Canyonlands National Park Highpoint

Canyonlands National Park Highpoint

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 37.97930°N / 109.7237°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jul 28, 2010
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Summer
Sunrise at Canyonlands NPStart of a new day

In the beginningYou have to love the Red Rock country of Utah

Cathedral Mesa, home of the highest point for Canyonlands NP

Scroll 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.

On the way to Canyonlands NP

On the way to Canyonlands NPWilson Arch
On the way to Canyonlands NPNewspaper Rock
On the way to Canyonlands NPpictographs

Inside the Needles district at Canyonlands NP

On the way to Canyonlands NPSixshooters
In the Needles district of Canyonlands NPWoodenshoe Arch
Inside the Needles district of Canyonlands NPScenery

Inside the Needles district of Canyonlands NPCryptobiotic soil
Inside the Needles district of Canyonlands NPAndrew
Inside the Needles district of Canyonlands NPStorm

Getting to the highpoint area

Sunrise at Canyonlands NPMorning
The turnoff signThe sign
Cathedral ButteCathedral Butte

The road in

Cathedral ButteCathedral Butte
Road walkRoad walk

End of the road

The road in The road
At the picnic benchThe bench
The end of Cathedral MesaEnd of the road

The views from Cathedral Mesa

The viewsBack into Canyonlands NP
The viewsNW side
The viewsNE side

The turtleTurtle Rock
The viewsNE side
The viewsMe


The viewsLooking north
Heading backHeading back
Beating the weatherahead of the storm


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-4 of 4

imontop - Aug 3, 2010 8:01 am - Voted 10/10

Very nice!

Great usual. I guess I gotta get down there!


Dean - Aug 3, 2010 8:20 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Very nice!

It was certainly different Eric. A real change from what we are used to up here. Thanks as always.

Matt Lemke

Matt Lemke - Feb 14, 2011 12:06 am - Voted 10/10


I missed my chance to get to the actual point when I was there. Guess I'll have to go back.

Is there an old road that leads from the Beef basin Road out to the point? If there is we missed it and tried to bushwhack through and ran out of time halfway out the point.


Dean - Feb 14, 2011 8:31 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Cool!

There is indeed a road that goes all the way to the point and the actual highpoint is just off the road. See this pic (with link to a LOJ map) that should help you locate the highpoint (we had it GPS'd). If you get off the road, then you hit get to bushwhack. I know of a couple guys who have driven the road to the end so it is doable in a high clearance vehicle.
We were stopped by mud at one point and ended up walking the road.

Viewing: 1-4 of 4