Welcome to Canyonlands
435-719-2313 • nps.gov/canyonlands
Check website for entrance fees, visitor center hours, closures, and updates.
The Colorado River and the Green River flow together in the heart of Canyonlands, creating a rippled landscape with deep red-walled canyons, arches, buttes, spires, and innumerable other spectacular rock formations. Canyonlands is so large and so diverse that it is carved naturally into three distinctive districts: Island in the Sky, the Maze, and the Needles. While they adjoin each other, each area must be reached from different entry points. The travel time between each of the three districts is several hours.
Canyonlands National Park is open year-round, 24 hours a day. Each district has its own visitor center; operating hours change with the seasons. Check the park’s website for the most current information.
Travel to Canyonlands usually requires a car. Once in the park, each district offers some boating, hiking, or four-wheel driving to see the area’s attractions. Food, gas, lodging, and similar services are not available. To truly appreciate this geologic fantasyland, allow four or five days to explore the three districts. Leave Moab with a full tank of gas, food, lots of water, a spare tire, and sun protection.
There are no restaurants or hotel accommodations in the park. Canyon country is not a friend to cell phones, so don’t rely on GPS units to guide you in the park. Once you enter Canyonlands, cellular service diminishes greatly, especially in the canyons (and away from the pavement).
Pets are not allowed on any trails or at any overlooks. Leashed and restrained pets may accompany visitors in the campgrounds or at pullouts along the paved scenic drives.
The use of unmanned aircrafts (drones) is prohibited to protect public safety, minimize visitor-use conflicts, and prevent unacceptable impacts to scenic values, natural soundscapes, and wildlife.
Visit the Districts
Island in the Sky
The wide, high plateau has commanding views of deep red-rock canyons in all directions. Travel 10 miles north on US Hwy 191 to Utah Hwy 313, then southwest 22 miles to the visitor center. Island in the Sky has about 20 miles of paved road and some unpaved roads with several viewing points. It is the most accessible district and the easiest to visit in a short period of time. There are many hiking trails, including a path to Upheaval Dome, an impact crater with peaks springing from its center.
West of the rivers, this is the wildest and most remote section of the national park. This district requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle, time, and self-sufficiency. The Hans Flat Ranger Station in The Maze is a three-hour drive west from Moab via Interstate 70. From I-70 take Utah Hwy 24 south along unpaved roads, starting between Hanksville and Green River, across relatively flat and completely uninhabited terrain to Hans Flat Ranger Station. The roads from Green River and Utah Hwy 24 are sometimes passable for a two-wheel drive vehicle, but that can quickly change. Roads beyond Hans Flat are certainly 4WD. Visitors should check road conditions before making the trip. There are no paved roads, amenities, food, or gas in The Maze.
In the southeast region of the park, 76 miles from Moab, is the heart of rock country offering many opportunities for exploring. Go south on US Hwy 191 for 40 miles, then 35 miles west on Utah Hwy 211 to the park entrance and visitor center. Utah Hwy 211 ends in The Needles district and is the only paved road leading in and out of it. The Needles district has only eight miles of roads accessible by foot, four-wheel-drive vehicles, or mountain bikes and more than 60 miles of interconnecting hiking trails. Note the petroglyphs on the rock face at Newspaper Rock on the road into The Needles.
What to Know Before You Go
Activities requiring a backcountry permit include backpacking, four-wheel-drive or mountain bike camping, horseback riding, river trips, and four-wheel-drive day use. Permits (other than river) are issued seven days a week at district visitor centers.
Permits can be reserved in advance at canypermits.nps.gov. Day-use permits are required for all vehicles, including motorcycles and bicycles, on White Rim, Elephant Hill, Lavender Canyon, and Peekaboo/Horse Canyon roads. If you’re planning an overnight trip, visit the overnight backcountry permit page of the park’s website.
For a river trip, visit the river permit page of the park’s website.
Canyonlands has two campgrounds: Needles Campground at The Needles and Willow Flat Campground at Island in the Sky.
Willow Flat has 12 sites, picnic tables, fire grates, and vault toilets, but no water. $15/night per site.
Squaw Flat has 26 sites, picnic tables, fire grates, tent pads, flush toilets, and water available spring through fall. $20/night per site. First-come, first-served in the summer. Reservations for spring or fall at nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/camp-need.htm.
SOUND OF SILENCE
The National Park Service measured sound in the interior of Canyonlands National Park and found it to be one of the quietest places in the United States.
AN AUTHENTICALLY DARK NIGHT
The International Dark-Sky Association has granted Gold-Tier International Dark Sky-Park status to Canyonlands National Park, an honor reserved for the darkest of dark skies and the most stunning of starscapes.
To better your experience, take a tour with a commercial outfitter. A guide can take you places you may not want to go on your own. See page 68 for details.
GyPSy Guide, a driving tour app for Canyonlands National Park, might just be your perfect companion as you explore. It plays commentary automatically as you drive so you won’t miss a thing. It’s fun, entertaining, and full of interesting information about Canyonlands and Moab. Once you download, you can listen again and again.