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.

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