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Hiking in Canyonlands National Park

October 29, 2013

Sunday morning in Moab dawned chilly but beautiful.

Moab Sunrise

Perhaps my favorite thing about camping, or maybe second-favorite behind s’mores, is that it’s an opportunity to wake up early somewhere beautiful and take in the sunrise.

Moab Sunrise

It was cold that morning – probably below 30 when I woke up – so after taking those photos I returned to the relative warmth of my sleeping bag and managed to sleep a little longer.  By the time I woke again, the sun had started to climb and warm up the desert a little bit.  That’s when I finally took the time to climb on top of some rocks next to my tent and take in the panoramic views.

Moab morning

Moab morning

After some breakfast and coffee (Starbucks Via for the win!), we got ready to head over to Canyonlands National Park.  One of my main motivations for visiting Moab was the opportunity to visit not one, but two national parks located only miles from each other.  After our epic full moon hike in Arches the night before, it was time for Canyonlands.

With only enough time for a short hike before I had to hit the road to head home and the rest of our group went for a mountain bike ride, we chose the Murphy’s Point trail that was recommended for a quick hike with awesome views.

Murphy's Point trail Canyonlands National Park

The short trail (I think it was about 3 miles roundtrip) is mostly wide and flat.  It’s definitely the kind of trail that almost anyone visiting the park could handle.  As we started walking out toward the overlook, views started to open up to our right.

Murphy's Point trail Canyonlands National Park

We followed the dirt road leisurely, heading straight for the rim of the canyon.

Murphy's Point trail Canyonlands National Park

Eventually the gravel road ended and we easily followed cairns to the overlook.  The views that had been teasing us for the whole walk suddenly smacked us in the face when we reached the end.

Murphy's Point trail Canyonlands National Park

Murphy's Point trail Canyonlands National Park

The canyon seemed to stretch on forever.  The vastness and complexity of the canyon really impressed me.  I’d never seen a canyon on this scale (I still need to make it to the Grand Canyon, which I’m sure puts this to shame), and I was amazed by the multiple layers and canyons-within-a-canyon that we saw in front of us. 

Murphy's Point trail Canyonlands National Park

From that point, a few of us decided to scramble up on top of a stack of flat, pancake-like rocks in front of us for an even better view.

Murphy's Point trail Canyonlands National Park

It was dizzying out on those rocks and not for the faint at heart.  And definitely not for anyone who is squeamish about heights.  Luckily, that left people back on solid ground to snap pictures.

Murphy's Point trail Canyonlands National Park

We sat at the viewpoint for a while, basking in the beautiful scenery and enjoying a small picnic of cheese, crackers and summer sausage.  If there’s a better lineup of hiking snacks, I’d like to know what it is.

Murphy's Point trail Canyonlands National Park

Eventually, we decided to make our way back to the trailhead.  After climbing into our cars, we drove a few more miles into the park to check out the Grand Viewpoint that we kept seeing signs for.  Here, we simply stepped out of the car and were greeted with the amazing view right away. 

Grand Viewpoint Canyonlands National Park

For anyone not up for a short hike, this would be a great way to see some of this spectacular park.  I, on the other hand, wish that we would have had longer to spend there.  I would love to go back sometime and take a much longer hike, perhaps out to the famous Needles, and even camp inside the park.  Instead, after one last awkward solo shot, it was time for me to head home.

Canyonlands National Park

The weekend was an awesome introduction to Moab.  It opened my eyes to just how much there is to do in that desert paradise and I can’t wait to return.  It also motivated me to really commit to getting on my mountain bike next summer so that I can get the full experience.

Now it’s time to prepare myself for a totally different type of getaway — Vegas, baby!  Let me know if you’ve got any tips for me while I’m there!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 29, 2013 7:08 am

    Love the sunrise pictures! I think I need to add Moab to my list of places to visit soon!

    • October 29, 2013 11:14 am

      You should! I’m only mad at myself that I’ve stayed away for so long… if you can, give yourself more than just a weekend to explore.

  2. October 29, 2013 3:43 pm

    Canyonlands is a spectacular (and not very well known!) treasure! Most people don’t know that it was designed by M. C. Escher. Or that Arches is a Salvador Dali creation, for that matter.

    • October 29, 2013 4:50 pm

      What a cool way to look at it! I can definitely see the similarity between those artists’ styles and the scenery in the parks. It wouldn’t seem out of place at all to come around a bend in Arches and see Dali’s clocks dripping across the sand.

  3. November 1, 2013 3:29 pm

    Canyonlands was one of the highlights of my trip around the southwest earlier this year, such amazing landscapes! Have a few Vegas posts on my site if you are after tips, recommend the Mob Museum, really interesting, and the Neon Boneyard.

    • November 4, 2013 11:59 am

      I’d read your Vegas posts and was all excited for the Neon Boneyard but somehow we missed it… there was just too much to do and too little time! I thought the Mob Museum sounded awesome too but figured I wouldn’t be able to sell the boyfriend on it. Next trip I guess!

  4. April 10, 2014 4:24 pm

    Hello would you mind stating which blog platform you’re using?
    I’m looking to start my own blog soon but I’m having a
    tough time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something
    unique. P.S Sorry for getting off-topic but I had to ask!


  1. My “Peaks” of 2013 – Year in Review | Peaks and Passports

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