Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Upheaval Dome Overlook Trail

The Upheaval Dome Overlook Trail leads to two view points of this unusual circular geologic feature. The round trip to the most distant view point is 1.6 miles. The trail head is at the end of the west leading road in the Island of the Sky District of Canyonlands NP is southeast Utah.

There are two theories attempting to explain Upheaval Dome. The more traditional explanation is that the salt layer below the accumulated sediment pushed upwards. The more recent proposal is that a meteor strike 60 million years ago caused the ¾ mile deep crater.
The trail has many steps carved into the rock to make the walk easier. Even with the relatively easy footing there are some ups and downs over the mostly bare sandstone that will make you stop to catch your breath. Most of the attention is directed toward the crater, but there are also scenic views on all sides. There is the 8.3 mile Syncline Valley Loop Trail that circles the Upheaval Dome and starts at the same point as the Upheaval Dome Overlook Trail.

The trail head area has a picnic area and was very busy on the day I visited. Most visitors stop at the first view point after 0.3 miles. I spent 1:10 hours on the 1.6 mile round trip on a mostly cloudy mid September day. I drank a full liter of water at the end of the hike.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Whale Rock Trail

The Whale Rock Trail is a 1.0 mile round trip to the top of a large sandstone outcrop in the Island of the Sky District of Canyonlands NP in southeast Utah.

The trail head is near the west end of the road leading toward the Upheaval Dome area. The trail head interpretive information emphasizes the adaptations the Pinon Pine and Utah Juniper forest plant community makes to survive in an area with only 9 inches of rain per year. The climb up on top is easy, though it looked like some railings that used to be in place have been removed.
From above it looks like the Whale Rock is actually at the head of a pod of whales circling around the outer edge of the Upheaval Dome. This short hike takes about 30 minutes,

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Aztec Butte Trail

The Aztec Butte Trail is a 1.5 mile round trip to several Ancestral Pueblo granary sites in the Island of the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah. The trail head is along the paved road that leads west toward the Upheaval Dome area.

The trail follows a sandy route that circles around the small butte that is in front of Aztec Butte. There is a spur trail that climbs the back side to a pair of granary sites just under the rim. I climbed the spur trail first before going on to Aztec Butte. The Canyonlands area doesn’t seem to have any large village sites but has a number of small storage sites and rock art sites.
Further on, Aztec Butte is about a 200 foot climb to the top with the granary sites under the rim on the north side. The butte is one of the highest view points in the immediate area. There are a couple of steep spots climbing up the sandstone face of the Butte that call for a little scrambling. I had a little trouble finding the right spots to put my feet at the point just below the rim but made it up.

On top there is a circular trail that I followed clockwise. There are several small sites along the somewhat narrow ledge overlooking the very deep Trail Canyon.

The alcoves seem to feature a number of small arch formations that act as support columns and entryways. There are four or five sections of ancient walls along the length of the ledge.

There is also a circular structure on the top of the mesa. The Mesa Arch Trail area is visible only a short distance to the east. Also in this area of the park is the Green River Overlook. There isn’t a trail there but there is a glimpse of the Green River and the formations known as Cleopatra’s Chair and the Turk’s Head and others.

There is also some discussion of John Wesley Powell’s expedition of exploration down the Green and Colorado River. He passed by the area of the overlook on July 16, 1869. My hike at Aztec Butte took about 1:15 hours for the 1.5 miles.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Grand View Point Trail

The Grand View Point Trail is a 2.0 mile round trip along the rim at the south end of the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands NP in southeast Utah. From this trail are some of the most spectacular views of Canyonlands.

The three fingered area just below the trail head area is Monument Basin, featuring some tall spires. At the junction of the fingers is the tallest of the monuments, the Totem Pole. The White Rim Road can be seen snaking around the edges of the basin. This road is a favorite with mountain bikers for its endless scenery. The White Rim is about 1000 feet below this view point. The trail travels southwest from the main view point.
The views to the west are towards the confluence of the Green River and the Colorado River. According to the interpretive information, the Colorado River above the confluence was known as the Grand River until 1921, hence the name Grand View Point. The Colorado/Grand River has cut so deeply into the rocks that it is not visible here. In the Needles District of Canyonlands the 5.5 mile Confluence Overlook Trail leads to the point above where the two streams flow together.

At the end of the trail there are views back to the northwest with a glimpse of the Green River. The Green starts in the Wind River Mountain Range in Wyoming. There is a Green River Overlook Point near the Aztec Butte Trail about 6 miles north of this point where some of the same terrain can be viewed from a different angle. My hike on the Grand View Overlook Trail took about 1:00 hour for the 2 miles.

White Rim Overlook Trail

The White Rim Overlook Trail is a 2 mile round trip across high desert Pinon and Juniper terrain to a rocky cliff giving a view to the south and east, with glimpses of the Colorado River.

The trail head is at the Gooseberry Picnic Area is toward the south end of the main road in Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands NP in southeast Utah. The Gooseberry Picnic Area has two trail choices. The longer Gooseberry Trail leads to the north and down to the White Rim Road. Some of the formations that are visible from the Mesa Arch Trail are also visible here.

At the end of the trail are some views similar to the Monument Basin View on the nearby Grand View Point Trail. These views are slightly to the east of the Grand View Point. This 2 mile hike took me about 1:00 hour.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mesa Arch Trail

The Mesa Arch Trail is a 0.5 mile loop trail to a scenic arch and canyon overlook in the Island in the Sky District of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park.

The trail head is a few miles south of the entrance gate and the Visitor Center on the main park road. The trail has many constructed steps for easy walking and passes through a sandy area of Pinon Pine and Utah Juniper to the arch perched on the rim of Buck Canyon. The canyon floor is 1200 feet below.
On a clear day the LaSal Mountains to the east can be framed through the arch. Along the left there is also a distant view of Washerwoman Arch.

It is possible to view Washerwoman Arch through Mesa Arch. This arch is a favorite of photographers who arrive at dawn to catch the rosy glow as it highlights the bottom edges of the arch. This short hike takes about 30 minutes.

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