The Canyon Rims Recreation Area

I’m not much of a morning person, but I got up early on this warm and quiet morning to soak up the view.  I hopped out of the back of my truck and savored the solitude, here on the edge of a cliff that provided the singularly most spectacular view I’ve ever seen, with the Colorado River hundreds of feet below winding through the red rock Canyonlands country of southern Utah.  If this place were a National Park it would've been overrun with tourists, because the label "National Park" unfortunately is a magnet. Nope, this was "just" BLM land.  

 
 
Above:  I spent the previous evening at the most spectacular campsite I've ever seen, overlooking the Colorado River.  After exploring the Canyon Rims Recreation Area that day, I drove back through Moab, then headed north to Canyonlands National Park and camped just outside the park.

 

Most people who don't live in the West have never heard of the BLM, and for that, on this beautiful and serene morning, I was glad.  Yes, the BLM manages a lot of boring sagebrush but they also have some incredibly scenic areas, like the alpine terrain in the San Juan Mountains near Lake City, Colorado, where I worked for six seasons back in the 1980s as a BLM ranger.  Another incredibly scenic BLM jewel is this area south of Moab called the "Canyon Rims Recreation Area."

This view at my campsite, overlooking the meandering Colorado River, was worth a photo, I figured, so I grabbed my Canon camera and shot a dozen pictures, then put my camera away.  A minute later, the shadows from the clouds had drifted a bit, so I picked up my camera again and took 20 more shots.  Then 30 more.  And each time I put down the camera for a short while, the lighting would change just a bit, which demanded more pictures.  Then I decided to take a panorama photo.  By the time I was done that morning, I’d reeled off over 200 pictures -- and I hadn’t even eaten breakfast yet.

I pulled out my folding chair and set it up just a few feet from the cliff, then ate a bagel with some cream cheese for breakfast.  And a better breakfast nook there never was.  After a few hours enjoying my own private, spectacular view and savoring the solitude, I loaded up my daypack and hiked down the dirt road to see what was at the end.  According to my map and GPS, the road terminated about a mile away at what appeared to be a spectacular point, so I decided to see it for myself.  The “road” here was pretty rough, so I decided to walk rather than drive.

I hiked down the road without seeing a sign of anyone, not even a tire track, and finally reached the end.  And sure enough, it was just as spectacular as I’d envisioned, even more so – and more spectacular than my campsite, if that was even possible.  There was an old BLM picnic table here and a restroom (“Do they actually maintain this, so far out in the boonies?” I thought to myself).  Storm clouds started rolling in and I didn’t have my jacket, but I took out my camera and shot picture after picture of this amazing viewpoint, well over 100 photos, as well as a panorama photo.  After a half-hour, in the spitting breeze, I started hiking back to my truck, then I packed up the truck and headed out and back to Moab. 

I’ll never forget this place.  It was much more spectacular than anything I've ever seen at Arches or Canyonlands National Parks, yet instead of getting 500,000 visitors a year, it probably gets… maybe 50?  It was my kinda place, that’s for sure.  I would've stayed here for days, even weeks, but after spending most of the summer in Colorado, I'd fallen behind schedule and had to get back East to visit several extreme geographic sites before the cold weather set in.

I listened to a “Bellamy Brothers tribute” on Sirius XM while cruising down the 4WD road, then dirt road, then the highway, until I reached Moab around 2 p.m., where I stopped at the City Market to get resupplied for the coming week.  Yes, more brats!  From there I got back onto U.S. 191 and continued heading north, hoping to camp near Canyonlands National Park’s “Island in the Sky” district.  I hadn’t camped at the Canyonlands campground in almost 30 years but I remembered that it was really tiny, something like only 20 sites, and was first-come-first-served, so I was sure it was full this late on a weekend afternoon.  So instead of driving all the way into the park, I pulled off on some BLM land and found a desolate campsite.  It wasn't nearly as spectacular as the previous night, mind you, but it would do. 

Canyon Rims and Canyonlands Area