A visit to Moab puts you between two magnificent National Parks. Today, John and Sandy invited us to join them on a day trip to the park we'd yet to visit: Canyonlands. The road to the park is about 40 miles south of Moab. Once you make the turn, it's another 35 miles to the park. As we passed the entrance gate, Sandy and I pulled out our trusty copies of the National Geographic Guide to the National Parks (A most helpful book that we just picked up after seeing John and Sandy's copy.) and we set out on scenic tour of the Needles area of this nearly 338,000-acre park.
Our first stop was the Roadside Ruin. This short self-guided nature hike provided the perfect spot for us to get out and enjoy a much-needed stretch. The most notable remains are of this granary, which was built by Indians more than 700 years ago. Tucked away in a massive boulder, this well-preserved structure kept grain dry and has withstood centuries of wind, rain and weather.
Along the trail, we took in the scenic vistas. As I was lining up this shot, a woman in a big floppy hat stepped right in front of me. The things people do!
Our next stop was Wooden Shoe Arch Overlook. Floppy Hat Lady followed us there, but I managed to get a clear shot of this well-named little arch.
Our next stop was Pothole Point. Another short hike lead us to gorgeous canyon views as we dodged mostly dried up "potholes".
Though the potholes look still, Sandy and I found signs of life under the surface. We spotted several baby snails and a few fairy shrimp.
This was the biggest native creature we spotted on the hike. He paused for a portrait as he dodged from rock to rock in search of cool shade.
Pothole Point gave us a preview of the Needles. These pinnacles tower 400 feet above the valley and can be seen for miles.
We reached the end of the scenic road at Big Spring Canyon Overlook. Our friends Susan and Mike hiked the 11-mile Confluence Overlook Trail from here during their visit. We decided just to stand at the trailhead and enjoy the view.
As we made our way back toward the park entrance, we took a dirt road down to Elephant Hill. We spent some time climbing the beginning of a trail there and enjoyed views of rocks that resembled elephants...maybe.
We especially enjoyed our time on Elephant Hill. We hiked, shot gobs of photos and soaked in the views. Paul caught a moment where it looks like each of us was enjoying a different activity!
As we enjoyed a well-deserved picnic lunch at the base of Elephant Hill, we watched a couple of Jeeps and a bicyclist or two head up the off-road trail. We heard gears grinding and tires squealing, but everybody made it up to the first overlook just fine. Rocky would be so jealous!
Fed and watered, we prepared for the 90-minute drive back to Moab. After a day of enjoying magnificent views, Paul repeated the quote of the day. "Look at all these canyons! They ought to call this place canyonland!"
Indeed, they should.