Canyonlands National Park

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Dbest
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Fri Jan 24, 2020 6:16 pm

Has anyone been to the Canyonlands National Park in Utah?

My wife and I have been wanting to do a Utah National Park trip forever and we're finally going to make it happen. We always talked about spending a week there hitting up the 5 National Parks, but while staring to really dig into the details we decided not to go that route. Rather than a quick trip to each stopping at whatever is the most popular landmark, we choose to focus on Canyonlands and really dive in.

Canyonlands has, by far, the lowest number of annual visitors of all the Utah National Parks. It’s split into 3 districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze. The vast majority of visitors go to the Island in the Sky via the paved roads from the visitors center leading to some overlooks and some hikes. The White Rim portion of Island in the Sky is a more secluded 100 mile offroad trail. The Needles District is a lot rougher and a lot less accessible. The Maze District is even more remote. The National Park Service warns that “You’re 100 miles from nowhere” with no access to anything you didn't carry in with you. It's a half day drive from the closest ranger station that upon reaching, has no supplies besides a phone available. It's known for being inaccessible to all but the most prepared and its considered one of the most dangerous places to hike in the US. Only about ten thousand people visit The Maze every year. If you're familiar with the book/movie about Aron Ralston "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" / "127 Hours", the guy who got his arm caught under a boulder and had to cut it off with a pocket knife and make it back to civilization... that true story happened in The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park.

I’ve done quite a bit of research on where I wanted to go and where I wanted to stay but as I've found out, it's very hard to get some of the permits for the spring and fall months when the weather is nice. I really wanted the get the White Crack site but that didn't pan out. You can make a reservation for 24 hours from now up to 4 months from now. I logged in at midnight Mountain time, when the permit becomes available for exactly 4 months out, every day for a week and still didn't get White Crack. The permits were sold out by the time the page loaded. So I improvised a bit. I planned out a general route and then got online at midnight every day for another week in order to string together consecutive days in logical places along the route I wanted.

The first day we’ll leave Colorado and drive out to Utah and stay in a hotel near the park. The following day we hit Canyonlands. We’re going to start at the Island in the Sky and over the next 3 days and 2 nights we'll make a giant loop taking the Shafer Trail to White Rim to Horsethief.

From there the primary plan is to head into the Needles District for hiking and 2 nights of camping in the same location. After the Needles our next camp site is only 19 miles away as a crow flies, but there’s no direct route and the National Park Service advised me to expect at least a 9 hour drive to get between campsites. Instead of hurrying along, we’ll sightsee our way over towards the next site and spend a night outside the park somewhere (somewhere with a shower!) and resupply. In the morning we’ll make our way into The Maze where we’re going to hike and camp for the night.

If it’s a wet spring, mud and water has the potential to make the offroad trail to our Needles campsite impassable. If that’s the case we’ll leave the park after Island in the Sky, hit Arches National Park for a day, and camp somewhere dispersed for the night. The next day we’ll continue along as planned with the site seeing, hotel for a night, resupplying on the to the Maze but do we’ll do it a day ahead of schedule and spend 2 nights there.

Either way when we leave The Maze in the morning of day 8, we'll make our way to Horseshoe Canyon for some hiking, and then start towards Colorado. We’ll probably hit up the hot springs and get a hotel for the night shortly over the state border and finish the drive the next morning.

We have all the necessary backcountry permits in place for the general plan. Everything is reserved and paid for but we still have quite a bit of flexibility to make things up as we go and explore our way through the unknown. If you’ve been there before, I’m open to suggestions on specific things worth seeing or doing.

The last big decision we need to make is do we go solo, just my wife and I, or do we bring friends. I got the permits with my wife and I in mind, I planned the trip around what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go, but technically the permits are good for me take a group of up to 9 people and 3 vehicles with for my trip.
Last edited by Dbest on Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Fri Jan 24, 2020 6:46 pm

Well, following this :bread:

I'd love to do something like this. But sadly, no experience with the area.
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Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:24 pm

I've been to the 5 parks, but not to the depth that you're planning on doing. Sounds like a 5/7 time. The only thing I might add is, if you're in the area, a stop in Capital Reef Nat'l Park just west of Arches might be a place worth sampling. It doesn't look like you'll be near enough to Bryce Canyon or Nat'l Staircase Escalante to see those this time, but certainly worth going back for on a future trip. Other than that, I got nuthin'.

You bringing the little guy?
:wap: Where are these mangos?

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Sat Jan 25, 2020 11:38 am

wap wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:24 pm
I've been to the 5 parks, but not to the depth that you're planning on doing. Sounds like a 5/7 time. The only thing I might add is, if you're in the area, a stop in Capital Reef Nat'l Park just west of Arches might be a place worth sampling. It doesn't look like you'll be near enough to Bryce Canyon or Nat'l Staircase Escalante to see those this time, but certainly worth going back for on a future trip. Other than that, I got nuthin'.

