawn on the rock and petroglyphs are scratched or engraved into the rock. Our tour on Utah Scenic Byway 279 included examples of petroglyphs.



Utah Scenic Byway 279 along the Colorado River




Native American Petroglyphs along Scenic Byway 279 in Utah




Petroglyph Rock Art on the rock wall along Scenic Byway 279 in Utah



Petroglyph Rock Art along Scenic Byway 279 in Utah




Wildflowers along Utah Scenic Byway 279

We found lodging in Moab that evening by calling early in the day for a reservation. Dinner consisting of BBQ and scrumptious sweet potatoes at the Blu Pig capped off another perfect day in Utah.


Based on events in September 2015.

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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