Canyonlands (2014)

by | Oct 30, 2015 | 0 comments

April 14-20, 2014

Currently, Nobu has school vacation four times a year: Thanksgiving, Christmas, a midterm break in February, and spring break in April. For the latter two vacations, Nobu and I have usually been going somewhere, traveling, going to skate parks or national parks, just going out of town.

For spring break in 2014, we decided it would be fun to take the white rim road in Canyonlands National Park (USA). In fact, in my opinion Canyonlands is one of the most spectacular places on the planet. It is at the convergence of the Colorado and Green rivers, just at the place where the Colorado plateau drops by 4000 feet. Incredible!

But there’s more to the story. I have always wanted to go back to drive the White Rim Road, and by some miracle, I was able to wrangle a three day permit. The White Rim Road is 100 miles long, looping around and below the Island in the Sky mesa top, between the mesa top and the rivers below.  This is a pretty difficult road, so we rented a Jeep in Moab, and set out.

Canyonlands National Park

White Rim Road

We started by heading down the Shafer Trail, which drops over 1000 feet from the Island in the Sky.  It is breathtaking, adrenaline-pumping, and altogether beautiful.  The mostly-single-lane road descends through many switchbacks.  If we had encountered someone coming up the trail, we would have had to back up these switchbacks until we could find a way for them to pass.  Fortunately, that didn’t happen.  Nobu was shocked and impressed. 

Once down onto the flat, the road winds along the Colorado river, looking down another thousand feet.  The entire region is cliffs and needles, with cracks in the ground that drop hundreds of feet.  The Colorado river is magnificent, the turns and hairpins fully visible from this height.

It is hard to describe the feeling.  This is some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen, and I certainly have never driven any road so grand.  This is a four wheel drive road for sure, but it is not so technical, and it was pretty easy in the Jeep.

We spent two days driving the rim, camping at the Candlestick camping area, high on a cliff overlooking the Green River.

Horseshoe Canyon

Once we returned from the White Rim road, the next day we traveled to Horseshoe Canyon.  This was one of my favorite days of the trip.  Nobu and I hiked down a long trail into the canyon, which led along a river.


The colors were amazing, green trees against the red canyon walls.  The petroglyphs are about 4 miles down the trail, and they are huge.  The figures are well over life size, perhaps thousands of years old.


The next day, we drove to the airport to pick up Kathy.  I was really excited to show her what Canyonlands is like, but we decided on a plan to visit Arches National Park first (Arches is only a few miles away).  We were camping at the Willow Flat campground, so we stopped first at Mesa Arch at sunrise.  You can see in the photos how the sun lights up the underside of the arch with a brilliant orange glow.

Once we picked Kathy up, we traveled to Arches, taking the trails to see the arches.  One of the best was Delicate Arch, reachable by trail starting at Wolfe Ranch.  This is a super popular hike, and there were a lot of other people there, too.

Shafer Trail

For the final day, we drove back to Shafer trail and down the White Rim road again.  I just had to show Kathy!  We drove a little bit along the rim, then set up camp at Shafer camp.

The weather was glorious, white clouds and blue sky, and the views into the Colorado canyon were spectacular.  We set up camp, cooked some hot dogs, then slept under the stars.  The next day we drove back up the Shafer trail to a brilliant sunrise, and then left for the airport, sad to leave.