Canyonlands National Park is divided into three districts: Island in the Sky, Needles, and Maze Districts.
Canyonlands National Park v.1 explores Island in the Sky District. Island in the Sky is the easiest part of the
park to visit, with the Visitor Center only 40 minutes from Moab. Island in the Sky mesa rises 1,000 feet above the surrounding terrain
and the many short trails and overlooks along Grand View Point Road provide spectacular views of the canyonlands below. Island in the Sky
is perfect for casual visitors and sightseers with just a few hours to spend, although there are trails and four wheel drive roads leading down into
the canyons for the more adventurous spirits. Some of the four-wheel drive roads are Potash Road, Shafer Trail Road,
and White Rim Road. Sad to say I haven't driven any of them.
Our tour will start at the park entrance and proceed along the road to Grand View Point, with several stops along the way.
Park entrance to Willow Flat
Our drive on Grand View Point Road takes us past Grays Pasture to our first stop, which is a very short hike to Mesa Arch and a view of Washer Woman Arch. Then we turn right onto Upheaval Dome Road, stop for a short hike to Aztec Butte, and continue on to Upheaval Dome. Upheaval Dome is an area about 3 miles across where the rock layers have been dramatically deformed. The rocks in the center have been pushed up (a dome) while the rock layers around the edge are warped downward (a syncline).
Flora and Fauna
Canyonlands is a high desert environment with with flora and fauna typical of southeast Utah and the four corners region.
Green River Overlook
Retracing our route back from Upheaval Dome we turn on the road leading past Willow Flat Campground to Green River Overlook. This overlook provides fantastic views of Island in the Sky District to the west and southwest.
Murphy Point Overlook
The next stop after Green River Overlook is Murphy Point, also located on the west side of Island in the Sky Mesa. Views are to the west and southwest into the Maze District.
Buck Canyon Overlook
After admiring the views at Murphy Point we get back on the road and turn right at the junction heading toward Grand View Point. The next stop is Buck Canyon Overlook with views to the east. Buck canyon and the La Sal Mountains are notable features at this overlook.
White Rim Overlook and Gooseberry Canyon
The next stop on the tour is White Rim Overlook and Gooseberry Trail, just before reaching Grand Point. Gooseberry Trail is a difficult 5 mile out and back trail that descends from the mesa top to the white rim (1500 foot elevation change). On the other hand, it's just a short jog out to White Rim Overlook, with views to the northeast, east, and southeast. The overlook offers great views of Gooseberry Canyon, Monument Basin, and Junction Butte.
Monument Basin is best viewed from stops near the end of Island in the Sky Mesa and from Grand View Point. I have included a series of photos in this section taken from various vantage points.
Grand View Point
Finally we reach Grand View Point, at the southern end of Island in the Sky Mesa. Grand View Point provides expansive views of Island in the Sky District to the east, south, and west.
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