5 Ways to Explore Canyonlands Without the Crowds

5 Ways to Explore Canyonlands Without the Crowds

By Mo Edwards
December 15, 2021

See Canyonlands National Park from every angle — the seat of a bike, tube of a raft, or by starlight.

Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah is an ocean of canyons, with wave after wave of sandstone mesas disappearing into the horizon. It’s so vast that it is divided into four sections by Utah’s big rivers: the Green and the Colorado. This is great news for you, future Canyonlands visitor, because Holiday River Expeditions can guide you through the vast park by raft, bike, or both. Dee and Sue Holladay have been in the adventure business for 55 years, have won safety awards, river stewardship awards, and have been rated by National Geographic’s Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook as a five-star outfitter. Soooooo yeah. They know Canyonlands from top to bottom. Check out their time-tested trips through Canyonlands.

Raft Cataract Canyon | 5-6 Days | Maximum Group Size 20

When civilian daredevils got their hands on surplus army rafts in the 1950s guess what they did? They headed straight for Cataract Canyon, the section of the Colorado River with the biggest rapids beside the Grand Canyon. Commercial outfitters have been taking passengers ever since. This whitewater rafting trip starts out nice and easy with calm waters and plenty of canyon walls to meander through. After the confluence of the Green and Colorado, things get spicy. Class IV rapids with names like Hell to Pay, Ben Hurt, and Satan’s Gut splash you out of any complacency about being alive. But no worries. Holiday River Expeditions experienced guides can handle it and everything else — food, water, itinerary and rowing — so you can concentrate on holding on for dear life.

Bike the White Rim Trail | 4-5 Days | Maximum Group Size 12

Use pedal power to get deep into Canyonlands via the White Rim Trail, an old mining road that follows the white sandstone rim around Island in the Sky mesa. Bike 20-30 miles a day, stopping to check out Musselman Arch, Candlestick Tower, and the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers. Sounds like work until you realize that Holiday River Expeditions brings all of your gear in a 4x4 support vehicle. Roll into camp and let the guides make dinner so that you can watch the sun go down and the Milky Way light up.

Raft Cataract Canyon and Bike the White Rim Trail Combo | 7 Days | Maximum Group Size 12

Having a hard time deciding between rafting and biking? Do it all! Pedal yourself 65 miles on the White Rim Trail down to the Green River, then slide onto a raft headed straight to the big rapids of Cataract Canyon. It sounds like a logistical disaster (What permits do you need again? Do bikes float? Who’s carrying the dutch ovens?) but Holiday River Expeditions sorts it all out and all you need to do is show up. This trip is a great blend of exercise and relaxation and the most efficient way to see Canyonlands from Island in the Sky to Lake Powell. If you have one week in Canyonlands (or one week left to live) this bike/raft combo trip is the way to go.

Bike The Maze | 4 Days | Maximum Group Size 7

It's a rare treat to see the Maze, the remote section of Canyonlands that is fiercely protected from overuse by the park service. Holiday River Expeditions has the coveted overnight backcountry permits to bike, hike, and sight-see sandstone formations like the Chocolate Drops, Lizard Rock, and The Plug. If you’ve been looking for a chance to be in the middle of nowhere with six of your closest (least annoying?) friends, then this trip is for you. As always they have everything covered, you just need to show up at the headquarters of Holiday River Expeditions in Green River, Utah. Bring your pedal legs and a taste for excellent food and adventure.

Stargaze Canyonlands

Experience Canyonlands on your back, looking up at the sky for planets, red dwarfs, and UFOs. Canyonlands is a gold-tier International Dark Sky Park, meaning that it is very, very dark and excellent for stargazing. Expert astronomer Tom Beckett takes time off from his day job at the Clark Planetarium to join Holiday River Expeditions on a bike or raft trip. He teaches novice astronomers all about the night sky and why it needs protection from light pollution. While he’s telling you star-myths, all the nocturnal animals come out and sit on his lap. Just kidding, but you might get a chance to see bats, owls, ringtails, and other desert creatures that are only active at night.

All these trips sound amazing, because they are, which means that they fill up fast. Consider booking your trip six months to a year in advance to guarantee your spot. Canyonlands National Park and the family of Dee and Sue Holladay of Holiday River Expeditions are waiting for you.

10/14-17/2017, Camps Gooseberry A, Murphy A, Potato Bottom C. Dark Sky White Rim Trip.