Welcome to Canyonlands National Park, a breathtaking destination that promises adventure and natural beauty. From stunning hiking trails to exhilarating water activities, there’s something for every type of traveler. But with so much to see and do, it’s important to plan ahead to make the most of your visit. In this article, we’ll highlight the best things to do at Canyonlands National Park and provide helpful tips for organizing your trip.
Hiking and Backpacking Trails
Canyonlands National Park offers some of the most exhilarating hiking and backpacking trails for adventurers and nature lovers alike. With a variety of trails designed to cater to different skill levels, visitors can enjoy diverse and breathtaking scenery ranging from desert landscapes to majestic canyons.
If you’re looking for a challenge, the 100-mile Maze Trail offers a thrilling experience for seasoned hikers. For those seeking a more moderate hike, the Island in the Sky trails are a great option, with the iconic Mesa Arch trail offering gorgeous views of the sunrise.
If backpacking is your thing, Canyonlands has several multi-day trips that are worth exploring. The White Rim Trail, for example, offers a 100-mile loop that takes you through a mix of rugged terrain and stunning vistas.
Remember to pack properly for your hike or backpacking trip, with essentials like sturdy boots, sun protection, and enough food and water for the duration of the journey. For longer hikes or overnight backpacking trips, consider a water filtration system and a tent or shelter.
Hiking and Backpacking Trails Table:
|Length (in miles)
|White Rim Trail
Exploring the hiking and backpacking trails at Canyonlands is an experience not to be missed. Remember to check the weather forecast and trail conditions before embarking on your journey, and always stay on designated paths to preserve the natural beauty of the park.
Sightseeing and Photo Opportunities
One of the main draws of Canyonlands National Park is undoubtedly its stunning natural scenery. From towering canyons and mesas to winding rivers and arches, there are endless photo opportunities throughout the park. Here are some of the must-see spots:
- Mesa Arch: This iconic arch is a popular spot for sunrise and sunset photography, with stunning views over the surrounding canyons.
- Grand View Point: This is the perfect place to take in panoramic views of the park’s sprawling canyons and rock formations.
- The Needles: This area of the park is known for its unique rock formations, including spires and hoodoos, that make for great photographic subjects.
- The Green River Overlook: This overlook provides views of the Green River as it cuts through the canyons, creating a dramatic landscape.
When taking photos in the park, it’s important to remember to be respectful of the environment and other visitors. Stay on designated trails and avoid trampling delicate plants or disturbing wildlife. Additionally, try to avoid overcrowding popular spots by visiting during non-peak hours or exploring lesser-known areas of the park.
“Canyonlands National Park is a photographer’s dream come true, with endless opportunities for capturing stunning natural beauty.” – John, avid photographer and Canyonlands visitor
Rafting and Kayaking Adventures
For thrill-seekers and water enthusiasts, Canyonlands National Park offers exciting rafting and kayaking opportunities.
The park’s signature water adventure is Cataract Canyon, where rafters can tackle challenging rapids and admire stunning red rock formations towering above the Colorado River. Several tour companies offer rafting trips, ranging from half-day to multi-day expeditions. Keep in mind that some trips require a permit and advanced planning.
For a calmer water experience, kayaking is available on several stretches of the Colorado and Green Rivers. Visitors can rent kayaks or bring their own gear to explore the calm waters and enjoy the serene desert scenery.
Recommended Tour Companies
|Western River Expeditions
|Colorado River and Trail Expeditions
Remember to always prioritize safety when participating in any water activity. Wear appropriate gear and dress for the weather, and be aware of potential hazards such as rapids, strong currents, and sudden weather changes. Always follow the instructions of experienced guides and tour operators.
Canyoneering and Rock Climbing
For thrill-seekers and adventurers, canyoneering and rock climbing are must-do activities at Canyonlands National Park. With its unique geological formations and rugged terrain, the park offers a challenging and exciting experience.
Canyoneering involves descending narrow canyons using a variety of techniques such as rappelling, scrambling, and swimming. The numerous slot canyons in the park make it a prime destination for canyoneering enthusiasts. Always make sure to check the weather and flash flood potential before attempting any canyoneering routes, and bring appropriate gear such as a wetsuit and helmet.
Rock climbing at Canyonlands National Park is also a popular activity. The Wingate sandstone cliffs offer challenging routes for climbers of all skill levels, from beginner to advanced. Don’t forget to bring proper gear and check for closures due to bird nesting.
Before attempting any canyoneering or rock climbing routes, it’s important to check for closures and restrictions. Permits may be required for certain areas.
Both canyoneering and rock climbing can be dangerous activities, so it’s important to take necessary safety precautions. Always hike with a partner and let someone know your planned route and expected return time. Bring plenty of water and snacks, and be prepared for changing weather conditions.
