A maze of unexplored canyons, stunning overlooks, and arches carved by Colorado and Green River, Canyonlands National Park is a hidden gem of Utah.
|Park||Canyonlands National Park|
|Things To Do||Picnic, Drive, Discover|
|Hotels Near Banff National Park||Red Cliffs Lodge, Best Western Plus, Many More|
|Price||$15 to $30|
|Camping Location||Multiple Locations|
Planning a trip to Canyonlands National Park and wondering what to see and do there?
This guide covers everything you need to know about Canyonlands National Park including the best things to do, the best time to visit, where to stay, and other expert tips for a seamless experience. Let’s get started!
Canyonlands National Park is canyon focused park located in the southeastern part of Utah.
It is one of the largest parks in Utah covering 337,000 acres of land filled with canyons, arches, beautiful rivers, hiking trails, and spectacular vistas.
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The Park is made up of three districts; Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze, separated by the rivers.
Each district has a desert environment but they are all different in their own way. Island in the sky and the Needles are the most accessible for touring while Maze is the most remote area.
The Park has so much to offer but still, it is one of the most least visited national parks in Utah as compared to its neighbor, Arches National Park.
Only those who have extensively explored the park know that it’s an incredible place that will leave you speechless.
History of Canyonlands National Park
Human settlement in the Canyonlands dates back to 10,000 years back. The area was home to the Fremont people and the Anasazi in the 12th century.
Ute and Navajo people occupied the canyons until the late 1800s.
The area was promoted in the 1930s for the inclusion of a park system to create a much larger Escalante National Monument.
But things didn’t work out and in 1961 Utah Senator Frank Moss introduced legislation for the establishment of Canyonlands National Park.
On 12 September 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the act to give the Canyonlands a status of National Park.
Things to do in Canyonlands National Park
Here are the top five sights in the Canyonlands National Park that are worth your time the most:
Mesa Arch is one of the most iconic vistas in Canyonlands National Park. It is one of the best hikes perfect for beginners, light hikers, and families with small children.
The arch is located right at the edge of a 500-foot cliff and offers a keyhole view of White Rim Country.
There’s no better time to visit the Mesa Arch than sunrise, as the sunlight illuminates the underside of the arch, creating a breathtaking scene.
It is an ideal spot to capture some amazing photos of the iconic view of the canyonlands.
Grand View Point
Grand Viewpoint is the crown jewel of the Canyonlands National Park that lets you see the entire park from one stunning overlook trail.
If you want to enjoy the most incredible view of rocks, canyons, and epic desert landscapes, then there’s no better place than Grand View Point. The Grand Point View is about 15-minutes from the visitor center.
The trail begins at the end of the Grand Point View Point Road and climbs down to rugged rock stairs that will take you to the Grand View Point to marvel at the breathtaking geology of the park
Buck Canyon Overlook
Enjoy the awe-inspiring views of Grand Canyonlands National Park from the Buck Canyon Overlook and marvel at the breathtaking scenery carved out by the Colorado River.
The overlook is located near Moab and is moderately trafficked out.
You’ll be blown away by the vastness, depth, and layering of the canyons as you gaze to the La Sa Mountain Range.
The overlook faces east which makes it an ideal place to photograph the sunrise.
White Rim Road
For those looking for an ultimate national park adventure, the White Rim Road has it all.
From the exciting adventures, stunning views, and the chance to see areas that many people may never get a chance to see.
It is a 100-mile dirt road that follows the rim of many of the spectacular canyons in Canyonlands National Park and offers some of the best views of the park.
A four-wheel is required to drive through this road, bikes and motorcycles are also permitted.
Murphy’s point is another stunning viewpoint to admire the layered canyon views.
A 3.6-mile hike to Murphy Point provides an excellent hiking experience with spectacular views of the western end of the Island of Sky.
The route to the Murphy Point Starts out wide and then finishes off as a cairn-lined sandstone track.
From the southern face of Murphy Point, you can look all the way down towards Grand View Point, Holeman Spring Basin, Candle Stick tower, and Beyond at Junction Butte.
The views from Murphy Point are some of the best you’ll experience in Utah.
Best Time to Visit
If you are concerned about the weather, then the best time to visit the Grand Canyonlands National Park are the Spring and Fall.
The weather is mild, usually between 60° to 80°F perfect for hiking and camping.
Although the park doesn’t get too crowded college spring break brings more visitors than usual and popular trails can be busy, so try to visit in March or November to avoid crowds.
Download the Canyonlands National Park PDF map for a seamless first trip. Visit the official site of nps.gov to download the maps for all districts to find your way.
If you’re planning a backcountry trip, we’d highly recommend getting a topographic map from the park store.
Hotels Near Canyonlands National Park
There’s no lodging is available at Canyons National Park, but the towns of Moab and Monticello offer numerous lodging options if you’d like to stay in a hotel:
Canyonlands National Park has three developed campgrounds including Needles Campground, Dead Horse Point State Park Campground, and Willow Flat Campground.
Reservation can only be made for The Needles Campground.
Canyonlands also has extensive backcountry camping areas that are worth visiting as well.
The camping sites are primarily first-come-first-served basis and are mostly occupied during Spring through Fall. Lifetime pass holders can avail 50% discount on the camping fee at Island in the Sky and The Needles.
To make reservations visit recreation.gov.com.
Canyonlands National Park is located in Southeast Utah, a high desert region with wide temperature fluctuations.
During Summer, the temperature often exceeds 100°F. Winters can be cool or cold with highs averaging between 30°F to 50°F and lows between 0° to 20°F.
Moderate snowfall can occur making the trails impassable. Make sure to check the weather forecast before visiting the park.
Entry Fee & Passes
As of November 2021, the entrance fee for Canyonlands National Park is $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, and $15 per person, valid for 7-days.
You can also purchase the Annual entry pass for $55 or America the Beautiful National Park for $80 that allows you to visit more than 2,000 federal recreational sites.
Checklist of Things to Bring with You
If you’re wondering what to pack for your first trip to Canyonlands National Park, here’s a list of essentials, make sure you won’t forget to bring with you:
- T-shirts (long & short sleeved)
- Sunscreen & Sunglasses
- Waterproof jacket
- Hiking Boots
- Refillable water bottles or a hydration system
- High energy snacks
- Dry bags
- First-aid kit
- Bug Spray
- Map & Compass
Can I Just drive through the Canyonlands National Park?
Of course, you can explore the park without getting out of your car. Take a drive through 34-mile roundtrip scenic drive through Island in the Sky to sightsee by car.
How many hikes are there in Canyonlands National Park?
There are more than 75 hikes in Canyonlands, ranging from easy to strenuous for people with different ability levels. Island in the Sky has the easiest trails while the Maze and Needles tend to have much longer and multiday hikes.
How Much Time Do in Need in Canyonlands National Park?
Whether you just want to hit the main highlights or do a cool Southwest Road trip, Canyonlands can be done in a maximum of two days.