Canyonlands National Park
Carved-out canyons. Sheer drop-offs. Body-wide footpaths slicing through red rock. Exploring Canyonlands National Park is touring with an edge.
The whole park is a redrock woodcut engraved by wind’s and water’s big, slow chisels. The Green and Colorado Rivers trisect the Colorado Plateau, etching Canyonlands into distinct districts. The mesas you see at Island in the Sky look like a mountain range lopped off by a broadsword. The Maze is gorges, gorgeously gouged. Needles is a pincushion, pointy-sides-out. Chopped buttes, scored sediment and carved petroglyphs. Lots of sculpting, scraping and dividing asunder. Read more...
CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK LOCATION & DIRECTIONS
Canyonlands National Park is located in near Moab, Utah, (just 30 minutes from Arches National Park) and is accessible by air or car from Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Grand Junction. Here’s how we recommend getting to Canyonlands.
Nearest Airports to Canyonlands National Park
Depending on where you're coming from, there are two airports we recommend near Canyonlands National Park:
- GRAND JUNCTION REGIONAL AIRPORT: Flights from Salt Lake City, Denver, Phoenix and Dallas. A 2-hour drive to Canyonlands (Island in the Sky District).
- SALT LAKE CITY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Major airport with direct flights from many foreign and domestic destinations. A 4-hour drive to Canyonlands (Island in the Sky District).
Note: Some visitors choose to fly into Las Vegas and visit other Utah national parks on their way to Canyonlands. Canyonlands is a 7-hour drive from Las Vegas.
Driving Directions to Canyonlands National Park
Take a look at how far Canyonlands (Island in the Sky District) is from some notable nearby destinations.
- FROM SALT LAKE CITY, UT (244 miles): Take I-15 S toward Las Vegas. Merge onto US-6 E (exit 258) toward US-89 E Price/Manti. Take the US-191 S (exit 182) toward Crescent Junction/Moab. Turn right onto US-191 S to Moab. Turn right on UT-313 W and follow signs to Canyonlands National Park.
- FROM LAS VEGAS, NV (467 miles): Take I-15 N toward Salt Lake City. Take exit 132 for I-70 E. Take exit 182 toward Crescent Junction/Moab for US-191 S, then turn right on UT-313 W and follow signs to Canyonlands National Park.
GETTING AROUND CANYONLANDS
Although Canyonlands is one park, it’s divided into four regions — three districts (Island in the Sky, The Needles and The Maze) plus the Green and Colorado Rivers that divide them up. It takes hours to travel from one district to another, so most people focus on one area per visit.
Island in the Sky is the most accessible district in the park, nearest to a major city (Moab) and boasting a paved scenic drive with views of the surround buttes, fins and water-carved canyons, as well as numerous hikes. The Needles is less accessible, requiring more time, more strenuous hiking and four-wheel drive (or a decent boat ride) to reach its secret corners, but it provides incredible backcountry approaches into some of the most dazzling landscape on earth. But even the Needles feels like a roadside B&B compared to the remoteness of The Maze, the isolated district west of the Green River. The Maze offers challenging backpacking, off-roading and hiking for seasoned explorers. If you’re feeling the life aquatic, you can also book a river trip on the Green or Colorado and see the whole thing from a boat.
WHERE TO STAY NEAR CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK
Before you head into the rugged hills, canyons and mesas of Canyonlands, spend a night in comfort 39 minutes away in Moab. With an array of affordable lodging options and a cool, desert-town vibe, Moab has plenty to offer both weary heads and night owls.
View a list of nearby hotels and campgrounds
CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK HOURS
The park is open all year (24 hours a day).
Island In the Sky Visitor Center
Located just inside the park on the main road leading into the Island in the Sky District, this visitor center is open 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily from early March to December (and it stays open till 6:00 p.m. April 29 – September 29). Inside you’ll find exhibits, publications, permits, information and a park orientation video. Bottled water is available for sale at the visitor center. No water is available elsewhere; bring all that you will need. Island in the Sky Visitor Center at 435-259-4712 ext. 0.
Needles Visitor Center
Located on UT-211 just inside the park, this visitor center is open daily early March to late November from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Exhibits, information, permits, publications and an orientation video are available inside. Bathrooms and water are available year round. Needles district phone number is 435-259-4711 ext. 0.
The Maze District- Hans Flat Ranger Station
The Hans Flat Ranger Station is open daily year round from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. No entrance fee required. It’s located 24 miles south of I-70 on UT-24 as the crow flies. To get there, take the dirt road on the east side of UT-24 just south of the turnoff for Goblin Valley State Park and follow it 46 miles to the ranger station. This is the spot to get permits for overnight trips in The Maze District. You can buy books and maps at the ranger station but no water, food or gas is available.
