The Complete Guide to Canyonlands National Park

As one of America’s largest national parks, Canyonlands National Park is a must-see on any Moab itinerary. With three districts, there’s a lot to explore. We’ll dive into what you need to know before visiting.

Where is Canyonlands National Park?

Just 40 minutes outside of downtown Moab, you’ll find the entrance to the Island in the Sky District in Canyonlands National Park. If you’re visiting from Moab, the Island in the Sky District is the easiest to get to.

Simply drive north out of Moab on US-191 and turn left on SR-313. Follow the signs to Canyonlands National Park. You’ll pass the entrance to Dead Horse Point State Park along the way.

To reach the Maze District, you’ll have to drive north from Moab on US-191, then head west on I-70, once you reach SR-24 head south. Then turn left just beyond the turnoff for Goblin Valley State Park. This road requires a 4WD to access the Maze.

For the Needles District, head south on US-191 until you reach SR-211. Turn right and wind your way through Indian Creek before reaching the Needles District entrance to Canyonlands National Park.

When to Visit Canyonlands National Park

You can visit Canyonlands National Park year-round, but the best time to visit is during spring or fall. Remember, this is also the busy season for the park, so make plans for permits and reservations well in advance.

In summer, temperatures soar, making it a tough place to be during the day. If you’re visiting in summer, be sure to be prepared with plenty of extra water, salty snacks, and get an early start to beat the heat.

In winter, the park is exceptionally beautiful, but it does get cold. However, you’ll have far fewer crowds. You may have a better chance of getting a walk-up permit in the winter months.

What are the Districts in the Park?

Since Canyonlands National Park is so vast, it’s been divided into three districts.

The Island in the Sky District

The Island in the Sky is known for its scenic viewpoints of the Colorado River and deep canyons, this is the most accessible area of the park. It’s also the closest district to Moab.

The Maze District

As the most rugged part of the park, the Maze District is known for off-trail backpacking and Jeep Roads. Virtually all access to this section of the park requires a permit. To get to the Hans Flat Ranger Station is a 3 hour drive from Moab.

The Needles District

With a towering sea of hoodoos, this unique district of Canyonlands National Park is known for its excellent hiking and backpacking. Located 1.5 hours south of Moab, the Needles District is a must-see for hiking enthusiasts and is well-worth at least a day trip.

How Many Days to Visit Canyonlands National Park?

How long you choose to visit Canyonlands National Park largely depends on what you like to do. For backpackers, avid hikers, and 4-wheeling enthusiasts, you might want to plan at least two full days in the park, more if you plan to backpack or enjoy the Jeep trails.

However, if you are into photography and viewpoints, then one day should suffice. The Island in the Sky district and Needles District will provide the most access. Keep in mind that all three entrances to Canyonlands National Park are far apart, so plan accordingly.

Pro Tip: If you’re going to visit Canyonlands National Park over multiple days or discover other national parks in the area, consider getting the America the Beautiful Annual Park Pass to save some money.

Things to Do in Canyonlands National Park

There are a variety of options for things to do in Canyonlands National Park. These must-see attractions are well worth a visit.

Camping in Canyonlands National Park

With three districts, there is plenty of options for camping in Canyonlands National Park. From the Willow Flat Campground to the Needles District Campground all the way to the back country overland camping in the Dollhouse, there are endless places to camp. Keep in mind, almost all of the camping in Canyonlands National Park requires either advanced reservations or a permit.

Overall, no visit to Moab, Utah is complete without spending some time in Canyonlands National Park. Visit this iconic park’s many districts to get a full view of what it has to offer.

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