Cathedral Mesa, home of the highest point for Canyonlands NPScroll down for the pictures
Each of the national parks has one spot that is considered the "high point" and because of this, there is a list of those "spots" that attracts a lot of folks to go chasing after them. Lists of John has compiled a list of the devotees (see it here)
I am well down the list with only 9 of these now but most likely it isn't a list I will actively pursue but who knows, that could change along the way. One of the goals my son in law Andrew and I had during our recent trip to southern Utah was to visit the "spot" on Cathedral Mesa that is home to the highest spot of land of the Canyonlands National Park, an amazing place in the state of Utah.
We had started off our five day trip with a visit to North Horn Mountain located further north and we had made our way down to the Needles district of Canyonlands to camp and sightsee at. Andrew was very much interested in visiting the highest point of the park as he had been all over the park in years past. Adding the Canyonlands high point became one of our priorities on our trip. We had to plan our visit to this area of the park carefully since the weather was a factor as heavy rains had been hitting the southern part of Utah as "monsoon" conditions were dominating things and we had
to get there and back before the rains hit the dirt roads we would be traveling.
The road we needed to take was about 11-12 miles back up the highway from the park entrance and we had passed the turn off for this road on the way in the day before. A sign indicating "Beef Basin & Elk Ridge Road" marked the turnoff off of road 211. Leaving pavement for dirt roads, we traveled a bit over 8 miles to get to the jeep road we hoped to take to the "point" on Cathedral Mesa which would be close to the highpoint. We made a mental note as we passed Cathedral Butte that if we had the time, we would also include a climb to the top of the Butte to our day's activities. In looking at our map, we found the jeep track we were looking for easy enough but after driving only a bit more than a tenth of a mile, we were faced with a big muddy spot that we were able to get around without much of a problem. We hadn't traveled even more than several hundred feet before we came to our "stopper", another mud section that we couldn't find a way around. A downed tree blocked what had previously been a way around it so we put on our hiking shoes and grabbed our day packs and made ready to do the two miles of road walking we knew we would have to do to get to our objective.
We found out the reason why you would want high clearance as we walked the road as there were several very rocky sections that would stop a low clearance vehicle. 4WD might not be needed but high clearance would be a must. Anyway, the two miles went quickly enough as Andrew is fairly tall and I have to pick up my pace to match his. Near the end of the road, the road hits the "high spot", just off to the west side of the road and pretty lame by peakbagging standards. After looking for a cairn or some indication that others had "established" a marker of some sort, we satisfied ourselves by walking all over the area and then continued on to the end of the road, marked by a fire pit and a picnic table. I have to admit that I was a bit surprised by the presence of a picnic table but someone had gone to the trouble to put it there so I sat down on the bench portion and enjoyed it for a brief moment in time. Andrew was still not satisfied with our "highpointing effort" so we began to walk the rim of the promontory from the east side and then back to the west as the views were worth the effort. We did find many cairns that others had left and their placement and position was a bit strange as to their purpose. Whatever?
I took a lot of pictures but in looking at my pics later on, I realized that I did not have even one decent one of the "highpoint" area and much to my dismay, I found out that Andrew didn't have one either. So, if any of you reading this that have been to this area might have a picture or two that you could share, I would appreciate it. Soon we could begin to see the clouds starting to build so we hustled our way back to where I had left my Tacoma and reversed our drive in. The clouds had really formed over Horse Mountain and where the Elk Ridge road would have gone and we knew that that area would be getting a lot of rain fairly soon. With just 8 miles to get back to highway 211, we covered that distance in about a half hour or so (we had to make some photo stops) and were happy to hit the pavement. It started raining on us just after we had passed the Newspaper Rock area (worth a stop) and that made us glad we were not on that dirt road we had left not long before.
Our next stop would be Natural Bridges National Monument after refueling and food stops in Monticello and Blanding. Our next goals were the Bears Ears and one called Nokia Dome. Nokia Dome was really out in the middle of nowhere and I will save that story for another time.
NOTE: The GPS coordinates given above are in nad 84, not nad 27. I will be working on a map to add to this trip report sometime later today.