Canyonlands National Park - One of Mother Nature's Ultimate Rock Gardens

Mesa Arch in winter, with a rare snow

Mesa Arch in summer

This post is to help commemorate the garden bloggers' celebration of National Parks, put on by Pam at Digging.  Although I have been to many, many national parks, and live in Colorado where we have several of the most beautiful, I am choosing to show Canyonlands National Park, Utah, in both the summer and the winter, since it looks stunning and surreal in both seasons. 

Spires in summer, La Sal mountains barely visible in background

Spires in the winter, La Sal Mountains in background

The Canyonlands, Arches, and Moab areas in Utah are one of my favorite places to go. In fact, I am going there again towards the end of this week. The colors of the Canyonlands are constantly changing, and always awe inspiring. These pictures are from two trips in 2008, one at the end of May and one at the end of December. Both of those times of the year are considered to be "off season". One is "hotter than the face of the sun" and the other is "colder than a freezer", at least according to my family.

Jeep road around the "White Rim" of the canyon - someday I hope to take my jeep here!

Green river just visible at the bottom of the canyon - the Green River and the Colorado River both flow though here and join together at the confluence.

The flora and fauna found in each season are different from each other, and very tough in either case.  It takes a lot to be able to grow in the desert and the rocky canyons, where simply by stepping in the wrong place results in the death of the soil micro organisms for decades.  This special "soil" is called "Cryptobiotic soil" and is the life blood of the few plants that grow here.  It provides food and life for animals, insects, and reptiles. 

Erigeron and Cactus, spiny and beautiful

Claret Cup cactus

Mariposa Lily

Some sort of spiny cactus. I don't know the name, but will always remember the florescent pink blossoms

Native grasses under the snow at the top of the canyon.  To see snow here is a treat.

Starkly beautiful leafless tree on a path we took to the top of "Whale Rock"

Lizards of various types are a common site here in the summer months.

This is part of Newspaper Rock, which is just outside of the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park.  Petroglyphs show us wondrous clues to the past.  It's up to all of us to learn from their lessons.

Several layers of clothing required during our winter visit
Canyonlands National Park is one of the least visited of the national parks in Utah. It is divided into 3 sections, none of which are connected to the other. Most people go there as park of bus tours of the parks, and never hike farther than the "points of interest". You could spend weeks in Canyonlands, and see very few people. When we were there in December, we saw less than 100 people. Summer was a bit busier, but still not "crowded". We also went to Arches National Park, and other parts of the Moab area, but those places are for another post.


  1. Great post, Kathy! I would love to see this park one day, but I would prefer it when it's not "hotter than the face of the sun." We get enough of that in Austin. :-)

    The winter scenes are beautiful and particularly nice to see, since most of us, I imagine, visit national parks in the other seasons.

    Thanks for participating!

  2. A great post with wonderful shots of the winter and summer scenes contrasted. I really enjoyed it!!

  3. Gorgeous park! and lovely photos - the landscape is just so totally different from ours.

  4. Wonderful pictures of a very scenic park, winter or summer. We were there int he 80s when we were fortunate enough to live in Ca and did every park in the west. I would like to start over again. We have driven close by every year on our way to Idaho. Trouble is, it is so hot there in the summer. Fall would be a better time to go. Sounds like you live in a wonderful place.

  5. Kathy,
    Great shots!!! I would like to explore this area in the future. You have piqued my curiosity... so Fall is best time to visit this area?

  6. I'm glad that all of you liked the pictures. All of the Moab area is such a magical place, and the pictures here can't possibly show you how the light changes all the time. Just the fact that 2 National Parks, Arches and Canyonlands, are within 30 miles of each other should tell you something about how beautiful it is there.

    To answer the time question, fall or early spring are the best times of year, simply because of the temperatures when you are hiking. I have also been to this area at Thanksgiving, which was perfect weather. So, I'll let you know how it is after the trip this week. The only disadvantage to the fall/spring times is that the days are shorter and so you don't have as much time to explore.

  7. Thanks so much for introducing me to this wonderful place. I really haven't heard that much about it. Your photos are stunning. And cryptobiotic soil? Wow, learn something new everyday! You're right, CO has so many fantastic nat'l parks. So I'm glad you went outside your borders. :-)

  8. What great photos. Looks like another one for 'the list'. Maybe not in summer, though.

  9. Great scenery. Utah always blows me away. I've been to Arches, Zion, and Bryce, but never Canyonlands. I was reading some of Edward Abbey's essays about Arches ad Canyonlands recently, already had me thinking about doing the drive out there.
    That Mariposa Lily is really intense. I usually see the white or yellow ones.


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