Four Days on the Colorado Plateau – Canyonlands, Arches and Colorado National Monument

The Thanksgiving Holiday is often a gift of time for myself and many of my friends.  A chance to take some extended time in a place for more than just an overnight.

As with last year, my friend Markhamm and I would be going to Utah.  This year was going to be a slightly different  trip. With some vacation time to burn, I’d be gone for ten days in this glorious area. Markhamm would join me for four, I’d be solo for three and then someone would join me of the reminder of the time out there. Alas, due to blizzard conditions over the high passes on I-70, I’d end up cutting my trip a little short and join someone in Colorado for the Thanksgiving holiday.


Still, four days in Utah ain’t the worse way to spend some time. 🙂

After work Thurs, I drove to the Colorado National Monument , grabbed a campspot and waited for Markhamm to join me. Later that night, he met up with me. After a nightcap of a beer, we made plans to stash his car and drive up to Moab the following morning.

We arrived at the Canyonlands visitor center, and easily received a permit for the Snycline Trail/ Alcove Canyon/Upheaval dome loop. This loop takes in the bottom of Taylor Canyon, goes along the famous White Rim 4WD road (currently closed; it is also popular with MTBers and reminded me more of a wide, gnarly trail than a road..probably due to the washouts that forced the closure) and the enters the Upheaval Dome area. This area was esp. intriguing to me as it is the site of a meteor crater. Being able to walk into the middle of a crater seemed rather cool.

(An an aside, between the red rock formations, the almost non-existent vegetation in areas, the wide open areas and now a meteor crater, I can’t help buy think of Mars. I am not the only person to think so, either!)

We started the trip by descending into Taylor Canyon via the Alcove Trail.


We quickly came upon the geological formation that gave the trail its name:



As we made our way to the canyon floor, the vast red rock formations surrounded us and from one memorable perch, we could see far into the distance of where we could be going over the next day.



Around 5PM, and not before the end of daylight, we made it to the Green River and found a campsite. Unlike last year with its single digit temps at night, the night air proved to be pleasant. I quickly fell asleep and enjoyed the luxurious feeling of being a touch too warm in the November climate of Utah.

The following day, we made it to the Upheaval Dome area. The geology proved to be as fascinating as I hoped.


After our loop hike, we made camp for the night and started noticing the weather moving in. The following day when we hiked the Devils Garden Trail in Arches, the sky was even more ominous looking.

Still, it was a day out in Utah. I have never really been to Arches NP.  More of a windshield tourist destination, it is a beautiful place. The ‘long hikes’ are anything but…however it proved a great way to see the many arches and even enjoy some brief sun.

After this hike, we drove back to retrieve Markhamm’s car and made one last (cold camp!) for the trip. Markhamm decided to push to avoid any snow (I sense a theme here?) and I ended up doing a hike in Ute Canyon. After the trip someone had at CNM last Memorial Day Weekend, I really wanted to do this hike.

With the blue sky, the freshly fallen snow and the red rocks, this hike proved to be a very enjoyable one.

After the hike, I checked in with someone and found out about the information mentioned earlier. Alas, I cut my trip short. But the days I spent were memorable. I’ll be back again.  And after turkey, pie and wine? someone already made plans for the rest of the holiday weekend. The gift of time is too precious to waste. 🙂

All the photos

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Hendrik M
13 years ago

Superb photos and writing, Paul. If I ever would come to the USA, Utah would be a definite goal to visit and enjoy, I love those red mountains!