Canyonlands National Park


Bates Wilson, the first superintendent of Canyonlands National Park, entreated visitors to "Come to our wilderness, but be ready to rough it." Canyonlands, one of the youngest of our national parks, remains, intentionally, one of the least developed. This rugged country, with more rough, four-wheel-drive-only roads than paved ones, was visited in the early 1960s by Stewart Udall, the Secretary of the Interior, who saw park potential in this spectacular but remote canyonland at the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers. In 1964 this area, until then regularly visited only by cowboys and uranium prospectors, became Canyonlands National Park. Its three districts, Island in the Sky, Needles, and the Maze, are divided by the deep canyons of the Colorado and the Green Rivers. No road links the three sections of the park, each with its unique features. In addition, the Horseshoe Canyon Unit to the west of the main parkland and accessible only by rough, unpaved road, shelters the eerie, life-sized pictographs of the "Great Gallery," the artwork of an ancient culture that inhabited the area well over 1,500 years ago. What to see and do: Although each of Canyonlands National Park's districts has its own visitor center or ranger station, park authorities suggest you plan your visit before arriving. Write or call for park information and visit the multiagency information center in either Moab or Monticello to check on park conditions. Permits in Canyonlands are not free and the fee structure varies depending on activity and district. Permits are required for day use in restricted areas (Needles District), backpacking, flat-water boating, white-water rafting, and mountain bike or four-wheel-drive camping. Reservations can be made for these activities, as well as group campsites, by writing the park or calling 435-259-4351. Contact the park for more detailed information. Many people tour the park on mountain bikes, but keep in mind that there are no formal bike paths here. Bikes are limited to established roads, and are not allowed on footpaths or off trail. Hiking trails are mostly primitive, marked only by cairns, or rock piles. The Island in the Sky district, a lofty plateau that towers over the rest of the park and reaches its limit at the confluence of the rivers, is the most visited part of Canyonlands National Park. Paved roads lead to Grand View Point Overlook, where a panoramic view of the rivers, the Needles and the Maze awaits, and to Upheaval Dome, which is actually not a dome but a huge depression. Originally thought to be the result of underlying saltbed deformation, Upheaval Dome is now believed by many geologists to be a meteor impact crater. You'll have to hike about 500 yards to its craggy rim and decide for yourself. Willow Flat Campground, with 12 first-come, first-served units (no reservations), has vault toilets, no water, and charges a small fee. Near the campground you'll find spectacular vistas at Green River Overlook and a short trail that will take you to Mesa and Washer Woman arches. Island in the Sky sits atop the White Rim, a sandstone layer around 1,200 feet thick. A primitive road, accessible only by high clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle, mountain bike, or on foot follows the White Rim around the mesa. There is no water available on the mesa, so be sure to bring plenty of your own. The Needles, spires of banded red and white sandstone rising hundreds of feet from the canyon floor, give this part of the park its name. The paved road into the district ends at Big Spring Canyon Overlook, where you can see a fine concentration of mushroom-like hoodoos. Short trails lead from the scenic drive to Ancestral Puebloan ruins, an old cowboy line camp, and fanciful sandstone formations. Longer hiking trails and rough, unpaved roads pass by stone arches and spires, and many sites of Ancestral Puebloan habitation, including well-preserved pictographs and petroglyphs.


2282 S West Resource Blvd
Moab, UT 84532


38.17057000, -109.71106000
Visit Website
(435) 719-2313

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