Sanctuary Ridge Adventures in Camping

Wild West Trip Part 5


Mesa Arch Sunrise
One of the most sought after arch photos is the Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park and this is why.

There is such diversity and beauty everywhere! It’s what I love most about traveling and exploring new places. Experiencing the Moab area is something I will treasure forever!

Canyonlands National Park

Our group of 9 crawled out of bed around 4am to head to the iconic Mesa Arch so we could attempt to capture the sunrise. This is a very popular place to capture sunrise through an arch! When we arrived, the parking lot was almost full. We headed down the little trail toward Mesa Arch with lots of other people. There was a hushed silence among the nearly 100 people gathered to get a photo that morning. We were really amazed at how many people were there! It was a little sad to me that everyone was crammed all along the arch because it made it so difficult to actually get a photo of the sunrise THROUGH the arch.

It’s really something else, isn’t it!

We continued on to see some of the other view points in Canyonlands, before heading to Dead Horse Point State Park. We planned to go check out that park and then head back to Canyonlands to have a picnic.

Dead Horse Point State Park

The legend of Dead Horse Point tells that cowboys used the point to corral wild Mustangs, blocking the only exit with brush they gathered. They would choose the horses they wanted and let the others go. Legend has it that one time, for an unknown reason, the horses were left there, where they died of thirst overlooking the Colorado River in the valley just below the point.

Ya’ll, to me this place rivals the Grand Canyon! The views are striking- the Colorado River carved into the valley below. You can see forever. I was incredibly impressed with the views here!

Please take note of the dirt roads in the valley. Do you see those tiny dirt roads in the pictures? Those are the roads in Shafer Canyon. We didn’t know what kind of crazy adventure we were getting ready to embark on, or that it was even a possibility to drive those roads in Shafer Canyon. The road that winds around the base of Dead Horse Point? Just take a closer look at the pictures above. What happened next was the highlight of the trip according to my husband. I think it’s probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever agreed to do.

Back at Canyonlands National Park

When you start the day at 4 am, you have lots of time to explore! Since we wanted to see more of Canyonlands, and it is just a few miles from Dead Horse State Park, we headed back to the informations center and picnic area to enjoy a delicious lunch with our group.

While we were at the visitors center, the guys talked with a park ranger who told them about the Shafer Canyon Road. He insisted that you must have a four wheel drive vehicle, plenty of fuel, and good brakes to attempt driving this dirt road. There is an overlook at Canyonlands NP called Island in the Sky. It is sheer drop offs around three sides of the “island” and directly below these sheer drop offs is the Shafer Canyon Road. This is the road I mentioned earlier from the pictures at Dead Horse Point State Park. Here is a link with more information about the Shafer Canyon Road:


Island In The Sky, Canyonlands National Park
Remarkable viewing point at the end of this little trail!

Shafer Canyon Road and Potash Road

We went to the head of the Shafer Canyon road to look at the map and decide if we wanted to attempt it. I was terrified, but willing to do it if the whole group wanted to go. We had the biggest, heaviest vehicle so we led the way. We drive a Chevy 3500 dually. Apparently everyone thought if we could make it then they would make it too. I didn’t take any pictures as we traveled down the very narrow, winding road along the bluffs. There was no place to turn around. We were committed once we began, unless something happened in which case we would need a rescue vehicle to help us. We passed a couple of other vehicles. They all stopped us to ask if we were sure we wanted to try it. They were coming up. Their comments made me even more nervous. Another family followed us down so we had a caravan of 4 four wheel drive vehicles.

I’ve never been so scared. I prayed and sang hymns all the way down as I clung to my door handle. At a couple of turns, Jamey had to make a six point turn just to get through the hairpin curves. There was one hairpin curve where neither of us could even see the road. Noah and I were both ecstatic to reach the canyon basin.

I took this video as we neared the bottom of the canyon. The scariest part of the drive was over:

Here are some pictures as we entered the basin and as we drove through the Shafer Canyon basin along the dirt road. We took the shorter route, turning onto Potash Road. The total drive of 17 miles took us a little over two hours. I would do the drive through the canyon again, only starting from Potash Road and turn around before driving up the canyon wall. The drive through the basin was really cool, especially since we could reference where we were based on what we had seen from Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point State Park.

Potash Road ends near Moab. We drove along the Colorado River where we saw more Petroglyphs and trails to explore but we continued driving because we were pretty exhausted! A delicious dinner of  Easy Tuscan Chicken Pasta ( back at The Portal RV Resort completed our day. Tomorrow we head to Arches National Park!

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