I’ve had the urge to return to the wonderful southwest desert parks of Utah. Of the five national parks in the state, Canyonlands has some of the most remote and difficult to get to lands. We only visited for half a day two years ago, so only have a taste for a small portion of the park. There are three main sections of the park, separated by the Colorado and Green rivers which meet in the middle of the park. The Maze is the most remote and is a main feature of Edward Abbey’s classic environmental novel The Monkey Wrench Gang. The Needles is similarly remote and accessible through backcountry hiking. The most accessible section, near Moab, Utah, is The Island in the Sky.
The Island in the Sky section has one of the most photographed icons in the U.S. parks—Mesa Arch. The arch hangs on the western edge of a canyon wall and glows in the reflected sunrise light. And I heard busloads of tourists line up and fight for the best angle. We decided to avoid that spectacle and enjoy a quiet sunrise on the edge of the park, and were rewarded with a glorious, and peaceful, beginning to the day.
We then ventured to Mesa Arch, and got there as a group of Chinese tourists gathered for a group shot in front of the arch before heading to their buses. After the dawn crowds had left, there were just a few of us left to enjoy the scene, and a tiny bit of the morning sun’s glow still touched the bottom of the span.
At the end of the road in the Island District is a lovely hike from Grand View Point overlooking where the Green and Colorado River join in spectacular valleys carved by the rivers. And the view is grand.