Needles District, Canyonlands National Park (UT)

Canyonlands is a sprawling national park. It has three distinct districts, separated by great distances. There is no way you can see all three in a single day. Staying in Moab is the best way to experience the two most popular. Even still, you have to do some driving. The distance between the Island in... Continue Reading →

Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park (UT)

There is a gaping hole in the earth at the end of the west fork of the Island in the Sky scenic drive. An enormous crater lies ominously in one section of Canyonlands National Park. Upheaval Dome (above) was long thought to be a collapsed salt dome, but many geologists now feel that it is... Continue Reading →

Arches National Park (UT)

You’d never know this about canyon country (unless of course you’re a geologist) but there is a lot of salt under the surface — a  humongous amount of it, as much as 15,000 feet thick in places. This fact isn’t so unusual when places like the Great Salt Lake and the Bonneville Salt Flats come... Continue Reading →

Goblin Valley State Park (UT)

Of all the strange shapes found throughout the Southwest, some of the most whimsical are found in Goblin Valley State Park. Think toadstools and you'll get an idea what to expect. These hoodoos are a result of the erosion of the reddish Entrada sandstone deposits that collected in tidal flats. There are no established trails... Continue Reading →

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park (Escalante, UT)

You don't have to go to Petrified Forest National Park to see petrified wood. Along Highway 12, north out of Bryce Canyon National Park, we stopped at Petrified Forest State Park that has some splendid examples of petrified wood. As soon as you take the trail into the hills, you begin to notice some pastel-shaded... Continue Reading →

Capitol Reef National Park (UT)

Driving down Highway 24 from Torrey, a wall of rock emerges on the horizon as far as the eye can see. It is an impressive sight, the western edge of the Waterpocket Fold, exposed when the Colorado Plateau was formed. Beyond this is a colossal warp (geologists call this a monocline) in the landscape. From... Continue Reading →

Bryce Canyon National Park (UT)

On the afternoon of our arrival, along the Bryce Canyon scenic drive, the temperature was in the 40s and a stiff wind was stinging our faces and blowing dust and sand into our eyes. Snow was clearly visible on the higher slopes. Sound like vacation in the winter? Only a few hours earlier we were... Continue Reading →

Kodachrome Basin State Park (Cannonville, UT)

Kodachrome Basin State Park is a curious name. What does a popular slide film from Kodak have to do with a state park? It turns out that in 1949, the National Geographic Society did a story and took photographs of the area and named it after the new film that Kodak introduced. Never mind that... Continue Reading →

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (UT)

At 1.9 million acres, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) is the largest park in the Southwest, but one of the least visited. This is one big mother of a park, complete with all the geologic wonders that make the Southwest so visually stunning—hoodoos, slot canyons, buttes, mesas, towering cliffs, all in brilliant colors of vermillion, burnt... Continue Reading →

Checkerboard Mesa, Zion National Park (UT)

Just east of the Mt. Carmel Tunnel lies Checkerboard Mesa, a remarkable example of crossbedding in Navajo sandstone, a mesa which you can't help but notice along the highway. Over eons in what used to be a great desert, shifting sands deposited one layer after another, their orientations determined by winds, all eventually cemented over... Continue Reading →

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