Scenic Drives and Overlooks
If you’re not up for a strenuous hike or adventurous water activity, Canyonlands National Park still offers plenty of opportunities for sightseeing and taking in the breathtaking views. The park features several scenic drives and overlooks that allow visitors to explore the beauty of the area from the comfort of their car.
One popular route is the Island in the Sky mesa drive, a paved road that offers stunning panoramas of the park’s canyons, plateaus, and rock formations. The 34-mile round-trip drive takes about two hours to complete and features several lookout points, including Grand View Point and Green River Overlook.
If you’re looking for a more adventurous option, consider driving the Shafer Canyon Road. This steep, unpaved road winds down to the park’s Colorado River canyon, providing incredible views of the rugged landscape. Keep in mind that a high-clearance vehicle is required.
Whether you’re taking a leisurely drive or stopping at overlooks along the way, don’t forget to bring your camera. The park’s striking scenery makes for some truly unforgettable photos.
Night Sky Viewing and Astronomy Programs
When the sun sets at Canyonlands National Park, the sky comes alive with an awe-inspiring display of stars. The park’s remote location and lack of light pollution make it an ideal destination for stargazing.
Visitors can join ranger-led astronomy programs to learn about the constellations, planets, and galaxies visible in the night sky. The programs typically include telescope viewing and discussions of the cultural significance of astronomy in the park’s history.
To make the most of your stargazing experience, plan your visit during a new moon when the sky is at its darkest. Bring warm clothing and a blanket or chair for comfort, and be sure to avoid using flashlights or electronic devices that emit light, as they can interfere with night vision.
|Varies by season
|Island in the Sky Visitor Center
“Stargazing at Canyonlands was an experience like no other. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life. The ranger-led program was informative and helped me appreciate the cultural significance of astronomy in the park’s history.” – Anna, visitor
Educational and Cultural Opportunities
Canyonlands National Park offers visitors a unique opportunity to learn about the rich history and cultural significance of the area. The park boasts a long and fascinating human history, from the ancestral Puebloan ruins to the impact of modern settlement on the environment.
Ranger-led tours are available to provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the park’s natural and cultural resources. These tours cover a range of topics, including geology, wildlife, and human history. Visitors can also check out the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, where they can view exhibits and learn more about the park’s history and geology.
Ancestral Puebloan Ruins
The ancestral Puebloan people, also known as the Anasazi, inhabited the area of Canyonlands National Park from about AD 500 to 1300. Their civilization was characterized by impressive building feats, including structures made of sandstone bricks and elaborate kivas (underground ceremonial chambers).
|West of the Maze District
|Home to some of the most well-preserved and extensive rock art in North America.
|Islands in the Sky mesa
|A multi-room structure that was likely used for storage and ceremonies.
|Near the park’s entrance station
|Features two prehistoric granaries and a preserved Puebloan tower.
Visitors should exercise caution and respect when exploring these sites, as they are delicate and irreplaceable cultural resources.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Planning a trip to Canyonlands National Park can be exciting, but it can also raise questions. Here are some common questions visitors often ask:
What is the best time of year to visit?
The best time to visit Canyonlands National Park is during the spring and fall months, when the weather is mild and crowds are smaller. Summer can be hot and busy, while winter can bring snow and road closures. Be sure to check the weather forecast and road conditions before you go.
Can I bring my pet to the park?
Pets are allowed in some areas of the park, but they must be kept on a leash at all times and are not allowed on hiking trails. Check the park’s website for detailed pet regulations and designated areas where pets are allowed.
Are there any safety concerns I should be aware of?
Canyonlands National Park can be a rugged and remote environment, so it’s important to take safety precautions. Stay on designated trails, bring plenty of water and snacks, and be prepared for sudden temperature changes. Flash floods can also be a danger, especially in slot canyons, so be aware of weather conditions and avoid hiking in narrow canyons during heavy rain.
How much does it cost to enter the park?
The entrance fee for Canyonlands National Park is $30 per vehicle, or $25 per motorcycle or individual entering on foot or bicycle. Some passes, such as the America the Beautiful Pass, are also accepted. Check the park’s website for up-to-date fee information.
Are there accommodations and restaurants within the park?
There are no accommodations or restaurants within Canyonlands National Park, but there are campgrounds and picnic areas available. The nearby town of Moab offers various lodging and dining options.
Can I bring my drone to the park?
Drone use is not allowed in Canyonlands National Park, except with a special permit for approved research or educational purposes. Violators may be subject to fines and penalties.
By keeping these FAQs in mind while planning your trip, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable visit to Canyonlands National Park.