Hiking Canyonlands’ Needles District

The last park we visited in Utah was Canyonlands National Park (recently made famous by the great movie 127 Hours) . This park is HUGE and is split up into three districts: Island in the Sky, The Maze, and The Needles. I had read that The Needles offered the best hiking so that was where we headed for the day.

We hiked a good four miles from Elephant Hill and it seemed like we were thousands of miles from civilization. The route had some great views of Cedar Mesa Sandstone spires (the “needles”) and some fun joint canyons to walk through.

Surprisingly enough, we ran into some hikers we had seen the day before while hiking in Arches National Park. They told me that they recognized Trey’s non-stop chattering a mile away.

Here are some photos and video clips of Trey hiking that day.

Looking Glass Rock, UT

Just south of Moab, down a dirt road off Highway 191, is Looking Glass Rock. The site doesn’t get many visitors and isn’t marked very well from the main road. I found out about it from a local who recommended we swing by on our way to Canyonlands National Park. The massive rock has two natural arches in it that offer some great views of the Utah landscape through them.

Panoramic image taken from inside Looking Glass Rock south of Moab, UtahPanorama taken from inside Looking Glass Rock

Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument, Utah

Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument is located south of Moab on Hwy 211 along the way to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. The Monument features a huge flat rock with one of the largest known collections of petroglyphs in the world.

It is assumed that the first carvings at the Newspaper Rock site were made around 2,000 years ago, and although a few are as recent as the early 20th century, left by the first modern day explorers of the region. The petroglyphs have a mixture of human, animal, material and abstract forms, and like most petroglyphs no-one has been able to fully interpret their meaning. Were they messages between travelers, documentation of things seen and done, or simply prehistoric graffiti and doodles (I tend to lean towards the latter)?

As you can see in the video below, Trey wasn’t too interested in spending time interpreting the markings’ meaning as much as he was in searching for Batman, Spiderman, and Robin.

Arches Nat’l Park Panoramas

Arches National Park not only has some of the most incredible landmarks on this planet, but they have been given some cool names. Names like Garden of Eden, Devil’s Playground, Parade of Elephants, Tower of Babel, Fiery Furnace, Three Gossips, Dark Angel Arch…

Here are four panoramas I stitched together from photographs I took back in October. The first is a pretty interesting perspective as it was taken looking up from directly under the North Window Arch. You can even see Trey climbing in the lower right.

Panorama taken from under North Window Arch

Panorama of the “Parade of Elephants” rock formations in Arches National Park

Sunset in the Garden of Eden of Arches National Park (HDR)

Panorama made while hiking through the Devil’s Playground

Tibetan Music at Arches

One of the interesting things we saw heard at Arches National Park was a young man playing music on Tibetan “singing bowls” at the base of the Double Arch. The notes that reverberated from the steel bowls made a really beautiful ambient melody that echoed around the natural cove created by the arches.

Trey was quite fascinated by the guy’s actions and interrogated him with a barrage of questions after listening quietly for a while. He then proceeded to photograph all of the instruments. Only then was his curiosity satisfied and we continued on up and under the arches.

Trey in Arches National Park

We spent 2 1/2 days in Arches National Park and did a fair amount of hiking. Though you can see a lot of the landmarks from your car, the best ones (and the best views) are obtained by hiking. The longest hike we did was 4.2 mile round-trip trek to see Double O Arch.

Here are some photos of our little adventurer running around the park followed by a video of him scrambling up under Double Arch.

Scrap Metal Art in Hanksville, UT

One of my favorite things about driving across America off the interstate system is that you run into all sorts of wonderful surprises. On this road trip, one of those surprises was found in the tiny town of Hanksville, Utah.

On the side of the road I spotted dozens of dinosaurs made out of scrap metal sitting out in front of an abandoned motel. Trey also spotted them and insisted we pull over. We spent a good 45 minutes checking them out and Trey would ask me which dinosaur each scultpure was.

A big thank you to whatever anonymous genius left the art out there for us to enjoy!

Capitol Reef National Park, UT

After a full 24 hours of waiting out the rain in a motel we hit the road again. Our drive through Capitol Reef was rather uneventful due to the rain. We did stop to check out some insane flooding caused by the last 48 hours of rain. Trey cracked me up by asking why the river had chocolate in it (see video below).

On the east side of the park the skies cleared up a bit and I made a few stops to grab some scenic shots. Then we continued east, headed towards Arches National Park.