September 19 . . . our 30th anniversary! And how wonderful to celebrate it exploring the stunning scenery around Moab. Our destination for the day was the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands National Park. Canyonlands is quite large, and actually has three separate regions. Island in the Sky in the north, Needles to the south, and the Maze to the west. Each has its own distinct personality and types of land formations. You could spend an entire vacation just exploring Canyonlands and not make a dent in it.
Over coffee and another wonderful breakfast at our new favorite, Jailhouse Cafe, we planned our day trip to Canyonlads. It’s a short 32 miles from Moab to Island in the sky. Arches is only eight miles away, and it’s amazing to me that there are so many completely different geographic areas so close to Moab.
Shafer Canyon Overlook
Our first stop in Canylands was Shafer Canyon Overlook. Just a few miles past the park entrance, it provides stunning views. In the picture, the overlook is in the very center of the picture. We hiked the short distance out there. It’s unbelievable to me that there aren’t any railings along the edge of the overlook because it’s hundreds of feet down in some places, and you can walk right up to the edge of the drop-off. This was the one of many challenges to my acrophobia during the week.
Looking from the outlook, you could see a road that criss-crosses across the steep cliff. I couldn’t imagine being crazy enough to drive on that road with its sheer drop-offs. Bill, on the other hand, was determined to figure out a way to do it. And later in the week, we actually did. More about that in another posting.
Next stop was Mesa Arch. People climb up on top of this arch. From this view, it’s only about 25 feet above the ground. But on the other side, it drops down hundreds of feet.
Incredible views through Mesa Arch
View from the top and side of Mesa Arch
We got back in our pick-up, and drove about 20 more miles to Upheaval Dome. This is a collapsed cinder cone, with a new greenish lava dome in the middle. It was a quite short, somewhat steep hike up to this view. The air was starting to get a little warm, so hiking uphill was not so enjoyable.
View from Green River Overlook
Driving back to the main road, we stopped at Green River Overlook. From here, you can look down into the plateaus above the Green River, which eventually flows into Grand Canyon. It’s hard to describe the other-worldliness of being up high on a plateau or mesa, looking down hundreds of feet at another layer of plateaus that are hundreds of feet above the Green River. It’s a little mind boggling, but gorgeous. We experienced this phenomenon throughout the day, and it’s really something I couldn’t get enough of.
Next, off the the grand finale of the park: Grand View Point Overlook. This area has stunning views that can be seen a short distance from the parking area. But you can also hike out along the edge of the cliff for a few miles, all the while looking hundreds of feet down to plateaus with their own unbelievable formations of needles and other rock structures.
View from Grand View Point Overlook
In the picture at right, just beyond the edge of the rocks in the foreground is a drop off of a few hundred feet. Then the plateaus below feature their own drops into deep canyons. These canyons have needles, fins, and other steep protrusions that are all a few hundred feet tall. It’s all unbelievably majestic.
You're really, seriously walking out there?
We hiked along the edge of the cliff for a few miles, and then back again. It was getting quite warm, so we took our time and enjoyed the scenery. Bill had no qualms about getting right up to the edge to enjoy the spectacular views, scaring the crap out of me on numerous occasions.
Please . . . can't you step away from the edge?
After a day of hiking in the heat, we were pretty tired. We headed back to Moab and spent a few hours exploring the shops, restaurants, and brew pubs.
An adrenaline rush (for both of us)
For our anniversary dinner we went back to Jeffrey’s Steakhouse and Ghost Bar. We enjoyed our dessert there so much the night before that we wanted to try a full meal there. We weren’t disappointed. I had a filet mignon that just about melted in my mouth. What a perfect way to end our anniversary day. And we have plenty to look forward to in the days to come . . . quadding north of Moab, hiking in Devil’s Garden in Arches, a desert sunset ride in a Razr in the Hell’s Revenge area of Sand Flats recreation area (the 4-wheel drive headquarters of the world), the Needles region of Canyonlands, and a sunrise hike to the picturesque Delicate Arch in in Arches.