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Canyon Country: trail running in Canyonlands National Park and beyond

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This is canyon country. Powerful beauty, rugged enviroments. We take a look at what running this incredible terrain is all about.

words and photos by Brandon Mathis

Salomon athletes Ricky Gates and Dakota Jones explore a web of slot canyons in southwest Utah and even packraft a few pools to link it all together.

Looking for a desert trail running adventure above ground? Step up to this wild trail experience in Canyonlands National Park.

Upheaval Canyon Trail, Canyonlands National Park

What: 8.5 miles of remote desert backcountry

Why: This geologic wonder will spin your head as much as it burns your legs, plus you’ll drop the crowd in no time.

You might see some hordes around the first mile or two of this trail head in the Island in the Sky District of the park, about 30 miles outside Moab, Utah, but don’t worry, you’ll drop the pack in no time. Many folks head out for a short view point and turn back.

Upheaval Canyon in Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky District is a remote backcountry trail. Hikers may want to carry extra items. Trail runners can bag this is a few hours, but it’s slow going and misleading. Be prepared.

The Upheaval Dome itself presents a geologic mystery that you’ll circumnavigate. A giant salt deposit that pushed up through rock layers or site of a giant meteor’s impact, it’s a source of debate among scientists. Rough, rugged and raw desert travel is what we do know for sure.

A rigorous outing, the UCT loop starts out technical and gets worse, or better, depending on how you look at it. At 8.5 miles not counting side distractions and exploration, and with 1,500 feet of elevation variation, you’ll travel over ridges, sandy washes, claw up loose slopes, and scramble to find your path before meandering through a lush, hidden desert jungle.

Canyon Country. Where is everybody?

Hit the park’s visitors center on your way out and buy a cold drink and some swag. You deserve it.

Refuel and re-up

Moonflower Community Cooperative, Moab, Utah

Back in Moab, this impressive natural living/food co-op market has a sophisticated vibe and a chill demeanor. It’s surrounded by good parking right in town and has a deli with ready-to-go, serve yourself breakfast and lunch priced by serving weight. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. , you’ll find anything from burritos to mac and cheese to vegan lasagna, amazing soups and more. Plus it’s right across from fantastic coffee, Moab Coffee Roasters.

Forget something? For a different take on outdoor goods, hit Moab Gear Trader. They have an massive selection of all things outdoors, some second hand, some not, and prices drop the longer items sit of the rack. You might find a steal to good to pass up. Perfect for swim trunks, climbing odds and ends, random stuff for camp or camper or that extra layer that you left at home. Or, hustle some gear with their consignment program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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