A Quick Visit to Canyonlands National Park, Utah

We knew going to any of the National Parks around Moab, Utah would be crazy on a Sunday, so we opted for what we hoped would be the less busy of them. While I am certain there were fewer people in Canyonlands than there were in Arches (which we heard reached capacity before 8 AM), we still had trouble finding parking and yet, by all accounts, we beat the rush.

We got a fairly early start, and given the less than hour’s drive to the park, we reached the gate by mid-morning and found no line to get in. We passed the Visitor’s Center with plans to stop on our way back and headed toward Mesa Arch, which is where we hoped to start our day.

However, as we approached the trailhead, vehicles were backed up on the road just trying to get into the parking lot, so I whipped out the map and we opted for Plan B: the Grand View Point trail. We arrived just as a ranger talk was wrapping up, so parking was at a premium here as well, but we did manage to find a spot that was not ideal, was not necessarily an actual spot, but was a spot that would work, and the truck was still there when we got back.

The trail starts at the Grand View Point overlook and follows the rim of the canyon approximately 1 mile out, for 1.8 miles total (according to AllTrails.com). Needless to say, the views were incredible. It was awe-inspiring to see the different canyons snaking their way across the landscape below and to see how the shadows and perspectives changed as we made our way along the trail.

As was expected, there were lots of people on the trail, and when we reached the end, we did not even attempt to go to the “grand view point,” as people were covering every inch of the rocks. Instead, we opted to meander off-trail a little and explore the rim on our own.

One of the very endearing things about hiking with a toddler (especially when she is in the backpack) is that 90% of the people we pass on the trail will make a comment about Bird or the backpack or both. While this is fun on a trail where you encounter a handful of hikers, it was kind of exhausting (and very repetitive) when we passed dozens and dozens of hikers. However, even if we heard the exact same comment not 5 minutes before, we still tried to laugh like it was the first time we ever heard it. She is darn cute, and yes, we all do wish we had that easy of a ride.

As we wrapped up our hike, we again reviewed the map and decided to try to stop at Mesa Arch again on our way through, as we knew this was a trail Bird could do with us. We had also scoped out the parking lot on our way by and had a good inkling we would be able to sneak in the less busy side and get a spot (we were right).

This trail was even busier, and because it was shorter (just over 0.5-mile round trip), it felt like there were people everywhere. As we slowly made our way along the trail (Bird kind of dictated the pace), we decided we would appreciate our view of the arch from an overlook and avoid the even larger crowds below waiting to take pictures under the arch. Since we had plans to visit Arches the following day and had hiked to Corona Arch the evening before, we were not hung up on getting our arch picture here.

While there were many other places to visit in Canyonlands, we decided to call it a day. We had been traveling seemingly nonstop for the previous week and wanted to get back to Daisy at the camper and spend the afternoon relaxing. So, even though we left lots unseen in the portion of the Park we visited and had entire other sections of the Park further south to explore, we left a little on the table for our next visit to Moab.

After a quick stop at the Visitor’s Center, we passed a long line of visitors waiting to get in the gate and made our way back home early in the afternoon.

Canyonlands was not necessarily the reason for our visit to Moab, so we did not have an issue making a quick Sunday morning visit out of it. What we did see and experience was absolutely breathtaking and was really just a little taste of the amazing landscapes and geology the State of Utah was going to share with us.

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