Our first stop, as always, was the Visitor Center where we learned more about the park.
Poor farming practices in the 1800s here caused erosion that resulted in the creation of massive gullies (the deepest is 150'). Nonetheless, the canyon walls are beautiful shades of orange, tan, white, pink, and lavender due to the various types of sands and clay found here. The Ripley Foundation of resistant clay at the bottom has stopped the erosion (for now).
The overlook outside of the visitor center provides a glimpse of the beautiful canyons from the rim.
The (white blaze) Canyon Loop Trail is approximately 3 miles and descends to the canyon where you can explore some of the canyons and then return to the rim. There is also a 7-mile (red blaze) Backcountry Trail.
We, as you would expect, opted for the Canyon Loop Trail. It begins at the visitor center. Dogs are permitted in this park, so we were all excited to see the canyons. The rare plumleaf azalea is also found on the canyon floor. A thin layer of water runs along the clay base (wear boots!)
We left the (white blaze) Canyon Loop Trail to explore Canyons 4 and 5 (signs indicate the direction) on the recommendation of a park ranger. Many believe them to be the most beautiful, and indeed they are!
Climbing from the canyon floor to the rim (or vice-versa) is strictly prohibited as the canyon walls are not stable. After exploring the canyon floor, we returned to the loop trail and began the slow ascent to the rim. Benches along the way provide convenient places to rest. Note the red clay all over Sadie (her feet are normally white!) She had a blast exploring the canyons and the forest along the trail, and so did we.
As we continued along the Canyon Loop Trail we came upon these abandoned vehicles from the 1950s. Before the park was established, a homestead was located here. Because the automobiles have become homes for numerous birds and mammal species, it has been determined that removal of them would cause more environmental damage than leaving them to rot. What a contrast to the beauty of the canyons!
The trail follows a fence that encircles the canyon. Along the way we saw shelters (can be reserved), playgrounds, and picnic areas. There are many overlooks that provide great views of the canyons.
Following are a few more views from overlooks along the rim. Be sure to bring plenty of water as we were getting very hot (and tired) by the time we reached the visitor center (where we had started).
For those interested in camping here, there are 6 backcountry sites and 3 pioneer sites along the Backcountry Trail. The Florence Marina State Park (8 miles west) has full hook ups for RV camping, two-bedroom cottages and efficiency units for rent. To make reservations or for additional information about Providence Canyon State Park, check out their website at www.gastateparks.org/ProvidenceCanyon.