Canyonlands National Park: An Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventure

Author: Mark Wade

It is no secret that Utah is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the United States. With five National Parks within its borders, it's hard to find a corner of the state that doesn't offer stunning vistas and unique experiences. While Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks may be more well-known, Canyonlands National Park is often overlooked by tourists.

If you haven't yet added Canyonlands to your travel plans, it's time to do so. This hidden gem offers a truly off-the-beaten-path adventure that will leave you in awe. From its rugged canyons to its ancient rock formations, Canyonlands is a must-visit for any outdoor enthusiast or nature lover.

Canyonlands National Park

Getting There

Located in southeastern Utah, Canyonlands National Park is easily accessible by car from major cities such as Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

From Salt Lake City, the park is about a four-hour drive via I-70 and US-191. From Las Vegas, it's just over six hours via I-15 and I-70.

If you're far from either of these cities, the two nearest airports are in Grand Junction, Colorado, and Moab, Utah. From there, you can rent a car or take a shuttle service to the park.

The Green River

What to See

Canyonlands National Park is divided into four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the Green and Colorado Rivers. Each district offers its unique scenery and activities, making it difficult to choose just one to visit.

Island in the Sky

The Island in the Sky district is the most accessible and popular area of Canyonlands National Park. It offers stunning views from its mesa top, as well as scenic overlooks, hiking trails, and campsites. One of the must-see sights in this district is Mesa Arch, a natural arch that frames a beautiful view of canyons below.

The Needles

The Needles district is known for its colorful sandstone spires and its extensive network of hiking trails. It's also home to a variety of wildlife, including bighorn sheep and mule deer. One of the highlights here is the Chesler Park Loop, a 6-mile trail that takes you through a maze of towering rock formations.

The Maze

For the more adventurous, The Maze district offers a rugged and remote experience. This area is only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles or multi-day backcountry hikes. It's also home to some of the most challenging hiking and canyoneering routes in the park.

The Rivers

Last but not least, the Green and Colorado Rivers offer a unique perspective of the park. Visitors can take a scenic float trip on the calm waters or brave the rapids on a whitewater rafting adventure. The rivers also provide opportunities for fishing, camping, and wildlife viewing.

When to Visit

Canyonlands is open year-round, but the best time to visit depends on your preferences and the activities you plan to do. Spring and fall offer mild temperatures and fewer crowds, making it ideal for hiking and camping. Winter brings snow to the park, creating a beautiful winter wonderland for those looking for a unique experience. Summer can be hot, but also offers opportunities for water activities such as rafting and boating.

Where to Stay

There are several options for accommodations when visiting Canyonlands National Park. The park offers several campgrounds for tents and RVs, as well as backcountry camping permits for those looking to explore more remote areas.

If camping isn't your style, the nearby town of Moab has plenty of lodging options, including hotels, vacation rentals, and even glamping sites.


Canyonlands National Park may not get as much attention as Zion or Bryce Canyon, but it's definitely worth a visit. With its unique landscape and variety of activities, it offers an off-the-beaten-path adventure that will leave you with unforgettable memories. So next time you're planning a trip to Utah, be sure to add Canyonlands National Park to your itinerary. You won't regret it!