The next morning we ate a quick breakfast and drove an hour into Canyonlands National Park. Canyonlands is divided into three sections. Island in the Sky and the Needles districts are both easily accessible by car but a long drive from each other, while the Maze district is more remote and accessible by long hikes or off-roading. We chose to go to the Island in the Sky for its accessibility from Moab and expansive views for sunsets. When we reached the visitor center the weather seemed perfect for hiking – a bit cool, keeping the crowds away. We drove to Mesa Arch, named for the great view of the mesa as you look through the arch, and attempted to get a photo of us sitting on it without a crowd around (we had to settle for stitching several photos together.)
Leaving the arch, we drove down to Green River Outlook while Eric played with a sunset app on his phone. We were trying to figure out the best spot to watch the sunset this evening. The outlook was beautiful with views of the Maze and several canyons below. We continued to the end of the road to the parking area for Upheaval Dome, one of the largest mysteries in the park. During the 2-mile hike we learned about the various theories for how it came to be, while we battled increasingly windy weather. The wind got so strong on the way back that Taylor had to sit down since nothing was around to brace herself. We made it back to the car, ate, and headed to our next stop.
The downside of the Island in the Sky district is the lack of many long hiking trails, so we found another short trail to a great overlook named Murphy’s Point. The trail was flat but 4 miles round trip so a little bit of a chance to stretch our legs. The second we arrived back at the trailhead rain began to fall, perfect timing! We drove to our last stop, Grand View Point Overlook, and when the rain let up we walked out to the viewpoint. The view was the best we had seen in the park – with Needles in front of us, the Maze to our right, and the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers in the distance. We decided this was the spot to watch the sunset, hoping that the stormy weather would provide for a spectacular show, but we still had a couple hours of daylight left.
Having done most of what we could in this section of the park, we rested in the car for a bit as sunset got closer. As the sun set we had the overlook to ourselves. It’s pretty awesome when you get to experience the parks in such solitude. The sunset didn’t quite live up to our expectations, but it was still a nice finish to another great day. We went back to town for our final night and got ready to head to Capitol Reef.