Note: Call 435-259-2652 for visitor information and permits between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. After 4:30 p.m. this line becomes an emergency line only. Do not tie up the line after 4:30 p.m.
Horseshoe Canyon District
Horseshoe Canyon is a non-contiguous section of Canyonlands just northwest of The Maze that holds The Great Gallery and other impressive rock art panels from the Barrier Canyon, Fremont and ancestral Puebloan cultures. There’s no visitor center or ranger station. The main turn off to Horseshoe Canyon is 24 miles south of I-70 on Utah UT-24. Just south of the Goblin Valley State Park turnoff, on the east side of the road is a dirt road. Follow the dirt road for 30 miles. There is a fork in the dirt road with directional signage. The left fork goes to Horseshoe Canyon and the Right fork to Hans Flat Ranger Station. No water is available at Horseshoe Canyon. There is a vault toilet but no other service. No camping is allowed in Horseshoe Canyon, but is available at the west rim trailhead. No entrance fees required.
CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK FEES & PERMITS
The following passes allow access to Canyonlands for seven consecutive days:
- Private vehicle: $30
- Motorcycle: $25
- Person entering by foot or bicycle: $15 (Under 15 is free of charge)
These passes admit the pass owner and accompanying passengers to all U.S. national parks (including Canyonlands) and federal recreational lands:
- Annual Pass: $80
- 4th Grade Annual Pass: free
- Military Annual Pass: free
- Lifetime Senior Pass (62 and older): $80
- Annual Senior Pass (62 and older): $20
- Lifetime Access Pass (available for those with a permanent disability): free
- Southeast Utah Annual Pass (access to Arches, Canyonlands and Natural Bridges National Monument): $55
WHEN TO VISIT CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK
Canyonlands is a desert, but it’s a high desert, which means that things can get cold and temps can swing 40 degrees in a single day. So know before you go: Check the weather report, bring layers and plan your trip in advance.
- Winter: While it rarely snows in Canyonlands proper, winter temps rarely top 50 when the sun’s out and dip close to zero some nights. Beware of all snowfalls, since even a light flurry can make many trails impassable. Unless you’re a robot designed to perform in cold and on ice, in which case, knock yourself out.
- Spring: April and May are perfect times to visit the park, with highs from 60 to 80 degrees and lows from 30 to 50 degrees.
- Summer: Summers in Canyonlands tend to be scorchers, bringing temps over 100 degrees and late summer monsoons with the threat of flash floods. Check the forecast before you go, bring plenty of water and don’t exercise strenuously. Remember, even rainfall in other areas can cause floods where you are, so keep a wide eye.
- Fall: September and October vie with spring for best weather, with similar day and evening temperatures and that amiable, come-hither sunniness.
BEST HIKES IN CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK
Make your list and check it twice, because these must-see attractions are better than nice. Bring a camera, an open mind and a diary in which to wax rhapsodic.
- Grand View Overlook: At some level you know you’re just a cute little speck in a crazy-vast universe, but this viewpoint really drives the idea home. Situated at the end of a one-mile sandstone staircase, the panorama takes in the jaw-dropping spires of Monument Basin, which is truly… monumental. Scramble out on a ledge to get an even better view and/or scare your whole family.
- Mesa Arch: If a realtor tried to sell you Mesa Arch, they’d persistently call your attention to the fact that, sure, there’s no water or electricity, but look at this 50-foot stone window atop a 500-foot cliff, which allows you to sit and take in the full sweep of the valley, its canyons and the distant La Sal mountains! As they say, location, location, location.
- The Needles District: This remote, southeast corner of the park features a fantasy land of blushing sandstone spires that jut into the azure sky all around. Featuring day hikes and dizzying overnights, the district is the only set of needles you won’t dread.
- Upheaval Dome Overlook
- Peekaboo Trail
- View all hikes at Canyonlands
THINGS TO DO IN CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK
The following activities at Canyonlands require a permit:
- Four-wheel driving
- Mountain biking
The following destinations and facilities are ADA-compliant:
- Island in the Sky
- Buck Canyon Overlook
- Green River Overlook
- Grand View Point Overlook
- Island in the Sky Campground (one site)
- The Needles
- The Needles Campground
- Wooden Shoe Overlook
DOGS AT CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK
Dogs are allowed (on leash):
- At Willow Flat and Squaw Flat Campgrounds
- On paved scenic drives
- In parking lots
- On the Potash/Shafer Canyon road
Dogs are not allowed:
- At overlooks
- On hiking trails
- In the backcountry or on backcountry roads (even inside your vehicle)
- In the rivers
TRAVEL BUREAU INFORMATION
MOAB AREA TRAVEL COUNCIL
84 N 100 E
Moab, UT 84532
SAN JUAN COUNTY - UTAH'S CANYON COUNTRY
117 S Main St.
Monticello, UT 84535