Today we went to a scenic overlook in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park that is visited by very few people. It takes traversing a seven-mile four-wheel-drive road. The length of the hike depends on your vehicle, your 4WD skills, and how far you are willing to drive. But the views at the end, and the solitude, are worth it.
Today's adventure was driving our newly outfitted Jeep Liberty over the Colorado River Overlook 4WD road in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. It's 7 miles one-way and it is listed as a moderate road.
The first three miles were actually kind of boring. Then things got a little challenging for us as Linda had to spot me a few times getting over some rocky areas.
Then we came to this.
It doesn't look like much from that angle. But from below, looking back up, it was a bit more daunting for us newbie four-wheelers out here by ourselves.
The brochure said there are some "stairsteps" about a mile and a half before the end of the road. Many people park their vehicles here and walk the rest of the way.
At this point, there were a couple hundred yards of drops and climbs that we weren't sure we had the clearance to make. We both looked at each other and weren't sure if we should try it. But we did it anyway.
Linda is an excellent spotter and we made it through the area only scarring the skid plates a few times. We would have never attempted it without the skid plates. We probably had no business trying it at all, but we got through it.
There were still more challenges ahead, but we finally decided we had enough. We opted to walk the last mile since we could walk faster than we could crawl through the rocks.
It turned out we already made it through the hardest part. The rest would have been slow going, but relatively easy.
Finally, we reached the viewpoint off to the right as we walked in. This is the downriver view of the Colorado River.
Linda sat on the ledge looking upriver.
There are no railings out here and it is pretty scary walking along the edges.
Across the rocks on the left of where we came in, we had this view of Big Spring Canyon.
Across Big Spring Canyon are the Needles where we'll be hiking tomorrow.
One more look at the Colorado before we headed back.
And one little dead tree photo for the road.
Now Linda sacrificed for that last photo. I was scrambling around on the rocks trying to get just the right shot. She was waiting patiently nearby.
As we were leaving, we were trying hard not to step on the cryptobiotic crust that holds the soil and moisture together so the habitat remains intact. Linda made a long step trying to avoid "busting the crust" and landed on a loose rock.
Down she went. It was one of those over-forty sort of slow-motion-crumbles to the ground. I rushed over, but she just had a couple scrapes and a small gouge in her left hand.
Of course, the one time she didn't bring her hiking poles. Fortunately, she didn't break or sprain anything. There weren't even any tears and she insisted she was okay.
So we carried on.
The different shades of colors were beautiful in this long view looking out over the sand and grasses and green of the junipers past the beige slickrock to the red rock formations to the red rock cliffs beyond and on to the snow-capped La Sal Mountains behind.
We made our way back to the Jeep. Linda spotted me back out through the rough stuff as others looked on.
Two Jeeps (a Wrangler & a Cherokee) and a Nissan Pathfinder had parked where our Jeep photos above were taken. The people were starting their hike, but they stopped to intently watch us crawl and scrape through.
The guy in the Wrangler thought it looked like fun, so he and his female companion returned to their Jeep. A couple of the guys told Linda what a great job she did spotting.
Shouting "How 'bout that baby Liberty!" she was high-fiving the Wrangler guy at the end. Only Linda.
Four hours after we started, we finished our 14 mile roundtrip. By then, clouds had rolled in.
Back home at our boondocking spot in Lockhart Basin on BLM land outside the park, we sat in our loungers and enjoyed the view for a little while before grilling some burgers. The sun peeked out one last time and the red cliffs turned sort of a plum color.
It was just a gorgeous evening after a fun day.