The final national park we visited in Utah was Canyonlands National Park. This is the other park that’s near Moab–it’s about thirty-five minutes away to the nearest park entrance. Canyonlands is unique because it is broken up into three parts, and each section is only accessible through its entrance. The three parts are the Maze, the Needles, and the Island in the Sky. So, for example, you can’t get to Island in the Sky from the Needles. You have to go in the specific entrance for each one.
We spent our first day in the Needles section of the park. The Needles are tall rock columns that are rounded on top, similar to the fins of the Fiery Furnace in Arches. These are also easy to get lost in, so we kept our distance from them and did a hike that was on a flat area. It was a short loop, but it had interesting features in the rock. It was at this park that we learned about the symbiotic crust. Symbiotic crust is basically just little colonies of microorganisms that live on top of the soil and rock of the earth. There were signs everywhere in Canyonlands asking that you stay on the trail so that you don’t disturb the symbiotic crust. In Canyonlands, these little colonies were in dips in the rock that filled with water whenever it rained. We avoided these as best we could to keep the little guys alive!
Our second day in Canyonlands we visited the Island in the Sky. I was rudely awoken and made to get out of bed in time to see the sunrise in Arches, so I wasn’t in a great mood for the early part of the day. Our first stop in Canyonlands on the second day was a hike that goes to the Mesa Arch, another very famous landmark in Utah. This arch is very low but long, and it overlooks a huge canyon and is a popular spot to watch the sun come up. The rest of our day in the Island of the Sky section of the park was spent avoiding gnats. It turns out that that part of Utah has an insane number of gnats. I refused to leave the car for the rest of the day, and anytime someone wanted to get out we would scream “CLOSE THE DOOR CLOSE THE DOOR CLOSE THE DOOR!”
The third section of Canyonlands, the Maze, is only accessible for 4-wheel-drive vehicles. Our rented minivan did not have 4WD, so we couldn’t go to the Maze. The name is pretty self-explanatory, but basically the Maze is just a whole mess of pathways and canyons that you can drive around in. I don’t know how often people get lost in there, but I would think that it would happen a decent amount.
Canyonlands is my least favorite park I’ve visited so far, putting it at #9. I still like it, but there was just very little to do. If I’m going to visit a park, I want to be able to have some cool stories to tell when I leave. Canyonlands was just kind of okay; there was nothing spectacular about it.