The Grand Circle - Southern Utah
During the next leg of the Grand Circle road trip, we took a scenic drive from Moab to Escalante, Utah. We did this drive in one day with some breaks along the way. Before setting out on our drive we spent the night in Green River, Utah, which is about an hour drive from Arches National Park. On our way to Green River we made a quick detour to Canyonlands for sunset.
Canyonlands National Park provides visitors with a vast, colorful landscape made up of canyons, mesas, and buttes. The landscape, formed by the Colorado river and Green river, divides the park into 4 distinct districts: Island in the Sky, Needles, the Maze, and the Rivers.
During our visit to Canyonlands we visited the most popular area of the park, the Islands in the Sky district. We took the short hike to Mesa Arch, an iconic pothole arch which provides a window-like experience into the canyon. We then set out on the Grand View Point Trail for sunset, a trail which allows visitors to walk to the end of the Island of the Sky mesa and offers panoramic views.
Canyonlands is an uniquely astonishing stop on the Grand Circle Road Trip. It's vastness can be easily overwhelming to some but allows remoteness to those who seek solitude. When visiting Canyonlands plan to visit one of the districts. In order to get to separate districts visitors must drive 2 to 6 hours, as there are no direct links within the park. Check out http://www.nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/index.htm to plan your visit.
The next morning, we started our scenic drive towards Escalante, Utah. Our first stop along the way was Goblin Valley State Park, an area featured by thousands of hoodoo rocks, referred to as "goblins." We spent about an hour within the park, exploring the mushroom-like rock pinnacles and played an intense game of hide-and-seek, which is an experience well recommended.
After a two hour drive we arrived to our next destination, Capitol Reef National Park. The park is defined by a Waterpocket fold which extends from Thousand Lake Mountain to Lake Powell. Navajo Sandstone Canyon backdrops complete with fruit picking meadows make this a must see destination when traveling through south central Utah. Only able to spend a few hours, we decided to take a short hike to Hickman Bridge and go apple picking. Other recommended activities include hikes to Petroglyphs and ancient ruins, the Cathedral Valley loop tour and a 90 minute scenic drive accessible through the main entrance of the park.
After leaving Capitol Reef, we embarked on one of the most stunning drives to the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument via Scenic Byway 12. The highway, which connects Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon National Park, passes through various landscapes and small towns which are rich in history. The drive makes you feel like you are taking a journey through time and is accounted as one of the most memorable experiences during our Grand Circle trip. In opinion, this drive is most stunning during the fall, where red canyons and trees of yellow and green line the highway. There are a plethora of stops along the way and it is recommended to take two days in order to enjoy the area in it's entirety. When I return in the future, I plan to do just that. Check out http://www.scenicbyway12.com to see a complete list of things to do while traveling the Byway.