We visited Canyonlands last in our travels through the Big 5 national parks in Utah (Bryce Canyon, Zion, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands).
By the time we reached Canyonlands, we’d had our fill of red desert landscape and canyons. We’d already experienced the impressive long range views of Canyonlands and the snaking Colorado River from Dead Horse Point State Park, so we were looking for something different to do in Canyonlands.
I reviewed the map while Jane and Katie attended a ranger program on the porch of the visitor center.
After dismissing all of the hiking trails, vistas, and natural features, I found an unpaved road, the Shafer Road, marked for 4-wheel drive vehicles only stretching 45 miles across Canyonlands, connecting the Visitor Center to Moab, where we were staying.
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The Shafer Road in Canyonlands National Park
The 45 miles took about three hours, and the last twenty miles were at 55 mph on a paved road closer to Moab. The first twenty five miles ate up all of our time as we crept along the rocky road.
The road started a mile or so down from the visitor center, which was high on a plateau, and took us down sharp switchbacks to the canyon floor along the Colorado River.
The first twenty five miles of road was really rough and rocky. We drove along narrow roads with sheer drops. We crossed countless riverbeds that presented various obstacles, from flowing water to deep potholes to small ledges. We scraped every underside corner of the car at some point.
Several times, I thought we would have to turn back because we were at risk of bottoming out or otherwise getting stuck.
After a few hours, we made it to Moab, though not without some nail biting.
Here are some pictures from the Shafer Road. Sorry for all the car pictures, but we stayed in the car for most of the drive.