Dead Horse Point State Park, Island In The Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, & Shafer Trail/Potash Road Scenic Drive - Utah
This posts includes photos from scenic overlooks, a little hiking, and a scenic drive down into the red rock canyons. Moab, Utah is simply a wonderful destination for anyone that loves natural beauty and outdoor adventures.
We were a little slow getting started today.
Dead Horse Point State Park
But we finally made it to Dead Horse Point State Park, 32 miles from the Arches National Park entrance, around 11:00 am.
After learning we were camphost volunteers at Arches, the ranger in the visitor center didn't charge us the $10 entrance fee. We agreed to provide information about his campground when our campers ask.
Then it was on to the park's main attraction - Dead Horse Point.
According to legend, wild horses would be herded out onto this rocky point with 2,000 foot drops all around. The entry "neck" is only 30 feet wide, so the building of a fence across that 30 feet created a natural corral. Unfortunately, several horses died of thirst on the point - thus the name.
Here is a photo of the bend in the Colorado River known as the Gooseneck from the famous overlook.
If you look closely, you can see a road just above the bend in the river. Later, we were on that road.
The views of the deep canyons are what this small park is all about.
The sky was trying to clear up during our brief stay at Dead Horse, but we never got that bright blue we always hope for in red rock country.
Island In The Sky - Canyonlands National Park
Only eight miles from Dead Horse Point State Park is the visitor center for Canyonlands National Park. Well, it's the visitor center for the "Island In The Sky" district of Canyonlands.
Canyonlands is divided into three main districts - Island In The Sky (the most accessible), Needles (about 65 miles from Arches in a different direction), and the Maze (which is considered one of the remotest places in the United States, accessible only by 4WD).
And there is also a section called Horseshoe Canyon which is smaller and separated from the other three districts.
But today, we were checking out Island In The Sky. Since Canyonlands and Arches are part of the Southeast Utah Group (which also includes Hovenweep & Natural Bridges), we are allowed access at no charge.
At the visitors center, we spoke with Sarah and Nathaniel and got tips for our day. Because we are all on the same radio frequency, they have heard us and knew us by our radio number. Now they know the faces that go with "280".
We made our first stop at the Shafer Trail overlook.
See that windy canyon road with switchbacks? It was our plan to take that road back to Moab.
But first we had to check out more. We made our next stop at the Mesa Arch trailhead and hiked the quarter mile to the arch.
It looks like a short arch until you get up close and see the drop-off under it.
We climbed up to the top left edge of the arch for a different view.
Linda is usually in the pictures, but I had to get in on this one.
After climbing around and taking shots from different vantage points, we finally left Mesa Arch to the rest of the onlookers and finished the half mile loop.
A curious Raven met us back at the Jeep - curious to see if we would drop any food.
Next, we continued past the campground to the Green River Overlook.
Both the Colorado and Green Rivers run through Canyonlands and are responsible for cutting the canyons even deeper. Within the park, the Green empties into the Colorado at "the confluence" and increases the power that runs south through the Grand Canyon.
All I could think about was getting our Foldcat on those rivers for a spectacular two or three day trip. We'll have to work on that.
The next stop on our tour was the Upheaval Dome trail. I'll leave it to you to click on the link and learn about the unique geological structure of the dome.
All I know is we hiked a third of a mile uphill ...
to an overlook. And we saw this huge "bowl" or crater-looking area with what looked like mountains of blue sand in the middle.
Then we continued on another half mile to another overlook ....
where we got a closer view of what I think are actually mountains of salt.
There was no way to show you how deep and how massive this "bowl" is. You have to see it in 3-D.
We sat and peered down into the crater while having a snack. Then we hiked the half mile back uphill to the first overlook.
There was more to see at Island In The Sky, but we were running out of time if we wanted to take the dirt road back to Moab.
The thing with Island In The Sky is there are either short hikes on top of the Mesa or really long hikes down into the canyons with over 1,000 feet in elevation changes. The problem with the long hikes is the return trip is always uphill 1,000 feet or more.
Shafer Trail/Potash Road Scenic Drive
Now, knowing I don't like ledges, Linda decided to drive the Jeep down the Shafer Trail switchbacks to the Potash Road and on into Moab. Here is a nice view before the switchbacks and the rough, rocky, bumpy part of the road began.
Yikes! This was the view out my window, inches from the edge.
It was great experience for Linda to manage the road hazards. And other than a few tense moments for me, I got to enjoy the scenery and take pictures.
With a bumpy ride and Linda white-knuckling a bit, it only took us an hour to do the four mile Shafer Trail.
Actually, she did great. But we weren't quite ready for the 100 mile White Rim Road at the end of the Shafer Trail. So we took the turn onto Potash Road instead.
Only 13 more miles to pavement.
I was enjoying the ride immensely. These "mushroom" rocks were cool.
Then we came upon three Mule Deer.
This one posed nicely as we went around them.
More red rocks around every turn.
We were hoping there were no flash floods as part of the road was through a wash.
What a beautiful, fun drive!
How about a quick shot through the sunroof?
Eventually, we came to the Colorado River.
In fact, this is the Gooseneck part of the river that we photographed from Dead Horse Point.
This is the Jeep in front of Dead Horse Point. The first photo in this post was taken from the right corner of the tallest butte.
These beautiful purple flowers were everywhere along the way.
We lost our sun for a few miles, but I still took pics.
The last five miles of the dirt road ran through property owned by Moab Salt. The plant took away some of the beauty of the area, ...
but the retention ponds added something as well.
After about 2 1/2 hours of bouncing over rocks, through washes, and over ruts, we reached the pavement. That's 17 miles at about 7 mph. Okay, 10 mph if we adjust for photos. Linda was plenty cautious, but I certainly didn't mind.
The road really didn't require 4WD, just high clearance. But the 4WD helped keep things slow without riding the brakes, and we were sure glad we had it.
Only 18 more miles to get to Moab. The good news was that the paved part of Potash Road runs along the Colorado.
We still had plenty of good scenery left.
There are a couple arches and some petroglyphs along that portion of Potash Road, but we were running out of daylight. They'll have to wait for another time.
Another fantastic day in the Moab, Utah area.