Thursday, November 17, 2011

24 Hours in Canyonlands National Park, Utah

         “Quick, snag that campsite!”  We zip into one of the last two available sites in Squaw Flat campground on a Friday afternoon.  Years ago when we traveled to southern Utah in late fall we had the parks and campgrounds mostly to ourselves.  Not anymore—southern Utah has been discovered.

Riding into the sunset on our bicycle-built-for-two.

          We erect the tent, change into our biking clothes and head out for a ride.  Even though the campground is full, the roads are nearly deserted as we leave the campground and pedal into the sunset.  We snap a few pictures of our lengthening shadows, ride to the visitor center and then return to the site; it’s a beauty—red rocks rise from the sand and giant junipers shade the picnic table and tent pad. 
           This evening’s clear and calm weather is perfect for tent camping.  Sure, temperatures are expected to dip below freezing, but we’re prepared with down sleeping bags and blankets.  After our mac & cheese with tomato soup dinner—a camp-out staple—I pull out my little portable GE radio and find ESPN on the AM dial.  It’s game seven of the World Series and the Cardinals are ahead of the Rangers 5-2.  Who needs a smart phone when you’ve got a transistor radio?

The miracle of radio—listening to the World Series in the wild.

         Tim and I relax by the fire with cups of hot tea and gaze at the night sky. Our campfire casts a luminous glow on the underside of the giant juniper’s branches, its needles shimmering a silvery green.  Brilliant, sparkling stars twinkle through the juniper’s crown, as if they’re dangling from the heavens.  It’s gorgeous—this radiant holiday wreath above our heads. 

Our picture-perfect campsite in Canyonlands.

          Preparing to crawl into the tent, we first stow our food and cookware in the truck—we don’t want to tempt any critters into visiting our site tonight.  As we walk to the truck we marvel at the milky way, stretching across the sky from horizon to horizon.


The morning dawns cold and clear.  We reluctantly emerge from our sleeping bags, light a campfire and start water boiling for coffee.  Soon bacon and eggs are sizzling on the camp stove—there’s nothing quite like the smell of bacon frying in the great outdoors.  

Ready for breakfast.
         After breakfast we ride the length of the scenic drive and stop at the end, admiring the view north and west into the vast wilderness of Canyonlands National Park.  We return to the campground and meet another tandem-riding couple.  Karen and Joel have ridden their tandem bicycle all over the US and have even taken their bicycle to Ireland for a group ride.  Sounds like fun.

Viewpoint at the end of the scenic drive.

          Although more crowded with tourists than it used to be, red rock country still works its magic, charming visitors with clear skies and stunning vistas.  We’ll be back.
If you have only 24 hours to spend in a national park you can’t go wrong in the Needles District of Canyonlands NP.  For more information on Canyonlands National Park visit this website:

Spectacular scenery abounds in Canyonlands Needles District.


  1. Rita, that indeed is a "picture-perfect" campsite that you had there in the Canyonlands! Also, I can't be 100% certain, but I think your tent is either identical (or nearly so) to a tent that my wife used for many years when we used to overnight camp.

    Very entertaining and informative report, as always!


  2. I love canyon lands and the Moab area. Beautiful pictures, thanks for posting. Come visit my site sometime if you have time :)

  3. Hi Rita,

    I've always wanted to visit Canyonlands, especially for the stunning vistas and the opportunity to photograph the landscape. Your photos reminded me that this trip needs to get back on my list!

    Thanks for the beautiful images from your trip.