You bringing the little guy?
Canyonlands is between Arches and Capitol Reef, but even from the Maze (the west side of) it’s a 2.5 hour drive each way just to get to Capitol Reef. That’ll be a park for another trip.

I don’t think we’re going to bring little man. He’s a great hiker but we’re wanting to get a lot deeper than what we could with a 3 year old (actually he’ll be 4 by that time), plus it’s going to be a LOT of time in the 4Runner, and all the campground we reserved are more or less designated reservation only primitive spots, the white rim ones have pit toilets, the others have nothing at all. It makes me nervous thinking of camping with him literally on top of a 1000 foot cliff, when there’s no railings or chains, no protective barriers, besides a trail it sits untouched exactly how millions of years of water flow has left it.

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Sat Jan 25, 2020 12:38 pm

Dbest wrote:
Sat Jan 25, 2020 11:38 am
wap wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:24 pm
I've been to the 5 parks, but not to the depth that you're planning on doing. Sounds like a 5/7 time. The only thing I might add is, if you're in the area, a stop in Capital Reef Nat'l Park just west of Arches might be a place worth sampling. It doesn't look like you'll be near enough to Bryce Canyon or Nat'l Staircase Escalante to see those this time, but certainly worth going back for on a future trip. Other than that, I got nuthin'.

You bringing the little guy?
Canyonlands is between Arches and Capitol Reef, but even from the Maze (the west side of) it’s a 2.5 hour drive each way just to get to Capitol Reef. That’ll be a park for another trip.

I don’t think we’re going to bring little man. He’s a great hiker but we’re wanting to get a lot deeper than what we could with a 3 year old (actually he’ll be 4 by that time), plus it’s going to be a LOT of time in the 4Runner, and all the campground we reserved are more or less designated reservation only primitive spots, the white rim ones have pit toilets, the others have nothing at all. It makes me nervous thinking of camping with him literally on top of a 1000 foot cliff, when there’s no railings or chains, no protective barriers, besides a trail it sits untouched exactly how millions of years of water flow has left it.
Right.
For reference:
Image

It's certainly worth going back to see the other parks. We had to do it in 2 trips over 2 years as well. They're all so unique and different from each other sometimes it feels like you're on another world.
And yea, sounds like mini-you isn't quite ready for this trip yet. But it'll all be there for when he's old enough to take him. :like:
:wap: Where are these mangos?

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Sat Jan 25, 2020 1:06 pm

Dbest wrote:
Sat Jan 25, 2020 11:38 am
wap wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:24 pm
I've been to the 5 parks, but not to the depth that you're planning on doing. Sounds like a 5/7 time. The only thing I might add is, if you're in the area, a stop in Capital Reef Nat'l Park just west of Arches might be a place worth sampling. It doesn't look like you'll be near enough to Bryce Canyon or Nat'l Staircase Escalante to see those this time, but certainly worth going back for on a future trip. Other than that, I got nuthin'.

You bringing the little guy?
Canyonlands is between Arches and Capitol Reef, but even from the Maze (the west side of) it’s a 2.5 hour drive each way just to get to Capitol Reef. That’ll be a park for another trip.

I don’t think we’re going to bring little man. He’s a great hiker but we’re wanting to get a lot deeper than what we could with a 3 year old (actually he’ll be 4 by that time), plus it’s going to be a LOT of time in the 4Runner, and all the campground we reserved are more or less designated reservation only primitive spots, the white rim ones have pit toilets, the others have nothing at all. It makes me nervous thinking of camping with him literally on top of a 1000 foot cliff, when there’s no railings or chains, no protective barriers, besides a trail it sits untouched exactly how millions of years of water flow has left it.
Pft, just throw the kid on a leash/bungee cord. :lol:
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Sat Jan 25, 2020 5:43 pm

sounds awesome I've never been out west I kind of want to go but I kind of don't want to go and live in ignorance and bliss
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Sat Jan 25, 2020 10:21 pm

golftdibrad wrote:
Sat Jan 25, 2020 5:43 pm
sounds awesome I've never been out west I kind of want to go but I kind of don't want to go and live in ignorance and bliss
The desire to explore the west is real. :jelly:
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Sun Jan 26, 2020 1:27 am

golftdibrad wrote:
Sat Jan 25, 2020 5:43 pm
sounds awesome I've never been out west I kind of want to go but I kind of don't want to go and live in ignorance and bliss
The bliss of experiencing these places >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> the bliss of ignorance.
:wap: Where are these mangos?

