Stand on top of the canyons at Canyonlands National Park. Visiting this park in conjunction with Zion, or Black Canyon National Park and you will gain a greater appreciation as you stand atop the canyons. But if you haven't visited the other parks you can still watch in amazement as they span the horizon. Here you can begin to grasp the expanse of the Colorado Plateau and see how the Green and Colorado Rivers carved these canyons into existence.
The park is split into three districts: Island in the Sky, The Maze, and The Needles. The Maze district is remote and only accessible on foot or by 4wheel drive, there are limited facilities and only primitive camping available. Island in the Sky and The Needles offer modern facilities and camping options. If you wish to visit more than one district be sure to give yourself ample time as entrance gates to these districts are over 100 miles from each other. I spent my time in Island in the Sky, but hope to update you on the other districts soon!
I was lucky to get the last spot at the Willow Flat Campgrounds ($15 a night) as there are only about 12 sites. If all these sites are taken you can backcountry camp or find more camping nearby at Deadhorse Point State Park. The Willow Flat site is conveniently in the middle of the park and each site has a kitchen shelter perfect for hammock hanging.
Hikes I Hiked
White Rim Overlook - 1.8 miles - Limited parking means this hike is not over crowded and you'll maybe see 5 other people along the way. Here you'll walk out onto and east facing overlook plataue like part of the canyon. Views of the Colorado River, Monument Basin and Las Sal Mountains will await you at the end. Look directly down and you'll see the amazing White Rim Road. This primitive road is 100 miles long, with no facilities, and rides along he ridge of the canyon. (Yes it's on my to-so lit.) There is little to no shade on this hike and much of it is along sandstone with no specific path. Keep an eye out for cairns, small rock stacks, if you don't feel like wandering aimlessly toward a cliff edge or need help making your way back to the trailhead.
Mesa Arch - 0.5 miles - This trail is incredibly popular, especially at sunrise. I ventured out there about 30 minutes before the sunrise and I was about the 15th person there. I saw the arch but didn't stay for the sunrise. Instead got in my car and made my way to my next park. Maybe that tells you little something about this spot, or maybe it says more about my level of patience for crowds of people with tripods.
Murphy Point - 3.6 miles - I took this hike hoping to reach the end just before sunset, my calculations were way off as it was an easy, mostly flat hike. The trail ends wit views of Candlestick Tower, the Green River and the White Rim Road. There were few other people on the trail and no one else waiting out for the sunset. If you would like to camp here there is one permit given per night so you'd have the spot to yourself with exclusive views from sunset to sunrise!
Sites I Saw
Buck Canyon / Green River / Grand View Point Overlook / White Rim Overlook
So I grouped all of these together for two reasons. 1. Go to every viewpoint because they're all equally jaw dropping and I can't even begin to rank them. 2. I forgot to label my photos and don't know which is which but who cares because all of these view points are great and offer you a new angle on an amazing landscape!