Camping The Canyonlands – Wilhite Trail

I’ll admit that I’ve frequently been pessimistic about being in the U.S. Most the time I would rather be somewhere else in the world. But this weekend trip to the Canyonlands National Park definitely gave me some perspective… the exploration of the American West was, of course, one of the grandest, most-breathtaking adventures ever undertaken. Just a 3-4 hour drive from Park City, you can still get a taste of those jaw-dropping scenes we associate with the wild, wild West.

The Tombstone Rock

Although we made a terrific camping gear bin, we slacked on getting the necessary camping permit until we got to the Canyonlands. By that time all the permits were sold out for the day…

But, Mitch had a pretty great backup location. It was on some BLM land just outside the park. A pretty sweet (and free!) spot he’s dubbed the “Tombstone Rock”.

sunrise, canyonlands, southern utah

Here’s our little campsite at sunrise… hopefully this giant rock doesn’t just fall over on us.

We almost had the entire place to ourselves. There was a party of dirt bikers hanging out on the other side of the massive rock, but we had basically no contact.

Had some fun climbing on the rocks, trying out my new fisheye lens, burning a giant stump, and checking out the stars.

canyonlands, sunset

Not bad for a night of free camping…

star photography, canyonlands, fisheye lens

A Campsite With A Million Dollar View

The next day we managed to secure a permit for our original destination, a backcountry camping spot Mitch discovered about a year ago. Staying there required us to purchase a backcountry camping pass for $30 (along with the entrance to the park) from the Visitor Center. There’s no water and no facilities — which means no pussies allowed!

hiking, wilhite trail, backpacking

First part of the Wilhite Trail… looking for a camping spot.

The camping spot we were heading to sits on the Wilhite Trail, a roughly 6 mile trail with a 1,600 ft elevation change, that connects with the White Rim Trail.

wilhite trail, canyonlands national park

Hiking along the Wilhite Trail…

Along the trail you are treated to some spectacular panoramas of the Holeman Spring Basin, the Upper West Basin, and the Green River. There’s also evidence of the indigenous people once lived here and we passed a granary that could very well have been constructed 1,000 years ago. You have to be careful to follow the cairns and stay on the path so you don’t crush the black crust cyanobacteria that is everywhere in the dirt.

canyonlands, rocks

A lot of the rocks had weird warts…

cactus flower, wilhite trail

Saw lots of cactus flowers in bloom

native american granary, wilhite trail, canyonlands,

Native American grain storage??

This was the first hiking excursion I’d been cleared for since my leg broke so we didn’t hike the entirety of the trail, which ends down by a slot canyon (which might have been flooded anyway due to recent spikes in precipitation).

Not that it mattered. Just 45 minutes in we’d reached our million dollar view camping spot. Our tent was perched right on the edge of the mesa rim, overlooking the Candlestick Tower and everything else within sight. It was hands down one of the most amazing places I’ve ever camped — right up there with the Grand Canyon, Mt. Roraima, and Lençóis Maranhenses. It’s hard to believe anyone would ever choose to stay in a group campsite or in town.

camping canyonlands, wilhite trail, island in the sky

Here’s one of the sweetest camping spot ever on the Wilhite Trail

The greatest part was that even though the trail is fairly well-trafficked, we were practically by ourselves the whole time. Possibly the only downside was the sunset and stars were washed out by the evening rain:(

island in the sky, canyon lands



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