Our original plan was to visit the south end of Canyonlands National Park, then head toward Gunnison, Colorado.
Since would be a shorter day's ride, we allowed ourselves to sleep in until around 6 a.m. We headed down to enjoy the hotel's "continental breakfast," then packed up the bikes and checked out. After a quick fill-up, we headed north out of Monticello, on Highway 191. It was only 14 miles or so before we turned onto the road that would take us into the south end of Canyonlands National Park.
Canyonlands National Park is a region of canyons cut by the Colorado and the Green Rivers, and has three, distinct, and quite different regions. Only two of the areas are accessible by paved roads. The south end of Canyonlands is called The Needles District; the north end is called Island in the Sky District, and the western area is called The Maze District.
The ride into The Needles District was beautiful, but it would be 32 miles before we would actually enter Canyonlands National Park. Initially, we rode through open sagebrush-filled terrain, after which we rode through a few switchbacks that carried us down into a canyon. Along the way, we briefly stopped for a few pictures.
As we approached the entrance to Canyonlands, we were able to see several beautiful mesas on the way.
It's only 9 miles from the south entrance of Canyonlands to the end of the paved road. The south end of Canyonlands was scenic, with many interesting rock formations. One example was Wooden Shoe Rock.
The south end of the park includes another interesting formation known as The Needles, which consists of a large number of needle-like spires of rocks.
At the end of the road into the south end of Canyonlands, we stopped for a few minutes to take pictures of some of the rock formations. Off in the distance, we could see the mesas which are located at the north end of Canyonlands.
After taking pictures, we started our ride out of the south end of Canyonlands. About half way back out of Canyonlands, we stopped at a location we bypassed on the in ‑ Newspaper Rock National Historic Site. This turned out to be a fascinating stop. The Newspaper Rock National Historic Site is a well-covered 200 square foot rock under a sandstone cliff. The rock is covered with hundreds of Native American petroglyphs. Some date back nearly 2000 years, while others are much more recent.
We returned to Highway 191, then headed north toward Moab. Along the way, we spied another arch along the road side and stopped to take a couple of pictures.
By this time (11:00 a.m. or so), the temperatures in the low 90s and climbing. We moved on to Moab, where we stopped once again at the Moab Brewery, this time for lunch. It was a welcomed break from the 95 degree heat. After lunch and a fill-up, we headed northward to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands.
In the Island of the Sky district, you are on top of the mesa and looking down into some of the canyons cut by the rivers. The views are incredible.
The Shafer Trail is a dirt road that you can take around the rim of some of the canyons, if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle. Maybe on another trip....
By late afternoon, we were hot and getting tired, so we headed back to Highway 191 for the ride north to I-70 and the 80 mile trip east to Grand Junction, Colorado. It was a hot (95 degree plus) and windy ride along I-70. We arrived at the hotel, showered, and walked to dinner. It had been another great day's ride, and we concluded that we definitely made the right decision to tour both ends of Canyonlands National Park rather than only the south end and then heading to Gunnison (which was even hotter that day).
Tomorrow, the trip back to Denver.