Canyonlands Geological Wonderland, Moab, UT

So many parks, so little time. Had a chance to step into Canyonlands for a super quick explore of Mesa Arch (1/2 mile stroll to a heavily populated and photographed arch) and Upheaval Dome (.75 or 1.5 miler).

Mesa Arch

Upheaval Dome A mysterious 3-mile area of deformed rock layers. In the center, the rocks form a dome. The rock layers surrounding the dome fold away in the opposite direction. There are 2 theories about what caused the folds of Upheaval Dome.

Some geologists believe that Upheaval Dome is the result of a salt dome and erosion from the rock layers above the dome itself. If so, Upheaval Dome would be considered the most deeply eroded salt structure on earth.

Other geologists and recent research support the theory that it’s a partially collapsed impact crater from a meteorite dating back ~60 million years.

Whatever it is, it’s cool to observe this geological anomaly and ponder the mystery.

Canyonlands National Park is divided into 4 districts by the massive canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers—the short hikes to big overlooks of Island in the Sky, longer day and backpacking hikes in The Needles, to the remote wilds of The Maze

Just driving around, you can see views like these.

I was fortunate to get a bird’s eye view of this geological wonderland flying in a little Kodiak with Red Tail Adventures, our ride back from white water rafting (post to follow).

Getting to each district of the park (they are unconnected):

From US 191 north of Moab, UT 313 leads to Island in the Sky.

From US 191 south of Moab, UT 211 leads to The Needles.

It’s a long 4-wheel drive journey to get to the  The Maze (The Hans Flat Ranger Station is 2.5 hours from Green River, Utah. From I-70, take UT 24 south for 24 miles. A left hand turn just beyond the turnoff to Goblin Valley State Park will take you along a two-wheel-drive dirt road 46 miles (76 km) southeast to the ranger station.From the ranger station, the canyons of The Maze are another 3 to 6 hours by high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle (more if traveling by foot). Another four-wheel-drive road leads into The Maze north from UT 95 near Hite Marina (3 hours to the park boundary).

Note: High heat and sun exposure in the summer. Avoid the hottest times of the day and bring plenty of sunscreen, a hat, water, and salty snacks.

Happy Trails!

Awesome Arches National Park, Moab, UT

Some call it Arches. After just a glimpse of a few of its thousands of stone arches, soaring pinnacles, massive monoliths, and giant balanced rocks, I call it Kingdom of the Gods. Here are a few highlights from a quick sunset photo shoot en route to a white water adventure on the Colorado River (stay tuned for that post). Can’t wait to explore more of this amazing park, but I’ll have to make do with this teaser post for now.

NOTES: Ticketed reserved entry runs from 6 am to 5 pm daily between April 3 to October 3, 2022. You can enter the park without a reservation before 6 am or after 5 pm. The park is open 24/7.Planning to visit Arches ? Get the scoop on making a timed entry reservation.

Happy Trails!

Coalpits Wash—Wonderful, Zion Wilderness

Distance: ~7RT

Difficulty: Easy with a little scrambling

Anything but the pits, this delightful little hike in Zion Wilderness delivers nature’s solace from the crowds and the concrete. The pinyon pine and juniper tree-lined trail meanders through the open low desert drawing you in along the babbling creek and slowly revealing dazzling views of West Temple and Mt. Kinesava. The trail was named Coalpits because of the dark volcanic boulders that cover the hills to the west. The Wash is the primary drainage for the southern desert section of Zion National Park.

Notes: No dogs. Muddy area after rain or snow. There’s are options to connect to other trails (Chenile Trail, Scoggins). More on this later when I make those connections.

Getting there: UT-9 E/W 500 N – Keep your eyes open for the roadside sign and pullout. No overnight parking.

Happy Trails!

Taylor Creek: Always a Treat. Kolob Canyon, Zion Wilderness

Difficulty: Easy, mostly flat, soft surface and obvious trail

Length: 5.8 Miles RT

Elevation gain: ~700ft

This lovely, woodsy hike in Kolob Canyon features a creek, 2 historical cabins, and a double, closed “arch” payoff at the end. (For an open arch hike head up the road to the Kolob Arch Trail.)

The first cabin you’ll encounter on this hike is the Larson Cabin, the second is the Fife Cabin—both were built by homesteaders around 1930.

Especially enchanting in the Fall, this hike is a treat any time of year.

Notes: This is mountain lion territory. You may see tracks. Hike aware and keep small children near you. Since this is an easy, beautiful hike, it’s quite popular. Go early to enjoy more solitude.

Getting there:  Exit 40 on I-15. This is the Kolob side of Zion National Park so bring your National Park Pass or pay the entrance fee. Follow the scenic drive to the Taylor Creek parking area on the left.

Happy Trails!

Kolorful Kolob Arch Trail, Zion Wilderness

Distance: 15 miles RT

Elevation gain: ~2K

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous depending on your fitness level, definitely a little longer than your standard day hike, mostly smooth, sandy terrain, great for trail running

The trail begins at the Lee Pass Trailhead off of Kolob Canyon Road / Scenic Drive. You’ll drop quickly into the canyon (770 ft in .75 mile) and traverse through the forest on a gentle, sandy path for the first 4 miles or so.

And then it gets even better. Zion vibes without the Zion crowds. After descending another 1k ft, you find yourself surrounded by dancing aspens and majestic red cliffs. This is where you’ll get your first glimpse of lovely La Verkin Creek. Oh, my—a perfect spot to pause and take in all the beauty. I’ll be back just for it. Fall is a splendid time for this hike, but I’m sure spring and early summer are delightful as well.

Continue following the trail along the creek another mile or so until you reach the junction for Kolob Arch. This trail is less distinct and a little more rugged. The distant view of the arch (possibly the largest free-standing arch in North America) is ok, but wow factor is a bit muted without a blue sky backdrop.)

You can continue up the canyon to Beartrap Canyon and Willis Canyon or head out to Holob Canyon and Kolob Terrace Road.

There are 13 camping sights along the trail. Reservations are required and can be made online, but 2 backpackers said they got their pass the same day.

Notes: Sadly, the toxic cyanobacteria have been detected in La Verkin Creek. No dogs are allowed in Zion Wilderness. Bring plenty of water as you can not filter water with cyanobacteria. Ps. Watch where you step!

Happy Trails!

Revisited the trail recently to see La Verkin Creek show off her Spring look. She did not disappoint.

Funny wildlife encounter story. Well not funny, if you’re the frogs or me. While I was “Wim Hoffing” it in the creek, I sat on 2 frogs in the midst of a tryst. Unfortunately, it would be their final, though eternal, encounter. (Gives new meaning to “happy ending”, doesn’t t?) In the meantime, as I was exiting the delightful natural pool, I almost grabbed onto a snake. There’s bound to be one in paradise, right? Notes to self, look before sitting and before placing a handhold. The harmless snake was lying in wait for the plentiful frogs. Little did he know that I’d arranged a 2 for 1 for him. Back on shore, a frog eyed and ID’d me as the culprit.

Other than that, the play/day was uneventful and beautiful. And, yes I still feel guilty about the frogs.