Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Sights To See

Canyonlands, Utah's largest national park, awes visitors with the power and size of its landscape. There is so much to see and do that a person could spend a lifetime here and never know it fully.

Island in the Sky is the highest and northernmost section of the park. Formed of a broad, level mesa, it is bordered on the west by the Green River and on the east by the Colorado. From the Grand View Point Overlook, the views encompass 100 miles or more of canyon after canyon. A thousand feet below is the White Rim, a nearly continuous sandstone bench that follows the contours of the mesa. One thousand feet below that, the Green and Colorado rivers sedately flow toward their confluence. After they meet, they undergo a turbulent change and pass furiously through the stretch of white water known as Cataract Canyon, and then continue on their way through the Grand Canyon and out to the sea at the Gulf of California.

The numerous trails around the Island lead to overlooks, arches and an unusual geologic feature known as Upheaval Dome. This stone curiosity does not resemble a dome at all, but rather a meteor crater. Geologists from around the world have come to study it and debate its origin.

The Maze is the westernmost section of the park, the most rugged and the most difficult to access. It has been called one of the most remote and unreachable regions in the U.S. The Maze itself, a tortuous jumble of canyons, has been described as "a 30-square-mile puzzle in sandstone." There are bizarre towers, walls, buttes and mesas in the Land of Standing Rocks, the Doll House and the Fins.

Prehistoric cultures have left their mark in the Maze. Ghostly, larger-than-life figures are painted on the walls of the Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon, a detached part of the park northwest of the Maze. These figures were painted 2,000 years ago by prehistoric people living in or near Canyonlands. 

The Needles District is found in the southeastern section of the park. An area of immense diversity, its arches, spires, canyons, pre-historic Indian ruins and fascinating pictographs vie for the viewer's attention. The most striking landforms are the needles themselves, massive sandstone spires of orange, rust and coral- colored rock that stand upright in a tangled formation. Some petroglyphs and picto-graphs are located in the Needles District, as are some small dwellings and granaries. This section of the park is accessible with highway auto, but 4-wheel drive is necessary for deeper exploration. Hiking trails lead from the campground into the deep recesses of the park.

Arches are another fascinating geologic feature of the Needles; Angel Arch, Castle Arch, Fortress Arch and Wooden Shoe Arch are but a few found here. Most arches are well hidden in remote canyons and are reachable only by taking a long hike or a 4-wheel-drive trip.