Spencer Millsap Photo Blog » WA state filmmaker and photographer

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The American Southwest – Day 7/8 – Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park. Man. I knew nothing about this park outside of the off reference to the 127 hours ordeal, which apparently took place in the remote Maze District of the west side of the park. Turns out this park is huge, and has THREE visitor’s centers separated by the Green and Colorado rivers, the park has very distinct zones for what you are looking for. We opted for the lesser traveled Needles District in the south over the Isle in the Sky district frequented for its arches and Moab adventure seekers. Without days to spend a crazy 4 wheel drive vehicle, we opted out of the Maze district as well. We approached the gates of the park after making our way out of the hellish Manti-La-Sal National Forest, to feel even more remote than we were. Stopping at the family run outpost just outside of town for ice and firewood we crept into the visitor’s center parking lot and perused our hike options with the park guide. After we got setup at Campground A, Site #1, we had a fiery red sunset, a night of crazy stars and moonscape long exposures. Up before the sun hit our camp, we headed for the Chesler Park Loop. An amazing other world experience of needle formations, boulder hopping, an awesome tight narrow canyon called “The Joint”, a cairn filled cave, and a strenuous, make that grueling, last few miles out in the midday sun that had us spent by the end of it. There is so much to explore in this park, we barely scratched the surface. It’s beautiful in its vast simplicity, surrounded by sand castle-like needle spires was somewhat comforting, protecting. Yet this is a park not to be taken lightly. Pack a TON of water, rest often, and plan your hikes as best you can. The terrain was difficult at times just on our hike, and we only saw maybe a dozen people total on our multi hour 10 mile hike. This is a place I would LOVE to come back to for some short day stint hikes into a multi day backcountry experience. So many great little tucked away campgrounds with crazy vibrant night skies.

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Canyonlands Needles Outpost


Campground A, Site #1

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Cave Spring Loop through an old cowboy camp

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Historic pictographs

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Ephemeral pools, or potholes, just above our campsite, that play host to a variety of desert resistant life


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Cairn City
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