Canyonlands National Park

After a morning meadering through Arches, I drove an hour or so, to Canyonlands National Park. Whereas Zion had been overrun with buses and cameras and all their many peoples, and while Bryce and Arches were pleasant but still felt a bit crowded from time to time, Canyonlands was like hitting the paydirt of personal solitude. Of the four Parks I had inadvertently save the best for last. Canyonlands was my fave.

Like Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands had…well…canyons, and it did my heart good to stand at the edge of the canyons in Canyonlands and take in the open spaces as they spread out beneath me.

Trails to traverse

It’s way too much to properly appreciate in one mere afternoon, so I didn’t even try, I just drove around the Park, did a little easy hiking, here and there, and vowed — by all the old gods and the new — to return, one day, and spend some serious time here. It’s a great place for a long hiking trip, I often thought to myself, wishing I had more time…several days, or even a few weeks.

Ansel Adams moments, Canyonlands National Park, 2018 roadtrip

After one of my first good views of the canyon, I thought to myself that I’d like to do some cycling and/or mountain biking in Canyonlands, and as I was returning to my car to drive on, I crossed paths with a dude who was just finishing up a trip, loading his moutain bike on the back of his car. He looked to be in his 70s, possibly even older, but he was quite fit and was all decked out in his tight biker spandex.

Wild trees and red rocks

He had that serene look of someone who has enjoyed his solitude. I said something stupid to the effect of “How was the ride?!” And he turned his lucid gaze on me, now a bit confused, perhaps, as though he had to take a moment to process the idiotic and unanswerable question and to also now come to grips with the fact that he would once again be encountering humans, humans who asked questions with no answers. It made me slightly sad, though I well-understand the feeling of having to relearn what it’s like to have a conversation after spending extended time in the wilderness, and particularly after an intense time of physical exertion.

Fix-ation with gnarly trees and barren bushes, 2018 Canyonlands National Park

As I proceeded on, I encountered a little rain, off and on, but it persisted and even clouded over and as I drove out of the Park, in the dark, my visibility was quite bad and I drove very slow until I had exited the Park and the fog dissipated. It was another night at the scenic rest stop where I had slept the night before, and the next morning I drove on, out of state.

A bit of rain, gently falling in the fall of 2018, in Canyonlands, as the southern Utah road trip comes to an end — note the sleeping pad in the back of my Fiat 500, converted into a cramped little camper-car

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

5 thoughts on “Canyonlands National Park”

  1. I watched the sunrise over the Needles district of Canyonlands last summer and it will be one of those memories I carry to my grave. We didn’t see another person in this park till we stopped at the visitors center on our way out. We figured out the best way to enjoy Arches was to arrive for sunrise and to skip the stuff closest to the entrance. Thanks for sharing your story!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The weather was spectacular! We were there in August so temps topped 100 every day. However, it felt pretty amazing to me coming from Ohio where it’s hot AND the humidity is ridiculous. We beat the heat and the crowds each day by being in the parks before sunrise. We were back in the car by about 1 pm and then spent our afternoons in museums and shops. There’s a really nice little bookstore in Moab where we spent a good bit of time. 🙂 How was your weather??

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Good planning… I’m from the Midwest so I can appreciate the difference between a humid heat and a dry heat…. Weather was good on my trip too. It was late fall but still not too cold. A little rain but not much. Mostly clear, conducive to great views.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Sounds wonderful! We also spent a couple of days in Salt Lake City but visibility there was poor thanks to the California wildfires. I felt incredibly fortunate that we had good weather and visibility in the parks.


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