Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lathrop Trail

The Lathrop Trail is one of the six long trails that descend off of the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah. This is the only trail that leads all the way to the Colorado River, a distance of 10.8 miles. The trailhead is 1.8 miles south of the Visitor Center.

The first segment crosses the broad Gray’s Pasture, an area of grasses, Mormon Tea and a few scattered shrubs. I scanned this area with binoculars for any grazing animals but didn’t spot any at mid morning. There is a slight crest where the view changes and an old storage building is visible to the north. It took me about 30 minutes of hiking to cross the grassy pasture area.
The terrain then changes to bare rock with rock cairns marking the way. The views become spectacular with buttes, mountains, and glimpses of the Colorado River below.

 There are two flat mesa top areas along this segment, a change of pace from the jumbled rocks.

Views of the White Rim area show some finger like canyons that are similar to those visible from the Grand View Point.

At the same view point is a broad sweep of the massive Wingate Sandstone cliffs. The challenge of hiking in the Island of the Sky is to find a place to get past these cliffs.

After about 2.5 miles, the trail descends slightly and follows a ledge for about 0.5 miles with views toward Airport Tower. Some of the White Rim area campsites are designated as the Airport sites. Looking over the edge, the trail down to the While Rim is visible in the deep canyon below.
I turned around after 1:40 hours at the point where the trail begins to descend steeply through the Wingate Sandstone. From a distance it is hard to see a trail down but I watched two other hikers zig zag down. The return hike took 1:30 hours for a total hike of 3:10 hours for about 6.5 miles. I carried and drank 2 liters of water on a 58 F degree mid March day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Alcove Springs Trail

The Alcove Springs Trail is one of the six long trails that descend off of the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah. The trailhead is 3.6 miles west along the Upheaval Dome Road.

The trailhead information says that it is 5.6 miles to Taylor Canyon and 11 miles to the White Rim Road with 1300 feet of elevation change. The first segment descends steeply, mostly on bare rock with good footing. The area below is named Trail Canyon and there are some of the spectacular views for which Canyonlands is famous, featuring the steep cliffs of Wingate Sandstone.

The large alcove with a spring that the trail is named for comes into view after only about 5 minutes of hiking. The approach to the alcove veers close to the sheer canyon wall and the descent to the alcove is about 440 feet. The alcove appears to be Navajo Sandstone sitting on top of the Kayenta layer.

There is a small pile of rubble in the right end of the alcove that I thought looked like a possible ruins site, but it’s hard to tell. The setting here is similar to the nearby photographer favorite False Kiva. With a source of water here, it seems likely that the early inhabitants would have visited this large alcove.

I stopped at the level of the alcove after 20 minutes of hiking. There are good views toward the canyon bottom where the trail continues toward the left near the dry wash. My total hike of about 1 mile took 0:50 minutes on a 60 F did March day.