Tag Archive | Murphy Point Overlook Trail

SW National Parks Trip: Mesa Arch Hike

In my last post, we hiked the Murphy Point Overlook Trail to one of the most scenic views I have ever experienced.  After that hike, we started back the way we came and parked at the trail head for Mesa Arch.  Mesa Arch is one of the most visited places in the park, for a couple of reasons – it is only a 0.6 mile round trip hike from the trail head, and it is beautiful.

Mesa Arch with the La Sal Mountains in the Background

Mesa Arch with the La Sal Mountains in the Background

Mesa Arch is one of the arches in this area that faces the sunrise, allowing photographers to get some beautiful sunrises coming up through the arch. And it is perched right on the edge of the canyon, so you can get some amazing views of the canyon through the arch.  And if that weren’t enough, the picturesque La Sal Mountains can be seen in the distance through the arch.  Even though we weren’t there at sunrise, the views of the canyon and the snow capped mountains in the background are  stunning.

Mesa Arch with the La Sal Mountains in the Background

Mesa Arch with the La Sal Mountains in the Background

Mesa Arch, and other arches in the area form when a solid block of sandstone gets cracks in it from pressure from the Earth’s forces.  The cracks get water in them when it rains or snows, and the water makes the cracks expand.  Over millions of years the water erodes the sandstone, causing fins to form, and then chunks of sandstone eventually fall away.  If the sandstone beneath falls away and leaves the stone above, you have an arch!

There were a lot more people at Mesa Arch than Murphy Point, but it wasn’t crowded, and everybody was really polite about taking turns so you could get a photo of the arch without anyone standing in it, or you standing next to the arch. I posed with the arch for a few photos, but of course Jon wouldn’t.  All in all, it was a worthwhile short hike – I love the photos I took there.

Mesa Arch with the Canyon Formations in the Background

Mesa Arch with the Canyon Formations in the Background

Once we finished our Mesa Arch hike it was a little after 5. We talked about whether we wanted to do more, and decided that 4.2 miles of hiking was enough for the day. We headed back towards the park exit, and Jon was nice enough to let me stop back at the Visitor’s Center on the way out and watch the movie that we skipped earlier. It is approximately 15 minutes about the history of settlement and the geology of the park and was pretty informative. That’s when Jon and I learned that most of the roads in Canyonlands had been built to accommodate uranium mining in the 1950s! It was an interesting example of how industry can give a boost to recreation.

Canyonlands National Park – Looking into the Canyon – The La Sal Mountains are in the Background

Canyonlands National Park – Looking into the Canyon – The La Sal Mountains are in the Background

After leaving Canyonlands, we drove back into Moab and checked into our home for the night – another Super 8 – and discovered it is the ritziest Super 8 I have ever seen! It had granite counter tops, a built in drawer system along one wall, and laminate “wood” floors. Of course, it was also the most expensive Super 8 I have ever seen – but it was still less expensive than the other hotels we had looked at.  We did a quick change of clothes so we would be prepared for the temperature drop after sundown, and made our way to the Moab Brewery for a quick dinner before our astronomy tour!

 

Super 8 with “wood” floors!

Super 8 with “wood” floors!

There was a 10 minute wait at the Moab Brewery, but the wait went quickly and we were able to order quickly because we had looked at the menu while we waited. Jon got the fresh salmon filet – with a dinner salad, bread, vegetables and rice pilaf. He paired his with a Black Imperial Ale; he had been craving a high octane beer for the last few days, and this one delivered at 8.59% alcohol by volume. I can only guess that the Moab Brewery is able to brew extra strong beer either because it has a hard liquor license, or because this beer is not available on tap – it is served in the bottle.

I had the Greek Pasta – sautéed sundried and fresh tomatoes, Kalamata olives & spinach in garlic, basil & olive oil, tossed with penne pasta, topped with feta cheese & parsley. It was served with garlic bread. I enjoyed it with a Dead Horse Amber Ale. The brewery was packed – the service was fast and friendly, and the décor was fun. The food wasn’t outstanding, but it was good. It was the kind of place we would love to come back to.  But unfortunately we couldn’t linger long, because we had to meet our Astronomy tour guide!

Have you ever hiked to Mesa Arch or visited the Moab Brewery?  I’ll post about our Astronomy tour next!

