What Arches National Park has in natural arches, Canyonlands has in (surprise) canyons. Despite being only 45 minute drive from Arches, Canyonlands was a different world.
Our home base for Canyonlands exploration was Dead Horse Point State Park, which was a very remote but recently refurbished park that deserved a few days exploration on its own. And though they were actually tent pads, the kids thought the “giant sandboxes” outside our door were built just for them.
Canyonlands has all the vistas and hikes you would expect and we tackled our share of them but the highlight was the Shafer Canyon Trail. A road scraped into the side of the canyon with more twists than a Texas rattlesnake. I think it was our newfound ATV experience that gave us the confidence to drive down (in the Jeep, not the RV, just to be clear!) the switchback laden and guardrail-free dirt track and it was worth it.
Not only were the views from the road unbelievable (and adrenaline inducing) but the stops at Musselman Arch and a vista over a gooseneck in the Colorado River, had us wishing we’d packed dinner so we could stay down on the canyon floor longer.
Along the drive, we met a lovely German couple that made our little RV trip seem like a run to the grocery store, as they’re driving AROUND the world (granted without little kids) in a seriously geared out vintage military truck (see pic).
It wasn’t all Jeep touring as we hiked out to the beautiful Mesa Arch and the kids earned their Jr. Ranger badges for both the state park as well as Canyonlands National Park. We wrapped up our time here with some sticky s’mores by the campfire on our last evening.
Next stop: Capitol Reef National Park (still in Utah, despite the name sounding somewhere beachy)