Canyonlands National Park spans 337,598 acres of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires in the heart of southeast Utah's high desert. Split into three distinct districts with no roads that directly link them together, there's plenty to explore whether you choose to visit Island in the Sky, The Maze, or The Needles.
Note: Canyonlands - especially The Maze District - is a very remote area, perhaps the most remote I've visited. Plan accordingly. There is no fuel or water for miles, carry plenty of extra. If you are travelling alone, be extremely cautious - if you get stuck out here, it could be many days before someone else comes along to help.
If you do decide to go to Canyonlands National Park, you're definitely going to need a National Park pass, and are likely to need a permit - both for day use as well as camping. Of course, calling ahead to understand current road conditions is a must as well.
- Canyonlands entrance fee - while there are no fee booths at the entrance, your entrance fee is what helps to maintain the park. It's a small price to pay for the enjoyment you will receive. Additionally, as the visitor population in Canyonlands is reasonably well regulated, Park Rangers will almost always ask to see your pass.
- Permits for backcountry use - this includes day use permits, overnight backcountry permits, and campground permits. As with your entrance fee, expect to run into at least one Park Ranger who will ask to see your paperwork.
- Current road conditions - things can change quickly in the wilderness.
Our Trips to Canyonlands National Park
If you've decided Canyonlands National Park is for you... well, you've made a great decision. Here are a few places I think are very special.
The Doll House, Maze District
If you're in search of needles, you might think that visiting The Needles District is your best course of action. For quantity, you'd be right, but for quality, head to The Maze. Out the most technical and remote road in the park, High Clearance 4WD is a must, and travelling with at least one other vehicle is the only smart way to go. The trail ultimately leads to The Doll House - a spectacular formation of needles with three camp sites (reservation/permit required) nestled into their base. Hikes in this area abound, and getting lost for a few hours has never been more fun.
Elephant Hill, Needles District
The primary road into the backcountry of the Needles District, you'll need a permit, high clearance 4WD, and guts to make this trek. In fact, the switchbacks near the beginning of the trail are so tight that you are forced to back down (or up on your return trip) one of the legs, as there is no room to turn around! But if you've got the right rig, and enough experience, the trip is well worth it. From 4WD roads to spectacular hikes, this is an area well worth the trouble getting there.
Druid Arch, Needles District
Accessed from Elephant Hill Road, driving to the trailhead is only the first obstacle you'll need to overcome to get to Druid Arch. Plan on a full day of hiking - with plenty of food and water - to make the out-and-back trek through narrow passageways, between towering needles, and up-and-down steep washes. In the end though, it's not every day that you see something quite so breathtaking as this view at the end of the trail!