Thursday, April 15, 2010

Colorado River Overlook Trail

The Colorado River Overlook Trail is the 4WD and bike trail that heads north from the Visitor Center at the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah. The total trail length is about 7.5 miles one way.

I drove the first 3.1 miles to a point where there is a rocky climb and the driving is clearly more difficult and began hiking there. The first 3.1 mile segment is sandy dirt road and was drivable in a Subaru. Above the rocky climb the dirt road resumes and stays mostly level along mesa tops and canyon rims.

There are several other areas along the trail with rocky sections and difficult driving. I saw a couple of spots where cement has been added to make the route smoother. On the day I hiked I only saw two mountain bikers and no vehicles on the trail. In the first mile of the 3.1 mile segment, there is one parking spot marked off on the narrow road, but it is not obvious what the attraction is there.

Hiking west through desert country the vegetation is Mormon Tea, maybe Blackbrush, Narrow Leaf Yucca, Indian Grass, Prickly Pear, with a few scattered Utah Junipers and Pinon Pines.

Unlike many Canyonlands hikes, there are 360 degree views along here toward the Island in the Sky, the Canyon Rims Needles Overlook, and back toward the Needles formations. Two large mesas in the Island in the Sky area stand out.

The Colorado River overlook area is unfenced and there is a warning sign to be careful. The Canyon is probably about 1000 feet deep here and the brown water moves slowly. I couldn’t see much vegetation along the banks and the rock layers are very steep. From the end of the trail there is a level area below that has views up and down river, and there are some rocky knobs to scramble over for slightly higher views.

Slightly to the south, scrambling over the white sandstone knobs, there is also a view into Big Spring Canyon as it makes a junction with the Colorado River. There is a monument formation similar to the ones visible from the Grand View lookout point in Island in the Sky.

It took me 1:45 to walk the 4.4 miles from the startpoint  to the Colorado River Overlook. My total hike for 8.8 miles took 4:00 hours on a 60 F degree mid April day. I carried 3 liters of water and drank 2 of them.
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Ish C said...

I just discovered your blog and although I am not a hiker I would like to try it sometime. I was wondering if anyone can recommend one of these packs, they seem to go be a good fit for hiking and for everyday use.
any thoughts?

Andrea said...

Many thanks for the important information of your blog. Canyonlands is one of the most beautiful place I have ever visited! I miss the Colorado Plateau and I'm planning to return next year for another wonderful trails.

Greetings from México