Plan To Visit Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky
When we planned our visit to the Utah parks, we really only had the big 5 National Parks on our radar. But we were so glad we learned more about the great state parks in Utah too. We were so glad we visited Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky on a day trip from Moab, Utah.
An Early Morning Stop
We knew it would be a busy day. So we were up and headed were out early when we explored Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky.
As we drove, we continued to be amazed with rocks. Our first stop was at the Monitor and Merrimac viewpoint. These two buttes (or cliffs) towered over 600 feet and were made from Navajo sandstone deposited over 200 million years ago. They were named after two Civil War ironclad ships. The Monitor was a Union ship and the Merrimac a Confederate ship. Both ships now lie on the bottom of the ocean.
When we passed by in the morning, there were a fair number of clouds in the sky and the two mountains were in shadow. But then we watched the sunbeams start to move across our field of view. We got brief glimpses when the mountains were lit.
When we returned the same way on the trip home, both peaks were fully lit. It was yet another reminder of how different light made such a difference.
First Views At Dead Horse State Park
Most of the stops we planned in Utah were National Parks. But on our visit to Salt Lake City, we learned that some of the state parks were also great to see. The Dead Horse State Park was on our route to Canyonlands National Park. So we wanted to add these views to our day.
Once inside the park, we passed several different hiking areas. But we wanted the view from the Dead Horse Point. A vast panorama was laid out before us. Far below we saw the twisty path of the Colorado River about 2,000 feet below us. This was the first but not last time we saw this river on our travels.
On both sides of the viewpoint we saw steep rock cliffs. And out on the point was the rock that this park was named after.
We knew there was much more to explore. But on our day visit to Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands Island In The Sky, we could not see it all.
Island In The Sky In Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park covered a vast area on the Colorado Plateau. It covered 337,598 acres of colourful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires in three distinct districts. If we wanted to visit different areas, we would have needed hours to travel from one to another. Unless you plan to explore just Canyonlands, you need to focus on one area per visit.
On our stay in Moab, we knew we could not see it all. Island in the Sky was closest to Moab. And the easiest park to explore. The scenic drive provided easy access to the great viewpoints. So we chose to visit here on this visit.
The Needles was less accessible. It required more time to explore. A four-wheel drive vehicle would have been needed to reach every part. But the scenery would be worth it on a longer trip. The Maze was an even more isolated area east of the Green River. It was really for more experienced explorers. Both the Needles and the Maze could also be seen on a boat trip. That is how we would do it on a return trip to Moab.
Looking Over The Shafer Trail In Canyonlands National Park
We arrived at the first viewpoint in the Island in the Sky and excitedly looked down. When we did our research about Canyonlands National Park, we learned about the Shafer Trail. From the park we could drive off road over twisty roads that wound down into the canyon. The road ultimately came out close to Moab.
We looked down at the path into the canyon. Several jeeps moved slowly while we watched. It looked like such a fun thing to do.
But we were not comfortable driving our rental SUV along the path. So we looked at options to rent an off-road jeep to explore the Shafer Trail. We ultimately decided to take an off-road jeep tour. And they easily convinced us there were much scarier routes to take than Shafer Trail.
The View Through The Mesa Arch
On our day in Arches National Park, we saw a great array of rock arches. But we were delighted when we found that the next stop in Canyonlands National Park was for Mesa Arch. On the map it looked the arch was close by. But as we moved to the path, it soon became evident that there would be some hiking to see the arch. I was just sorry I left my hiking poles in the car.
When we finally got close, we saw the arch in the distance. People climbed around and were posed in the arch.
By the time we reached the arch, we were able to get close for photos. And a great view down through the arch.
Our stop at the Mesa Arch was a treat on our day trip visit to Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands Island In The Sky.
Heading Far Into The Park To The Grand View Point Overlook
Our stop at the Mesa Arch took longer than we expected. So we decided to head straight to the Grand View Point Overlook at the end of the park road. We then stopped at other viewpoints on our way back.
This stop provided us with a stunning vista at 6,080 feet elevation (1,853m) out over canyons that looked like tears in the earth. The walls were sheep and sharp. Far off in the distance was the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park.
At the next viewpoint, we saw more panoramic views. The valley was flatter at this area. And we saw the river as it wound through the plateau off in the distance.
At these great viewpoints, we certainly understood why this park was called Canyonlands. These were the vistas we wanted when we planned our day to see Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands Island In The Sky.
Buck Canyon Overlook
We almost passed on stopping at Buck Canyon Overlook. We thought the view might be the same as we got from the Grand View Point Overlook. And while similar in style, it offered more stunning views into the deep canyons carved into the plateau.
We tried to capture a perspective on how deep and steep the canyon walls were. David even went out to the edge of a rock shelf to shoot down.
Our next stop was at the Candlestick Lookout. We got a great view of the rocks standing on their out on the plains.
On our day trip visit to Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands Island In The Sky, the canyon views left us speechless with wonder. Each one just a little different than the next.
Heading For Whale Rock and Upheaval Dome
We headed back towards the Visitor Centre and took the other arm of the path into Canyonlands National Park. When we saw the massive rounded rock, we knew it was the Whale Rock.
At the end of the path we found a large parking lot for the trail head to Upheaval Dome. We could see the dome far off in the distance. But by this point in the day, we were not up to a long hike for this last view. So we left it for another visit.
Seeing The Power Of Water At The Green River Overlook
As we drove back towards the visitor centre, we caught glimpses of the canyon on the other side. These brief views convinced us that we needed to stop at the Green River Overlook. And we were so glad we did.
As we approached, we saw a large butte. Far off in the distance other buttes were visible in other areas of Canyonlands National Park.
Far below the canyon walls, we saw the Green River as it wound its way along. The Green River divides the Island in the Sky from the Maze district of Canyonlands National Park. It ultimately joins with the Colorado River about 20 miles from this point.
The stop at the Green River Outlook gave us a different but equally interesting view of the sculpted earth of Canyonlands National Park.
An Amazing Visit To Dead Horse State Park And Canyonlands Island In The Sky
We were so glad we decided to visit some of the Utah State Parks on this tour of the Utah National Parks. State parks around Salt Lake City offered us great fall colours. The Goblins Valley State park was a fun stop on our visit to the Capitol Reef National Park. Dead Horse State Park provided a stunning vista to start our day.
The many viewpoints in Canyonlands National Park demonstrated how this park got its name. The canyons offered broad vistas. And the deep canyons looked like rips in the earth. We had a much better appreciation for Mother Nature as a sculptor after our visit.
When you visit Utah, don’t miss Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands Island In The Sky.
Did you visit Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands Island In The Sky? If you missed Dead Horse State Park, are you convinced to visit on a return visit?
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