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Sun Jan 26, 2020 1:32 am

Zillon wrote:
Sat Jan 25, 2020 10:21 pm
golftdibrad wrote:
Sat Jan 25, 2020 5:43 pm
sounds awesome I've never been out west I kind of want to go but I kind of don't want to go and live in ignorance and bliss
The desire to explore the west is real. :jelly:
:doit:
Makes an awesome road trip. We put 4000 miles on the :turboyaris: visiting these parks plus the Grand Canyon Mesa Verde and a couple other parks in Colorado, the Petrified Forest, Four Corners, Painted Desert, Meteor Crater, Monument Valley, Santa Fe, MN, etc. Probably the greatest road trip we took the the GTI, which, by the way, performed absolutely flawlessly in the desert, adequate AC, plenty of room, comfy long distance cruiser, acquitted itself well in the mountains, had it over 100 mph in Arizona.
:wap: Where are these mangos?

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Sun Jan 26, 2020 10:23 am

wap wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 1:27 am
golftdibrad wrote:
Sat Jan 25, 2020 5:43 pm
sounds awesome I've never been out west I kind of want to go but I kind of don't want to go and live in ignorance and bliss
The bliss of experiencing these places >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> the bliss of ignorance.
This!

I came to Colorado from Chicago for a ski trip in 2010 and it was life changing. I was hooked, 2 years later I moved here and I’ve never looked back. The Rocky Mountains are like a real place but better.

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Fri Feb 21, 2020 12:58 pm

Zillon wrote:
Sat Jan 25, 2020 10:21 pm
golftdibrad wrote:
Sat Jan 25, 2020 5:43 pm
sounds awesome I've never been out west I kind of want to go but I kind of don't want to go and live in ignorance and bliss
The desire to explore the west is real. :jelly:
Rent a car and go. Flights to vegas are reasonable. You can access the vast vast majority of it via an economy sedan and hiking boots. Even just sticking to the national parks you'll see some amazing things.

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Fri Feb 21, 2020 1:06 pm

Following this thread, I'd love to explore Canyonlands. Problem is, as you mentioned, it's really primitive and access (vehicle and permit wise) is difficult. I've never owned a rig that would be capable of it, but your 4R should be. I think the NPS just uses full size trucks with knobby tires. I've read reports of people doing White Rim Rd in rental 4x4s.

Might want some sort of satellite comm like a Garmin InReach to check in with a safety person back home for days you're off grid. You could go a number of days alone without even seeing a passing vehicle, if you had a major mechanical or health related issue. Could be a good idea to have a 2-vehicle caravan for these reasons.

I remember Arches being easily accessible from a regular on-road sedan for a lot of the park. It was a nice park. I didn't find it particularly amazing though. Certainly not like Bryce or Zion.
Last edited by Johnny_P on Fri Feb 21, 2020 1:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Fri Feb 21, 2020 1:07 pm

I've been to Bryce canyon and Arches, but it was so long ago I can't recall much of it.
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Fri Feb 21, 2020 1:09 pm

wap wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 1:32 am
Zillon wrote:
Sat Jan 25, 2020 10:21 pm


The desire to explore the west is real. :jelly:
:doit:
Makes an awesome road trip. We put 4000 miles on the :turboyaris: visiting these parks plus the Grand Canyon Mesa Verde and a couple other parks in Colorado, the Petrified Forest, Four Corners, Painted Desert, Meteor Crater, Monument Valley, Santa Fe, MN, etc. Probably the greatest road trip we took the the GTI, which, by the way, performed absolutely flawlessly in the desert, adequate AC, plenty of room, comfy long distance cruiser, acquitted itself well in the mountains, had it over 100 mph in Arizona.
This. But skip four corners. Poverty and pointless.

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Fri Feb 21, 2020 1:17 pm

Johnny_P wrote:
Fri Feb 21, 2020 12:58 pm
Zillon wrote:
Sat Jan 25, 2020 10:21 pm


The desire to explore the west is real. :jelly:
Rent a car and go. Flights to vegas are reasonable. You can access the vast vast majority of it via an economy sedan and hiking boots. Even just sticking to the national parks you'll see some amazing things.
Sure, let me schedule those vacation days I don't have. :flaccid:
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Fri Feb 21, 2020 1:30 pm

Zillon wrote:
Fri Feb 21, 2020 1:17 pm
Johnny_P wrote:
Fri Feb 21, 2020 12:58 pm


Rent a car and go. Flights to vegas are reasonable. You can access the vast vast majority of it via an economy sedan and hiking boots. Even just sticking to the national parks you'll see some amazing things.
Sure, let me schedule those vacation days I don't have. :flaccid:
Dang. How much vacation do you have?

