Date hiked: 01/09/17
Mileage: 22.2 miles total:
8.9 miles to hike the loop
9.6 miles to hike Upheaval Canyon down and back
About two miles to hike to the second overlook and back.
Head Count (how many other hikers I saw): 2 groups on the overlooks, nobody hiking the trail.
Since moving to the Western Slope, one experience I’ve been hoping to see through is snow in Canyonlands National Park. And I found that in some ways, the park is even better during winter. For one, I had it nearly to myself the entire day – there’s really nothing like having 300,000+ acres of land and no one around to share it with.
And two, there’s something oddly alluring about a dusting of snow on these lonely canyons.
But one thing to keep in mind, the road wasn’t plowed through Canyonlands on this early winter morning. Thankfully it hadn’t snowed more than an inch the night before, but you may want to rethink if a snowstorm is expected in the area. Also, though it may not seem the case, Canyonlands is cold during the winter, especially near the water. While it got warm by late afternoon, mittens, snow jacket, thermals, and gaiters are a must for the morning hours. This is a high desert, don’t let the summer heat fool you.
And be aware of the weather. I barely got out of Grand Junction in time for a unpredicted snowstorm to blow in, prompting the traction law near the state border.
Dropping into Upheaval Canyon, the mesas surrounding the Green River dominate your skyline. Look hard, and you can spot the water’s reflection. Beyond that, nearly forty miles across the vast Utah desert, are the raised bands of the San Rafael Reef.
Once you reach the mouth of Upheaval Dome, another trail spurs off to the northwest. 3.7 miles down Upheaval Canyon, the trail ends where the wash meets with White Rim Road, near the Green River in Upheaval Bottom. While you can’t clearly see the river from this point, follow the road either direction for a bit, and you’ll eventually find a good view.
At White Rim Road, I went north about a mile and ended up at the Labyrinth Campground:
I’m glad I got here when I did, because as the sun rose and the clouds parted, the snow started to melt. By the time I reached Upheaval Dome again, just a few hours later, nearly everything had already melted.
Circling towards Syncline Valley, the remaining scramble up what’s known as “the Breach” looks daunting.
Looking back on the trail as it heads towards the juncture between Steer Mesa (far left, barely in view) and Bighorn Mesa (left-center). The Syncline Loop wraps southward (to the left), while Upheaval Canyon heads to the right.
Click here for another look at the Syncline Loop from my summer trip.
(From Moab): From Center Street, drive North on U.S. 191 (Main Street) for 11 miles, then turn left onto Utah 313. After 14.6 miles, continue straight onto the Grand View Point/Island in the Sky Road. After 5.7 miles, pay at the fee station, then follow the road another 7.4 miles, where you’ll turn right onto Upheaval Dome Road. The parking area is 4.8 miles beyond the intersection.
43.5 miles; 57 min
Fees: $25/car to enter Canyonlands National Park