August 8, 2010

Canyonlands Run

Faced with few days and many trails to cover for an upcoming guidebook, I laced my sneaks to run some trails. One of the best places for trail running (provided you've got a Camelback) is Canyonland's Needles. A park ranger recommended the 7-mile loop from Big Springs Canyon to Squaw Canyon. She said the route is mostly flat, save for the middle.

In hindsight, it's a little like saying Colorado is mostly flat, except for the middle. The first three miles are perfect, easy-does-it sandy singletrack with open views. Then the climb starts and soon running is not an option, as you zigzag up steep slickrock hunting for cairns to guide the way (they are there). Each cairn perched higher. No. Really?

Yes. And the views up top are sick. Plan a long pause there, just be careful with the scramble down to the next canyon. You might lose running momentum for a bit, but it's unlikely that your pulse will flag.

No caution here. The ranger proved to have an excellent sense of humor, or sense of adventure (often one and the same). Her pick has become one of my favorites--and you won't see in the guidebooks.

To make it hiking, just plan for 3-4 hours, bring a picnic and hat, because you'll probably want to strech it out.

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