arriving from moab, the next stop was canyonlands national park. we picked the needles district because it has far more trails than the island in the sky (which is mainly good for viewpoints, but not so much for activities). canyonlands' needles district is only a short drive from moab (1:30), but since it is a rather long out-and-back road to get there, and because there are no popular viewpoints you can simply drive to, the park is really empty. the squaw flat campground has just 26 sites, but was not full when we got there. we found a great spot and prepared for our first run.
- confluence overlook: our first run started at the campground and our goal was to get to
confluence overlook. starting from the squaw flat campground, it took us 30min to get to the end of road, which is where the trail to the confluence overlook starts. the first half mile is not so great which a bit of scrambling through two canyons, but the rest of the trail is probably the most varied and beautiful trail running i ever did. the trail is well-marked with rock cairns, has little ups and down, and is it took us 1:24 to get to confluence overlook (54min from the end of the road, the trail length is 9km/5.5mi), where you get a nice view of the green river and the colorado river merging. we briefly stopped for a picture and admiring the scenery, and then turned around to explore more of the maze of canyons in this section of the park.
on the way back from confluence overlook, we took a right turn into cyclone canyon. this was really beautiful, but apparently, not many people ever take this trail, which is overgrown, very sandy, and full of gopher holes. fantastic scenery, though, but not as nice for running as the confluence overlook trail. from cyclone canyon we continued to devil's lane, where we arrived after 2:11 of running. both of us having only one bottle of drinking water, we decided to get back as directly as possible. through devil's kitchen we continued to elephant hill, and eventually back to the campground. we were lucky enough to have somebody giving us some water at the elephant hill parking lot, because it is still 3 miles from there to the campground. in the end we had 3:03 of running time, but we walked up and down elephant hill (it's pretty steep); the total elevation gain/loss was700m/2300ft.
- druid arch:
the second day in canyonlands was a loop through squaw canyon, to druid arch, and then back to the campground via elephant canyon and big spring canyon. the path through squaw canyon can be wet and there's not much to see, because you are running through a lot of vegetation. but the crossing to big springs and then elephant canyon is quite dramatic, squeezing through narrow cracks, climbing up and down ladders, and running on slickrock. i liked that part of the trail, but next time i would probably take the big spring canyon trail from the campground, ignoring squaw canyon (this would allow to add chesler park to the loop, which i now missed because i ran out of water again).
from elephant canyon, there is a 2 mile out-and-back to druid arch. the arch is not all that great, and the trail is sometimes hard to find and not very well-suited for running (a lot of sand and loose rocks), so i would not recommend that trail for running. from druid arch, i took elephant canyon and big spring canyon to get back to the campground. like the day before, i ran out of water, and even though the creek in big spring canyon looked very tempting, i only cooled down my head with the water... in the end, 2:36 of running, but probably almost an hour of walking the final stretch of the trail, where running simply did not feel very good anymore.
we liked canyonlands a lot. it is a very peaceful and quiet park, has wonderful trails, and great sunsets. there is water at squaw flat campground, but no shower, so we were glad we brought our solar shower. after two nights in canyonlands and two great runs, we took off for the final destination of our running trip, the grand canyon.