"Land of the Canyons" Top 5 Page for this destination Canyonlands National Park by goodfish

Canyonlands National Park Travel Guide: 209 reviews and 516 photos

Canyonlands National Park

Rugged, remote, desolate, dangerous and majestic, Canyonlands NP is also enormous. The park is divided into four districts (Island in the Sky, Needles, Horseshoe Canyon and the Maze) that are reached by separate entry points. All are a bit (or more) of a drive to get to and none of them are really designed to be explored by car. You need to be prepared to walk, scramble or climb more than a little bit to really experience the many wonders that most districts have to offer but your efforts will be rewarded many times over.

Island in the Sky (closest to Moab: 32 miles) offers the longest scenic drive and trails ranging from .5 to 20-milers.

Needles is a 75-mile drive from Moab and has day hikes from an easy .3 mile RT stroll to multi-day treks of over 22 one-way.

Horseshoe Canyon is a remote 100 miles from Moab - 32 of them on rough dirt road - and has one 7-mile hike to the some of the most fantastic Barrier-style pictographs in the country.

The Maze is the least visited and the most challenging as trips into its canyons involve high-clearance, 4-wheel drive roads and days of backpacking plus topographic map, climbing and self-suffiency skills.

Different of the districts allow primitive camping, backpacking (with a permit), experienced 4-wheeling,\ and mountain biking so check out the NPS website for info on those.

Make Moab your base for Island in the Sky and combine your stay with Arches National and Dead Horse Point State parks - both of which are nearby and roughly on the way to the Island In the Sky park entrance. Arches offers a completely different experience (more time looking up than down) so you'll get an unbelievable variety within reasonable driving distances.

We stayed in Hanksville for the Horseshoe Canyon unit, and made the drive from Moab to Needles and back for the Chesler Park/Joint Trail trek: I'd camp if wanting to do more than one day of exploration there.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Fantastic vistas, not as crowded as other National Parks
  • Cons:None unless you are a couch potato
  • In a nutshell:Pick a canyon, any canyon, and it'll be amazing
  • Last visit to Canyonlands National Park: Sep 2011
  • Intro Updated Jan 21, 2014
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Reviews (26)

Comments (14)

  • songlines's Profile Photo
    Sep 28, 2014 at 4:02 PM

    Would wish to see this some day!

    • goodfish's Profile Photo
      Sep 28, 2014 at 4:06 PM

      I was just there again two weeks ago: it's a wonderful park!

  • IreneMcKay's Profile Photo
    Feb 22, 2014 at 7:17 AM

    Stunning pictures. Really beautiful. Irene

    • goodfish's Profile Photo
      Feb 22, 2014 at 7:49 AM

      Gosh, thanks, Irene; very happy that you enjoyed them. I hope that you might see this park more than virtually someday!

  • Dymphna1's Profile Photo
    Jan 21, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    this might be an option for our trip this fall. Thanks

    • Dymphna1's Profile Photo
      Jan 22, 2014 at 8:29 AM

      We are still deciding on where to go at all :) But I like this idea.

    • goodfish's Profile Photo
      Jan 22, 2014 at 8:36 AM

      Gottcha. You know where to find me if I can help you at all. :O)

  • Gillybob's Profile Photo
    Nov 19, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    Man, I SO have to win the lottery - and take to the National Parks of the USA - I could have an awful good time in so many places - how do I know? Because I'm utterly jealous of your photos and they tell me I could! Gillybob greetings

    • goodfish's Profile Photo
      Nov 19, 2012 at 8:19 AM

      Gilly, we are fortunate enough to have some parks with scenery you just won't find anywhere in the world. I've loved them all (so far) but the "Big 5" in Utah are my favs: red-rock country must be seen to be believed! You MUST win that lottery! Oh, and no hurricanes in the Southwest!!! HA!

    • Gillybob's Profile Photo
      Nov 19, 2012 at 11:31 AM

      Yeah - I prefer a holiday without a hurricane or a cyclone - they're SO much nicer! ;-)

  • pfsmalo's Profile Photo
    Jan 3, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    Hi Kate, just popped in for your updates, you really do have some good pics. Did you know that Thelma and Louise drove off the cliff on the White Rim trail just below Dead Horse Point.

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Oct 8, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    Absolutley beautiful! Excellent page!

  • penumbra's Profile Photo
    Oct 3, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    Looks a bit like the Drumheller area in Alberta, only dryier. Interesting range of colors and textures.

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    May 25, 2009 at 3:57 PM

    Well this is the one furthest north and I am going to try and see it also?Great comment intro

  • agapotravel's Profile Photo
    May 3, 2008 at 6:44 AM

    Wow...this place looks breathtaking! We love hiking and can't wait to get our feet on the paths in Utah! :-)

  • KiKitC's Profile Photo
    Jul 7, 2007 at 2:29 PM

    Thank you for the fantastic tips. Heading out there next month...can't wait to see it myself!


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