Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef NP
Duration: 4 days
Date: Nov 27th - Dec 1st, 2014
HIkes: Delicate Arch (~4.5 miles round trip), Devils’ garden (~10miles), Canyonlands - island in the sky - Upheaval dome, Syncline loop (~6miles), Grand View point hike (2miles), Mesa Arch (1mile round trip), Canyonlands - Island in the sky- Confluence of Colorado and Green River hike (~11miles), Capitol Reef - Hike from the barn to the arch (~4miles).
Campsites: Devils garden campground in Arches, Willow Flat in Canyonlands and Fruita campground in Capitol Reef NP.
This trip was mostly a camping and hiking trip covering three national parks - The Arches, Canyonlands - Island in the sky, Fire and Ice and the Capitol Reef. Thanks to Ang for putting up this trip and inviting me on it. It was a very well planned itinerary and so all of us got our tickets to Salt Lake city from the bay area and back pretty early. The weekend of thanksgiving approached and we - Shrikant, Sridhar and I headed to San Francisco Airport. I was looking forward to the 3rd trip to Utah exploring the vast canyons that leaves the observer completely mesmerized. We met Ang, Kaori, Ankit and Jihyun at the airport and were on our way to Salt Lake City.
After getting rental cars and a quick stop at Walmart, we drove all the way Arches National Park. We reached the trailhead to the delicate arch and decided to just sleep out in the car till 6:00am. On our first day - Thursday - we hiked up to the delicate arch. The sun rose painting the outline of the arch golden. Before I knew I found myself in a time-lapse enjoying the rising sun and the surrounding imperfections make it the most exquisite sight. I did loose the trail on the way and decided to take a short cut which was kind of very steep but my new running shoe proved to be extremely sticky and provided the most traction I could ask for. After witnessing the sunrise, we headed out from there to the first -come-first-serve Devils’ Garden Campground. Quickly we put up our tents and I fell asleep in it. The other car with Ankit, Ang, Kaori and Jihyun went to the visitor center to try and get slots for the Fiery Furnace Tours. Unfortunately we did not get them.
In the afternoon, we went to the Devil’s garden loop that covered a set of arches ranging from a hole that was caused in the wall to a very slick arch connecting two mountains. The hike took us through canyons and desert landscape with sand and cacti everywhere. By taking the primitive trail loop we went deep into the canyons. There were very very few people here. It was amazing to be able to walk into the vast canyons, climb arches and jump over boulders. It was a playing field for me more than a devil’s garden! After the hike we got back to the campsite for a very scrumptious meal. This night was one of the most chilly nights of the trip. Temperatures were down to 24 degrees F.
[Day 2] Canyonlands NP
We were up early the 2nd day. After a quick breakfast we packed our tents and were on our way to Canyonlands -The Island In the Sky. We stopped by the visitor center and collected information of the hikes that we could do here. Having gotten to the camp early we got our tents up and decided on the hikes that we would do for the day. Here we did the Needle’s overlook hike at the Dead Horse State Park (An additional 10$ entrance). After this we headed back to Canyonlands NP where we did the 10 mile hike to the Colorado River confluence. The views were just amazing with the added golden tinge during sunset. We camped at the Willowflat campground. It was an early to bed day since we had to catch the sunrise at Mesa Arch the next day before heading out to the other part of canyonlands.
[Day 3] Canyonlands NP
The Mesa Arch - Sunrise
The Mesa Arch - Sunrise
By 5:30am, we were up packed and ready to go. We drove to Mesa Arch for the sunrise. Mesa arch is one of the most photographed arches. During sunrise the arch magically transforms itself into this painted molten red like lava colored arch with a framed view of the landscape through it. It is situated at the perfect place for viewing sunrise. The sheer number of photographers there just called it out loud as to how famous this place was. We met Canadians who were on a National Park trip roaming around the states of USA visiting national parks. After what seemed like an eternity, the sun slowly rose up. Once sunrise started, it was within no time that the light engulfed the entire area. The redness now reduced and the arch once again transformed itself into this magnificent but a simple limestone arch.
After sunrise at Mesa arch, we drove to the other part of canyon lands - called the needles. Here we did the Slickrock foot trail - a loop of about 5miles. We also did one other hike and then drove to Capitol Reef for the night. The Fruita campground is a fully developed campground in Captiol Reef NP with water and flush toilets. We had a campfire going and was a fun night.
[Day 4] - Capitol Reef NP
Early morning we were up and as usual packed to go before the sun came up bright. We did a small Cohab Canyon Trail from the Campground to the ridge up top. After which we did the Hickman’s Bridge trail to hickman’s bridge followed by the Chimney Rock hike up (half of the loop of ~6miles). All of these places are just extremely unique and beautiful. It won’t make justice to rank any of them in a list and would also be a very long narrative of each of these hikes, although some of them were quite eventful and funny. Having toured the Capitol Reef National Park, we drove directly to Salt Lake City for the night and took flights out of SLC the next morning. Utah has been an endless wonder of beautiful rock gardens and sculptures gifting people who like the kind the best out there!