"Canyonlands - Remote, Tough, and Beautiful" Canyonlands National Park by Karnubawax

Canyonlands National Park Travel Guide: 212 reviews and 517 photos

Three Parks In One!

Canyonlands is an awesome place, in both size and scenery. Visiting here can also be an awesome undertaking.

Canyonlands has been more or less kept in its natural state by the Park Service. There are no lodges, no free shuttles, and very few amenities. People coming to this remote region should be prepared to rough it. But those who do will find an unspoiled gem.

Canyonlands is split into 3 sections by the Green and Colorado Rivers. The two rivers converge in the north and flow southward - making a giant 'Y.' The upper part of the Y is the "Island in the Sky" district, to the right is "The Needles," and to the left is "The Maze." There are no bridges over the rivers, so to go from one section to another involves driving out completely, going around the park, and then driving back in. Each district has its own unique sites and scenery, and its own level of difficulty.

"Island in the Sky" - Day trippers will want to go here. There are some of the most awe-inspiring views in the Southwest located just off of the park road, and getting the best of this area will not require much hiking, if any. If you're not into hoofing it, or just want to make Canyonlands a quick in and out, then this is where you want to be.

"The Needles" - A fantastically scenic region, with groups of huge spires giving the area its name. There are some decent views from the road, but to really see this region you need to do at least a little hiking. In addition, the entrance to The Needles is on a 2-lane, 40 mile road that has very few services. People with a few days to spend, and a little spring in their step, can get a lot out of a visit here.

"The Maze" - This one's easy... do not even think about coming here without a 4-wheel drive vehicle and a good healthy dose of self-sufficiency. This is one of the most remote areas of the United States, and if you get in trouble here it could take many, many days to get help.

You may have heard of Aron Ralston; he's the guy who had to cut off his own arm to free himself after being trapped by a boulder on a solo expedition. This all occurred in a part of The Maze called Blue John Canyon. His story (written in the inevitable book "Between A Rock And A Hard Place") is a great tale of what NOT to do. By his own admission, he made several stupid mistakes that very nearly cost him his life. Don't take a trip to "The Maze" lightly, or it could be your last!

On my trip to the region in Spring of 2005, I got to spend a few days in the Needles District, and then a day at the Island in the Sky (following a few days in Arches NP).

Since, unfortunately, VT has opted to lump these separate and totally different regions all on one page, I'm going to do an overview tip for the Island and Needles as a whole (you can see these by clicking on the blue links above), and then do some tips on different hikes and things to see in each.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Remote, no crowds, beautiful scenery
  • Cons:Need at least a few days to check out the Needles
  • Last visit to Canyonlands National Park: May 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (12)

Comments (2)

  • Kristymamoo's Profile Photo
    Aug 6, 2007 at 3:23 AM

    Wow!!! You have some great info here and the pictures are amazing!!! Great page :-)

  • mikelisaanna's Profile Photo
    Jul 29, 2006 at 9:22 AM

    We enjoyed your Canyonlands page and agree that the park has some of the greatest sights in the USA.


“It's not an adventure until something goes wrong -Yvon Chouinard”

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