Copyright: National Park Service
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park preserves 527 square miles (848 square km) of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches and spires in the heart of the Colorado Plateau in Southeastern Utah. Water and gravity have been the prime architects of this land, carving flat layers of sedimentary rock into the landscape seen today.
At work within Canyonlands are the Green and Colorado Rivers. They're erosional forces have carved two large canyons, which divide the park into four districts: the Island in the Sky, to the North; the Maze, to the West; the Needles, to the south; and the Rivers. The districts are unique and each offers different opportunities for exploration.
- Of the four districts within this park the Island in the Sky is the most accessible,offering expansive views from many overlooks along the paved scenic drive, in addition to miles of hiking trails and four-wheel-drive roads. The Needles offers more of a backcountry experience, requiring some hiking or four-wheel driving to see the area's attractions. The Maze is entirely a backcountry district and requires considerably more time and technical four-wheel driving to visit. Horseshoe Canyon is a detached unit of Canyonlands located northeast of the Maze, and is managed for nonmotorized day use only. The Rivers offer another way to experience this region, with trips generally involving two or more days of boating. There are no roads that directly link the districts. Although they may appear close on a map, traveling between them requires two to six hours by car. Most people find it impractical to visit all of the districts in a single trip.
Recreation - The Island in the Sky and Needles districts each have a visitor center offering exhibits and sales areas. The Maze District Ranger Station at Hans Flat has a small sales area. Visitors using the backcountry for overnight recreation must sign in at the information centers. These are also good places to inquire about water sources and trail conditions, and a necessary stop for overnight use of the park.
Canyonlands is primarily a backcountry park. Most visits involve primitive camping in sites along the hundreds of miles of trails, roads and rivers of the park. Backcountry permits are required for overnight use and are limited in number.
Visitation increases dramatically during the more temperate periods of spring and fall, when evening programs, overlook talks and other programs are offered. Campgrounds and popular backcountry areas usually fill every night from mid-March to Memorial Day and, again, from Labor Day through mid-October. If you are planning to camp during these times, be prepared with a backup plan in case no sites are available. Backcountry permits and group campsites may be reserved in advance, but all developed campgrounds are first-come, first-served.
Developed camping opportunities are available in the Needles and Island in the Sky Districts. Individual sites for ten or fewer people are first-come, first-served. In the Needles District the Squaw Flat Campground supports 26 sites with water and vault toilets. The Island in the Sky District contains the Willow Flat Campground with 12 sites and maintained vault toilets. There is no water available at this site. There are three group campsites located in the Needles District of Canyonlands, which will accommodate groups of eleven or more people. Reservations are recommended for use of these sites.
Climate - The Canyonlands ecosystem is described as a high desert, characterized by hot summers, cold winters, less than ten inches of rain each year and low relative humidity. Generally pleasant temperatures occur during spring and fall, with cold winters and very hot summers.
Canyonlands covers over 500 square miles in southeastern Utah. The four districts of the park surround the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers. The park is accessible from Highway 191 via state roads 24, 313 and 211.