According to agooddir, Canyonlands National Park in Utah may be less known to the general public, but it is definitely worth it for the real adventurer. The Green River and Colorado River have carved their way through this landscape over millions of years, creating a maze of rocky canyons. In this park you really have to go back to basics, because you are really on your own due to the few facilities. Combine Canyonlands National Park with a car tour or a motorhome tour. View The Mighty five Camper Tour, Rocky Mountain Trail Self Drive Tour, Vegas Lights & National Parks Self Drive Tour or view our overview of all tours through Western America.
9 Attractions in Canyonlands National Park
If you like action, this park is for you. You can rent a 4×4 to explore the park on the dirt roads, but you can also take part in a river rafting trip. There are also plenty of hiking trails in Canyonlands National Park, each of which varies in difficulty. And if you can’t get enough of the park, you can continue camping in the wilderness with a permit.
1. Island in the Sky District
The most popular district is called Islands in the Sky. You can reach this area via a paved road. The ‘islands’ are located on a table mountain 300 meters high; which itself rests on sandstone pillars. In Islands in the Sky you have a beautiful view over sandstone cliffs. Just after the entrance to the area you will also find one of the visitor centers, where you can find information about the area. You can take a moderately difficult hike to Mesa Arch, undoubtedly one of the highlights of this area. Also surrounding the entire area is White Rim Trail, a dirt road that is especially popular with 4×4 drivers and mountain bikers.
2. Grand View Point
About 10 kilometers away, at the southernmost point of this district, is Grand View Point. A name that is certainly not out of place, because in clear weather you can see up to 100 kilometers in the distance from this viewpoint. This is a popular spot, especially at sunset. You have a beautiful view of the landscape with its colored rock formations and deep ravines. To get to the viewpoint, walk down Grand View Point Trail. This is a fairly easy three-kilometer walk that takes about half an hour.
3. Upheaval Dome
On the other side of the Islands in the Sky area is Upheaval Dome, a spectacular testament to the mysteries of nature. Upheaval Dome is a crater about five kilometers wide and, according to scientists, was formed more than 170 million years ago. There are several theories about how that happened: due to the impact of a meteorite seems most likely. There are several trails around the crater, including Syncline Loop Trail and Whale Rock Trail. Upheaval Dome Trail is the most popular; this is an easy walk of about three kilometers.
4. Needles District
Needles District is best known for its Cedar Mesa sandstone pillars. This part of the park is especially popular with experienced hikers and seasoned backpackers, because there are many routes here that you can divide over several days. As far as Soda Spring, the area is accessible by car (a 4×4 is definitely a must); after that it becomes difficult. Famous hikes in this area are Roadside Ruin Trail and Cave Spring Trail. During both walks you will be taken into the history of this area: traces of the Anasazi Indians and cowboys can still be seen, including utensils (Cave Spring) and a grain yard (Roadside Ruin). Keep in mind that you can’t just drive straight through the canyons from Needles District to Islands in the Sky. You will have to detour via Highways 191 and 121.
5. Big Spring Canyon Overlook
One of the highlights in Needles District is Big Spring Canyon Overlook, a viewpoint that offers a beautiful view of the steep mountain walls and colored rocks. Plants and trees sometimes want to grow here in the spring and summer. If you’re up for a challenge, Big Spring Canyon Trailhead also starts here. This is a tough walk of about 17 kilometers. During the hike you have to climb two ladders to get from one canyon to the other. You can then enjoy a view of the canyons and rock formations during the walk.
6. Chesler Park
In the Needles District, you should definitely not miss Chesler Park. This is a circular meadow of stone completely surrounded by Cedar Mesa sandstone pillars. Chesler Park is especially popular among backpackers because of the many challenging trails that can be found around this area. Some walks can be done during a day trip; others can be combined with an overnight stay in the backcountry. One of the most famous walks in this area is Chesler Park Loop Joint Trail, which takes you past the viewpoint of Chesler Park, but then extends it through narrow rock crevices. This walk is 18 kilometers long and takes about five to six hours.
7. Maze District
Maze District is not called the maze for nothing: this area is sometimes called the most rugged and inhospitable area in the United States. Tourists can easily get lost in this maze of rocky gorges. It is therefore advised to only enter this area if you are an experienced backpacker. There are no paved roads here: a 4×4 is therefore necessary. Most backpackers stay here for a longer period of time; ranging from three days to a week. The NPS urges visitors to bring enough water and food when visiting the area. So be prepared to be on your own here! There are no facilities such as shops, toilets or water sources.
8. Chocolate Drops
If you are in Maze District then a visit to Horseshoe Canyon is a must. In these rocks you can see petroglyphs that are tens of thousands of years old. It is not clear who made them, but it is believed that they are even older than those of the Fremont and Anasazi Indians. The drawings can be seen in The Great Gallery, which can only be reached on foot via a strenuous walk of about seven miles. The walk has large differences in altitude and takes about five hours. Due to the heat, it is not recommended to make this walk in the summer. Horseback riding is also allowed in this area, but only with a permit and under strict rules.
9. Horseshoe Canyon
The Chocolate Drops is a group of sandstone pillars that stand straight up. This makes them a prominent landmark in the Maze District. To get there, you first have to drive about four hours on a rough dirt track to the start of the hiking trail. The walk itself is not very difficult; it is a reasonable flat walk. The walk is about 12 kilometers long, so it will take you about a few hours. Along the way you have a view over the canyons and you will encounter various flowers and plants.
Frequently Asked Questions about Canyonlands National Park
Where is Canyonlands National Park?
Canyonlands National Park is located in southeastern Utah, about an hour’s drive from the town of Moab.
How long does it take you to see Canyonlands National Park?
This depends on which area of the park you want to visit. Islands in the Sky is easiest to reach by car. Tourists spend an average of several hours here. If you want to visit Needles District or even Maze District, allow three days to a week. You will then have to camp at one of the camping pitches.
Can you drive through Canyonlands National Park by car?
Yes, this is possible! Keep in mind that many roads in the park are unpaved. A 4×4 is therefore an absolute must. Another thing to be aware of: you cannot drive from district to district right through the park. You then have to detour on Highways 191 and 121: this is a distance of about 200 kilometers.
What is Canyonlands National Park known for?
Canyonlands National Park is best known for its rugged wilderness. So if you are a real outdoor enthusiast, a visit to this park is definitely worth your time!