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Take a Trip to Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park, Utah’s largest national park at 337,598 acres of land and water, is a wilderness of canyons and buttes. Despite being a remote area with few services, Canyonlands National park offers a range of sightseeing and adventure opportunities, including extensive backcountry activities.

Canyonlands National Park is Utah’s largest national park with 337,598 acres of land and water. (Shutterstock)

The Green and Colorado rivers divide the Canyonlands into three unique land districts: Island in the Sky (in the north of the park), The Needles (in the southeast corner), and The Maze (in the west of the park), with travels between the districts requiring two to six hours by car. The rivers also provide visitors with a chance to enjoy flatwater trips as well as whitewater trips in Cataract Canyon, offering 14 miles of rapids ranging in difficulty up to Class V. (Note: Personal watercraft (e.g., jet skis) are not permitted on the rivers in Canyonlands.)

Island in the Sky, the most accessible district, has several hiking paths and overlooks along the paved scenic drive. White Rim Road, a 100-mile four-wheel-drive route, loops around and below the Island in the Sky mesa top, providing expansive views of the surrounding area.

The Needles, named for Cedar Mesa Sandstone’s spires that dominate the area, is geared toward those who enjoy backcountry experience. It requires hiking or four-wheel drive to see the area’s attractions. Local sightseeing includes Tower Ruin, Confluence Overlook, Elephant Hill, the Joint Trail, and Chesler Park.

The view from Island in the Sky, one of three districts in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. (Shutterstock)

The Maze is the most remote and challenging of the three, requiring high-clearance 4WD to travel on its road. Visitors must be prepared

for self-sufficiency and the proper equipment or gear for self-rescue. The Orange Cliffs Unit on the western boundary is co-administered by Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Information about park rules and regulations is available here, with more regulations on the Laws & Policies page. Hunting and the discharging of firearms are prohibited in Canyonlands. Fishing is permitted but requires a valid Utah State Fishing License and compliance with Utah State Fishing Regulations.

Hours and Fees

The park is open year-round, 24 hours a day, although some facilities may close during the winter season. Check this page for current

park conditions, including four-wheel-drive roads.

Fees range from $15 per person to $25 for a motorcycle and $30 for a private non-commercial vehicle (15 passenger capacity or less). Fees are good for seven days and can be upgraded to an annual pass within seven days of purchase. Some activities, like backcountry travel, river trips, commercial filming, and special events, require a permit.

The Maze is one of three districts at Canyonlands National Park in Utah. (Shutterstock)

Campgrounds

Canyonlands has two campgrounds—one at Island in the Sky and one at The Needles—but no developed campground at The Maze. The Needles Campground has 26 sites, including two accessible sites with fire rings, picnic tables, bathrooms, and running water. Island in the Sky Campground has 12 sites, including one accessible site with fire rings, picnic tables, and toilets but no running water.

There are no RV hookups or dump stations in Canyonlands. The campgrounds can accommodate RVs up to 28 feet long. The Needles also have a few sites that will accommodate longer vehicles. Information about public and private campgrounds outside the park can be found at www.discovermoab.com, www.utahscanyoncountry.com, and at the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Utah Recreation Page.

Visitor Centers

The Needles is one of three districts in Canyonlands National Park, Utah’s largest national park. (Shutterstock)

There are two visitor centers, one ranger station, and a backcountry office in Canyonlands. Island in the Sky Visitor Center (off UT 313, approximately 22 miles southwest US 191) is open year-round, seven days a week spring through fall and five days a week in winter, although hours vary by season. The Needles Visitor Center (at the end of UT 211, approximately 35 miles west of US 191) is normally open spring through fall, closed December through February, opening March 1, 2020. The backcountry desk inside the visitor center is closed in summer. Bathrooms remain open, and water is available year-round.

Hans Flat (Maze) Ranger Station (46 miles off UT-24) is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. year-round and has a picnic table and vault toilet and a small selection of books and maps for sale. Canyonlands backcountry office is located at park administrative offices, 2282 Resource Blvd, south of Moab. Rangers are normally available Monday through Friday to answer questions over the phone or email and issue permits online. The office is closed on weekends and federal holidays.

COVID-19 Response

Before visiting Canyonlands, please check this link for COVID-19 updates. Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local public health authorities, the National Park Service is increasing access and services in a phased approach across all National Park System units. Visitors must wear face masks in federal buildings, including visitor centers, historic structures, and museums. When outdoors, face masks are required on NPS-managed lands when physical distance cannot be maintained. More updates about the overall NPS response to COVID-19, including safety information, are posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.

Canyonlands National Park—Mailing Address: 2282 Resource Blvd., Moab, UT 84532. Phone: 435-719-2313. Website: Canyonlands, UT National Park.

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