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Fri Feb 21, 2020 2:12 pm

Johnny_P wrote:
Fri Feb 21, 2020 1:30 pm
Zillon wrote:
Fri Feb 21, 2020 1:17 pm


Sure, let me schedule those vacation days I don't have. :flaccid:
Dang. How much vacation do you have?
10 days? And they're all allocated. I just burnt 4 on Florida.

Blowing another 4 on Tennessee.

Spending 2 on a wedding in June in LA.

And then I'm inventing another 4 in July for the family BrOhio reunion.

And I'm taking unpaid time off for another west coast wedding in October.
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Fri Feb 21, 2020 2:16 pm

Zillon wrote:
Fri Feb 21, 2020 2:12 pm
Johnny_P wrote:
Fri Feb 21, 2020 1:30 pm


Dang. How much vacation do you have?
10 days? And they're all allocated. I just burnt 4 on Florida.

Blowing another 4 on Tennessee.

Spending 2 on a wedding in June in LA.

And then I'm inventing another 4 in July for the family BrOhio reunion.

And I'm taking unpaid time off for another west coast wedding in October.
Yeah that's hard to plan then. Like a trip like this would burn all your vacation for an entire year. Could be worth it though.

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Fri Feb 21, 2020 2:29 pm

Johnny_P wrote:
Fri Feb 21, 2020 1:09 pm
wap wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 1:32 am


:doit:
Makes an awesome road trip. We put 4000 miles on the :turboyaris: visiting these parks plus the Grand Canyon Mesa Verde and a couple other parks in Colorado, the Petrified Forest, Four Corners, Painted Desert, Meteor Crater, Monument Valley, Santa Fe, MN, etc. Probably the greatest road trip we took the the GTI, which, by the way, performed absolutely flawlessly in the desert, adequate AC, plenty of room, comfy long distance cruiser, acquitted itself well in the mountains, had it over 100 mph in Arizona.
This. But skip four corners. Poverty and pointless.
:notwrong: about 4 Corners. But it was interesting and :( to see that Native American community. We made sure to spend some money there to help the locals, if only a tiny bit.
:wap: Where are these mangos?

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Thu Feb 27, 2020 8:51 pm

I've been to all five of the parks. Not much to add on Canyonlands as we went there as a family like 20 years ago or close to it, but I was :mindblown: at the time.

I've visited Bryce, Zion, and Capitol Reef in my 20s, all are amazing and quite different. I really enjoyed visiting Bryce and Capital Reef in the winter. I was on a solo road trip and they were very empty, cool experience. Bryce with snow is magical.

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Thu Feb 27, 2020 9:52 pm

When I was 20, I did a 36 state loop in an RV with my gf and her family. Over 2 weeks we caught almost every major landmark in the West. But it was quantity over quality. I do however remember Bryce and Zion as highlights...But we were strictly sightseeing.....and not even remotely hiking.

I envy you the trip and especially how you are doing it. Can't wait to see the amazing pictures that, based on your other posts, I know you will take.

That said, pictures do not even scratch the surface of doing justice to the splendor of this country.

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Mon Jun 08, 2020 12:20 pm

Well, I figured I'd follow up on this since the trip has come and gone.

About 2 weeks prior to the trip I get an email from the national park service saying hey that trip you planned, yeah, that's not going to happen. We went ahead and voided all your permits because they were for the end of May and not in June. Oh, and if you think just because you spent all the time and effort into planning out a route and getting the proper permits that we're going to give you the option to keep your itinerary intact and move it out 4 months to when permits aren't yet allocated... well you can fuck all the way off with that shit, but if go through all the trouble to get all new permits again within a year we won't charge you a second time. No, you can't have a refund, get lost Fucko."

So we didn't do our Utah trip, but we did decide to just get out in Colorado and make the best of it
Last edited by Dbest on Mon Jun 08, 2020 12:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Mon Jun 08, 2020 12:21 pm

:(
:sawce:

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Mon Jun 08, 2020 12:29 pm

So here's what we did in place of all of it

My son and I decided to get out and explore in the 4Runner as a bit of a shakedown run for all the new stuff we got in preparation for Utah. We cleaned up some remote off-road trails and dispersed campsites, we saw a pretty young moose, we parked up on a ridge and had popsicles from the fridge/freezer in the truck, we found a middle of nowhere treehouse shelter and signed the guest book, we got the 4Runner leaning very VERY sideways (it’s a good thing there’s a button to disable side curtain airbags while offroad because if it leans too far and it feels like a rollover is imminent it will deploy the side bags to try to cushion your landing), and we got it some new custom Colorado Pinstripes.

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