Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park preserves a colorful landscape of sedimentary sandstones eroded into countless canyons, mesas and buttes by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Located in southeast Utah, the park sits in the heart of a vast basin bordered by sheer cliffs of Wingate Sandstone. The Colorado and Green rivers divide the park into four districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze and the rivers themselves. While the districts share a primitive desert atmosphere, each retains its own character and offers different opportunities for exploration and the study of natural and cultural history. Most visits to Canyonlands involve camping along the trails, roads and rivers found here. The four districts are not directly linked by any roads, so travel between them requires two to six hours by car. Generally, people find it impractical to visit more than one or two districts in a single trip.
The Colorado and Green Rivers have played a significant role in shaping the landscape of Canyonlands, and both offer an interesting way to visit the park. Above their confluence near the heart of Canyonlands, the rivers offer miles and miles of flat water perfect for canoes, sea kayaks and other shallow-water boats. Below the confluence, the combined flow of both rivers spills down Cataract Canyon with remarkable speed and power, creating a fourteen-mile stretch of Class III to V white water.
Canyonlands is famous for its mountain biking terrain, particularly for the 100-mile White Rim Road at the Island in the Sky. The Maze also offers some multi-day trip possibilities, though the logistics and roads are more difficult (for the support vehicles, not the bikes). Many of the roads in the Needles travel up wash bottoms and are unsuitable for bikes due to deep sand and water.
The Island in the Sky offers the best opportunities for sightseeing by car. The overlooks along the scenic drive are perched 1,000 feet above the surrounding terrain, providing spectacular views of the canyons below as well as the other districts. Several short trails, including Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome and Aztec Butte, lead to interesting natural and cultural resources. Plan on spending at least an hour in the park in order to drive out to Grand View Point. More time is needed to enjoy the other overlooks or explore some of the short trails.
The Squaw Flat Campground and the Willow Flat Camp both allow an RV length of up to 28 feet. Both campgrounds offer toilets, picnic tables, and fire gates. Water available at Squaw Flat. Both sites are very popular.
The sandstone towers at the Island in the Sky attract the most rock climbers. Little climbing is done in the rest of the park due to the poor rock quality and a lack of established routes. Permits are not required for technical rock climbing unless it involves an overnight stay in the backcountry.
Canyonlands has hundreds of miles of hiking trails which explore the park's natural and cultural features. Both the Island in the Sky and the Needles provide ample opportunities for short walks, day hikes and backpacking trips. Due to its remoteness, the Maze is primarily a backpacking destination.
Pack and saddle stock may be taken on all backcountry roads and in Horseshoe Canyon. Cross-country travel is prohibited. Pack and saddle stock include horses, burros or mules. All other domestic animals are prohibited in the backcountry. All pack and saddle stock use requires a backcountry permit, which may be obtained at district visitor centers.
Off Highway Vehicles
There are hundreds of miles of four-wheel-drive roads in Canyonlands, providing access to various campsites, trailheads and viewpoints in the park's backcountry. These roads range in difficulty from intermediate, like the White Rim Road at the Island in the Sky, to extremely technical routes like Elephant Hill in the Needles and the road to the Land of Standing Rocks in the Maze.
The Friends of Arches and the Canyonlands Parks: Bates Wilson Legacy Fund provides direct support to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and to Natural Bridges and Hovenweep National Monuments in order to enhance existing projects in these spectacular areas to conserve the land and its cultural treasures for present and future generations to enjoy.(435) 259-0108
There are two paved entrances into Canyonlands: Highway 313 leads to the Island in the Sky, while Highway 211 leads to the Needles. Roads to the Maze are a mixture of graded dirt and 4WD. These roads may become impassable when wet.
Commercial airlines serve Grand Junction, CO and Salt Lake City, UT. By car, these cities are at least 2 and 4 hours (respectively) away from the closest park entrance (Island in the Sky). Commercial air service is also available between Denver and Moab.
Greyhound travels along Interstate 70, making stops at Grand Junction, CO and Green River, UT. Commercial vans/shuttles operate between Moab and Salt Lake City as well as Grand Junction.