 

SW National Parks Trip: Murphy Point Overlook Trail

We got to Canyonlands National Park in the early afternoon, after driving about 20 minutes from Moab to the park. On the road there, we saw a couple of “Livestock in the Road” signs, and were soon greeted by several cows crossing in the road in front of us. We were going slow enough to stop easily, but I imagine lots of tourists speed on this section of road because it is straight and lightly traveled. Don’t. On our way out of the park we saw several ravens making a feast of a calf that I can only imagine was hit by a car. Very sad…

Sorry people – you are going to have to wait your turn…

Sorry people – you are going to have to wait your turn…

Like I said in my last post, Canyonlands is divided up into three sections, and we were soon at the Island in the Sky Visitor’s Center. I got my stamp – yay! Got my postcards – yay! And endured the good natured teasing from my husband about my nerdly pursuits – boo! There is a short movie about the park, but we wanted to get started on a hike, so we skipped it.

Canyonlands!

Canyonlands!

The Canyonlands Visitor’s Center has more and better information posted than many other Visitor’s Centers about hikes you can do – level of difficulty, what you’ll see on the trail, etc., so we took advantage of that and picked out a couple that looked interesting.  Really, there were so many good ones that I had to rank order them, knowing that I wouldn’t get to all the ones I wanted to do…

First up on the list was the Murphy Point Overlook Trail. This trail is a 3.6 mile roundtrip out and back trail on gravel and slick rock sandstone. Apparently this trail used to be a road, but the Park Service turned it into a trail in 1996.  I couldn’t tell.  Surprisingly, this is one of the less popular hikes in the park.  I suppose because others lead to something more “dramatic,” like the hikes that lead to an arch, or a crater, or a Puebloan site.  But we were going to see arches at Arches NP, and Puebloan dwellings at Mesa Verde NP and Chaco Culture NHP, so this hike to see the less “dramatic” was perfect for us.

The beginning of the Murphy Point Overlook Trail

The beginning of the Murphy Point Overlook Trail

At the beginning of the trail you pass by the remains of a turn of the century ranch owned by the Murphy brothers, who grazed cattle on and below the point between 1916 and 1920. You see cattle chutes and old fencing from a bygone era.  Then the trail is a sand and rocky trail in a slight depression for awhile.  It changes to a slick rock surface as you hike further out.  About halfway to the overlook, you have the option of breaking off onto the Murphy Trail, which takes you on a much longer trail to the Murphy Hogback and the Murphy Wash.  The Murphy Trail also looked interesting, but at 9 miles it would have been a full day hike.

The trail becomes a slick rock sandstone as you get closer to the overlook and the trails are marked with cairns – little piles of stacked rocks.  After completing the mostly downhill 1.8 mile trip out to the Murphy Point Overlook, we were greeted with amazing views of Stillwater Canyon and the Green River.  I feel like I have been using the word amazing a lot in this series of posts, but there is really no other way to describe it.  Except maybe spectacular.  Or stunning.  Or perhaps awe inspiring…  All those people who were looking for something more dramatic were really missing out!

Looking down at Stillwater Canyon from the Murphy Point Overlook – the Green River is below.

Looking down at Stillwater Canyon from the Murphy Point Overlook – the Green River is below.

The canyon below has a ledge (the Murphy Hogback) where the White Rim Sandstone juts out into the canyon because it does not erode as quickly as the shales that made up the layers on top. I couldn’t find any information on how deep Stillwater Canyon is, but the National Park Service website has information on a few of the Murphy trails that seem to indicate that the Murphy Hogback is about 1,000 feet down, and the river is about 2,000 feet down. Wow.

Another view of Stillwater Canyon from the Murphy Point Overlook – you can see the Murphy Hogback

Another view of Stillwater Canyon from the Murphy Point Overlook – you can see the Murphy Hogback

We hardly saw anybody on the whole hike – just three other couples the entire time, and we enjoyed sitting at the edge (not too close though) taking in the view.  After being surrounded by people all day at Zion the day before, it was really nice to feel so alone! From the viewpoint, you can’t hear the road or anything artificial, so you can really just get lost in your own thoughts. I think this was one of Jon’s favorites hikes for the entire trip – and it was certainly one of mine. I even got Jon to pose for some selfies with me.

Canyonlands-Jon-Camille (640x480)The hike back was a bit more strenuous because the return trip is mostly uphill, but nothing too steep.  What an awesome hike!

Have you ever hiked the Murphy Point Overlook Trail?  What did you think?