Canyonlands National Park, Utah – Land of the thousand canyons – and crime

Utah is well known for its off-road trails. After consulting a ranger we decided to go on the easy Gemini Bridges Trail. 4-wheel-drive and high clearance is necessary, but the rest is not a challenge – just a nice landscape. Then we head into Deadhorse State Park (10 $ entrance fee per vehicle; annual interagency passes not accepted in Utah’s state parks). The views from top of the rock faces to the Meander Canyon of the Colorado and the deeply scarred rocky landscape are incredible. Green Colorado River meanders in huge S-bends through the Mars-red stone; from Deadhorse Point Overlook you can see Horseshoe Bend.

The neighbouring Canyonlands National Park is separated into three parts by the meeting Colorado and Green River: The badly accessible western Maze District, the eastern part (Needles District), and the northern Island in the Sky in front of us. Crossing a small hogback we reach the 800 m high plateau, a mesa restricted by steep walls. We look down to the White Rim Plateau 400 m deeper and the river canyon even 200 m deeper. There are many view points, short and long hikes, and an arch as well. Mesa Arch invites to climb on it provided that there is less wind than today. And the canyon is damn deep.

Our plan was to leave the Island in the Sky via the off-road ways Schafer Trail and Potash Road towards Moab. It is said to be a pretty trail down into the river canyon. But the road is closed. A ranger was shot and wound there yesterday and brought into a hospital. The police closed the trail seeking the criminal who is most probably injured as well. Sure, that’s a pity for us, but more important is to find the shooter. We drive some more kilometres to keep some distance between us and the scene of crime.

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