Hiking in Canyonlands is tough

We’ve hiked our last trail in Arches National Park. How can I describe Arches in a way that hasn’t been said before? Overwhelming, awesome, amazing. I think I’ve used these adjectives over and over again.

From Moab, we drove into the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park. The two parks, Arches and Canyonlands, are always mentioned together.

But where Arches is easy, accessible, sometimes crowded, and has lots of short hikes to destinations that are easy to appreciate, Canyonlands is rugged.

Yes, this is a national park but I think of Canyonlands as the country cousin to Arches: big with many rough trails and few amenities. You even need to bring your own water since there’s none in the visitor center.

Canyonlands is divided into four sections. We visited the Needles area on our way to Moab. Island in the Sky, the main section, offers views into the Green and Colorado River. We hiked down into a canyon on the Neck Spring loop. This part of Island in the Sky attracted ranchers in the 19th century because it has several springs. Water is always the issue here.

On a Sunday morning, we didn’t see another person on the Neck Spring Loop trail.

Hiking in Arches and Canyonlands is difficult. We’ve yet to do a hike of more than eight miles. The challenge isn’t the elevation gain; it’s the rocky terrain. Lenny and I have been spoiled by Smokies trails for so long that we’re finding the hiking tough.

The barren rock called slick makes up a sizeable part of any trail here. Sometimes, if it’s a tourist trail, the park will have installed a few rock steps. When it’s not rock, it’s sand, almost like on a beach. Couple all those challenges with the sun and heat and you have two slow hikers.

But the views are like nothing else I’ve seen. We’ve walked into canyons and on the rim, looking down onto rocky structures that can’t be explained.

But it’s not all distant views. Right now, prickly pear cactus, both yellow and pink, is in bloom. There’s Indian paintbrush, blue, pink and lavender asters and a whole slew of flowers that I can only admire but not identify. Lizards that scurry to get out from under our feet are as colorful as the flowers.

Goodbye as well to Moab, Utah. It’s time to move on.

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