Canyons, mesas, two rivers, deep gorges—boomer travelers won’t know where to look first when visiting Canyonlands National Park. One of the best parks in Utah, Canyonlands has four distinct areas: Island in the Sky, Needles, Maze and the rivers, both the Colorado and the Green. They provide active travel adventures combined with photographic opportunities galore.
Situated in Southeastern Utah on the high desert of the Colorado Plateau, Canyonlands offers a rugged landscape with rewarding views in an isolated setting.
Alan and I visited Canyonlands National Park during a photo workshop with Exposure36. Using Moab as headquarters, our group ventured into the national park for sunrise and sunset shots. At Island in the Sky, the most accessible portion of Canyonlands, we spent an early morning at Mesa Arch, capturing the iconic shot of the arch glowing orange from the rising sun, then moved on to explore the Green River Overlook. Returning to Islands in the Sky for a sunset shoot, we stopped at various overlooks before reaching the end of the road at Grand View Point where we hiked the rim trail before setting up camera tripods to catch what little sunset drama could be captured on a cloudy day.
Another afternoon, we drove 50 miles to the Needles Overlook to hike the trail that provided views of the Needles Section. From our vantage point, we looked out onto land that once comprised a ranch larger than the state of Rhode Island. Dirt tracks criss-crossed the undulating canyons and rocky buttes beckoning us to come explore on another day.
Next time we go exploring in Canyonlands National Park, we’ll book a float trip on the Green River or take one of the rugged four-wheel-drive roads near Island in the Sky. Alan already has one mapped out. But of course he really dreams of the Maze District where exploring requires long rides on rocky, rugged four-wheel-drive trails and nights spent camping out under the stars.
Since Moab is located near Canyonlands and Arches National Park, baby boomers can see both parks in the same trip. Allow several days because exploring the area requires miles of driving. But the hiking, rafting, mountain biking and 4-wheel-driving is worth it.