Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Family Hiking in Canyonlands - Needles District

This past fall my husband, daughter, and I went on a little RV adventure to Canyonlands National Park in the Needles District. There is nothing much to do there except enjoy the beauty of the the area. Really, in the needles district there are no cell phone service, no showers, but a lot of trails. Backpacking, hiking, and some truly 4 wheel driving roads are the only way to explore this beauty. There are easy trails like one to an ancestral Puebloan granary and another takes you a historic cowboy line camp and prehistoric pictographs. Then there are long trails (about 60 miles of interconnected trails) to fantastic views, colorful sandstone spires, arches, and archaeological sites. The best way to explore these long trails is to go backpacking overnight with lots of water. Basically there is something in Canyonlands for every skill level and it makes a wonderful place to visit with the family.

During our visit we hiked a few of the shorter trails, along with a small section of the larger trail called the Squaw Flat Loop that was near the campgrounds. They do tell you that the longer trails are especially rough and require negotiating steep passes with drop-offs, narrow spots, or ladders, but we thought we would be safe close to the campground on a short loop between the two. LOL - We were so wrong. I didn't take my camera, because we thought we were going on a flat trail with not much to spot but cactus and lizards. The trail looped around and up and over the formation that sat right behind our campsite. It was amazingly beautiful, but I was a little worried as we were walking on the top of the sandstone structure with only five feet of rock between drops off on each side. The rock rose in a way that made it difficlut to judge what might come next and we kept just pushing ahead thinking it would be easier then turning back. We "scrambled" a lot and I even tore a large hole in my jeans from shuffling over the rock with my daughter in my arms. The photo above shows the formation we hiked over. It was just the lower part on the left, but we walked on the top of that and came down the steep slopes and sandstone rims to get back to the campground with a 4 year old in tow. Looking back it was beautiful, but I don't think I would have taken a 4 year old up there to hike if I had known. She did wonderfully though and it is a memory and accomplishment I don't' think she will ever forget.

The next day we hiked the Slickrock Trail. This is the longest of the short trails and is about 2.4 miles round trip. It was listed as having uneven surfaces, viewpoints, and sometimes bighorn sheep. We didn't see many sheep that day, but lots of beautiful views. This is actually a great trail for kids. Enough "scrambling" over the rocks to satisfy them (really very little for those who have long adult legs) and a few shady places to stop and rest when needed.

The panoramas from my blog post Hiking at Canyonlands National Park were taken while we were on this hike, but I thought I would share some more personal photos that show my hubby and daughter actually hiking.

As you can see they have the trail marked with cairns (small rock piles) which really helps you not get lost when the trail is mostly sandstone. Though, we did get off trail a couple of times and had to go back to the last cairn we were at and then scout around for the next.

The viewpoints were well marked. One you had to go out on a long thin rock formation that had a major drop off on both sides. This was the one viewpoint we didn't go all the way out to (because we had enough of our heart popping out of our chests the day before with our four year old so close to the edge of drop offs). Then, once we thought we found the view point:

Only to find this sign at the bottom once we figure out the way down:

You can actually see the sign in the last photo. I thought it seemed kind of a funny place to have the sign laying, but it worked and we found our way.

While this isn't the Grand Canyon, it is just as beautiful and a lot less crowded. It is a place that everyone should try to visit at least once.

Thanks for letting me share this adventure with you.

PS. I thought about being Wordless today for "Wordless Wednesday" but decided I had to much to share with these photos. Maybe next week.

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- Salvador Dali

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