Canyonlands National Park Highpoint Trip Report

"Cathedral Butte Northwest"

Date: June 21, 2014
Author: Jobe Wymore

First off, I would never recommend heading out to the HP of Canyonlands NP unless these 4 bullet points can be checked off.

If all 4 can be checked off get into your car, which is parked in the Newspaper Rock parking area off of HWY 211, and proceed northwesterly for about 8 miles. Look for a well groomed FR107 off to your left which will be marked by permanent restroom facilities. Hit the odometer once again.

Quickly at the 1/2 mile mark you'll cross a creek bed that might be an issue early in the season or after a good rain. When it's dry, "no problema".

Proceed on FR107 sticking to the main track avoiding all lesser roads that break off of it. This road varies in condition from being polished smooth to heavily rutted. Rocks and washboard to dusty rubble. IF it was muddy in any way it very well could turn into a "wide awake nightmare". IF luck is on your side a passenger car should be able to get you to the hike's start but don't count on it. Call the Forest Service beforehand to inquire about conditions.

BUT if luck was on your side you'll find yourself below Cathedral Butte, at mile 16.7. Also at this spot will be a good dirt track heading north but ignore it. Instead continue on FR107 for another tenth of a mile (16.8) to another good track also heading north and park here off to the road's side. One thing that may be worth noting is somewhere FR107 turned into FR088 - I never saw any marking proclaiming this handoff.

It's about 2 miles of road marching to where the second dirt road ends which will have of all things, a picnic table! You'll see why you decided to walk since it deteriorates into something I wouldn't even dare drive a 4WD high clearance vehicle on. Besides, if you drive out to the end you'll still end up having to walk back to your car once your hike is over.

From the picnic table scenic views await. You'll quickly know that you're peering into a part of Canyonlands the average tourist never sees. Don't get to giddy, though, since also here begins the "dud" part of the hike. I say "dud" cause there's really no quick sure way to claim this HP. Walking counterclockwise around the rim you'll notice undulations in the rim rock and weathered steel fence posts that have been hammered into cracks here and there marking the park boundary. Some rocks look higher, some definitely lower, but all-in-all a lengthy process of trying to pick out what's inside and outside of the park boundary begins.

Maps show the rim "top" to be outside of the park and "inside" the rim allocated to NP land. Well, this demarcation has some "grey area" to me. With that in mind, spend the next few hours bouncing from one rock to another, hand leveling, slogging in soft dirt, watching out for snakes, getting scratched and sunburned under intense heat before wandering back to your car questioning your sanity. Have fun!