Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park


Canyonlands is wild and rugged—an intriguing place to explore at any time of the year. Because it is a desert environ-ment, the spring and fall are usually long and pleasant, except for possible high winds in April or May. Winter is short, with little snow, although temperatures do drop below freezing at night. Summers bring a hot, dry heat. Most of the yearly rain falls during infrequent thunderstorms in late summer or early autumn. 

There are several ways to explore the diverse terrain of Canyonlands. You can see a lot of the park from your automobile, but to get a closer look, leave your car behind. Commer-cial operators are licensed to conduct tours through the park, including 4-wheel-drive, mountain biking and river rafting tours. Or you can hike, camp, backpack, automobile tour, check out park interpretive exhibits, attend park ranger talks and programs, or bird- and animal-watch, all on your own.

Camping: Two frontcountry campgrounds, Squaw Flat and Willow Flat, and numerous primitive backcountry camping sites are open year-round. Reser-va-tions are not available for individual frontcountry campsites. For group site (11 or more per party) and backcountry camping information, call (435) 259-4351, or write the Backcountry Reservations Office, Canyonlands National Park, 2282 Southwest Resource Boulevard, Moab, UT 84532. 

A backcountry permit can also be obtained in person from the visitor centers if space is available. Bring a camp stove and in summer, at least one gallon of water per person per day. Piped water is available near Squaw Flat Campground in the Needles District. No water is available at Island in the Sky or Willow Flat. Pets are allowed only on frontcountry roads and in frontcountry campgrounds, and must be leashed at all times (summer visitors are discouraged from bringing their pets because of the heat). Camp-grounds typically fill by midday March through October.

River Rafting: There is no vehicle admittance to boating takeout points in the park. Arrangements must be made prior to your trip to be taken back up-river by commercial (jet boat) tour companies. Most visitors who travel the rivers take commercial trips. Stop by information centers in Moab and Monticello, or contact the Moab Area Travel Council, PO Box 550, Moab, UT 84532; (800) 635-6622 for more information. 

Limited numbers of individuals are allowed to run the white water of Cataract Canyon below the confluence. You must obtain an advance permit from park headquarters. There are no services along the rivers, so boaters must be fully prepared before embarking. 

Walking & Hiking

Walks of less than one mile on the Island in the Sky and longer hikes in the Needles will take you to ruins, over-looks, arches and other geologic wonders. Longer, more strenuous trails penetrate wilder regions and are primitive, marked with groupings of rocks (cairns). Always carry a map and plenty of water and stay on the trails. Obtain a backcountry permit (fee charged) if you plan to camp. For more information, check at the visitor center. Times given below are round-trip.

Island in the Sky District: The Mesa Arch Trail is an easy, self-guiding walk that begins at the Mesa Arch parking lot. Midway along the loop is Mesa Arch, a cliff-hanging arch with a spectacular view of the canyons below. (0.5-mile, 30 minutes)

The trailhead for Neck Spring Trail is 0.4-mile south of the visitor center. The first part of this trail follows an old road built by early ranchers who used Neck Springs as a water source. (5.0-miles, 2 to 4 hours)

Needles District: Cave Spring Trail is 2.5 miles from the visitor center. This loop trail offers an easy entry to a cowboy camp and rock art. The trail ascends two wooden ladders to an upper slickrock bench with canyon views. (0.6-mile, 45 minutes)

Slickrock Foot Trail is seven miles past the visitor center, just before the Big Spring Canyon Overlook. The route runs along a rolling slickrock surface and is marked by cairns. The trail offers spectacular views of surrounding canyons and buttes. (2.5-miles, 2 to 3 hours)