The Official Guide Book On What To Do And Where To Go™

Visit Canyonlands National Park from Moab

If you’re planning a visit to Canyonlands, it’s important to get your geography straight. This national park is so expansive that it is comprised of three distinct areas, known as districts, that can take several hours to travel between. The closest area to Moab is the Island in the Sky district, just 32 miles from town. Depending on how much time you have, you might want to be decisive with your plans.

Discovering the 3 Distinct Canyonlands Districts

Island in the Sky – The closest district to Moab, Island in the Sky is a wide, high plateau with commanding views across many miles of deep red rock canyons in all directions. Island in the Sky has about 20 miles of paved highway and some gravel roads with several viewpoints. It is the most accessible district and the easiest to visit in a short period of time. There are many hiking trails, including a path to Upheaval dome, a weird moonlike crater with peaks springing from its center. Firewood and water are not available at campsites.

The Maze – Just west of the rivers, this is the wildest and most remote section of the national park. This most inaccessible district of Canyonlands requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle, time and self-sufficiency. The Hans Flat Ranger Station is a three-hour drive west from Moab via Interstate 70. From Interstate 70 take Utah Hwy 24 south along unpaved roads, starting between Hanksville and Green River, across relatively flat and completely uninhabited terrain to Hans Flat Ranger Station. The roads are passable only in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. No paved roads. There are no amenities, food or gas.

The Needles – In the southeast region of the park approximately 76 miles from Moab, The Needles district is the heart of rock country and offers many opportunities for exploring. Utah Hwy 211 ends in The Needles District and is the only paved road leading in and out. The Needles District has only eight miles of roads accessible by foot, four-wheel-drive vehicles or mountain bikes. Note the petroglyphs on the rock face at Newspaper Rock on the road into The Needles District.

What You Should Know About Visiting Canyonlands National Park

Planning Your Visit – Canyonlands is open year-round, 24 hours a day. Each district has its own visitor center with operating hours that differ depending on the season. Check the park’s official website for the most current information.

Also remember that travel to Canyonlands usually requires a car. Once in the park, each district requires some boating, hiking or four-wheel driving to see the area’s attractions. Food, gas, lodging and similar services are not available in Canyonlands.

Entrance fees – Each entry fee is valid for all three districts of Canyonlands. All passes can be purchased at all park entrances. Credit cards accepted. Consider the following:

  • Vehicle entry is $10, including one vehicle and all passengers for seven days.
  • Individual entry on bicycle, motorcycle or on foot is $5 for each individual and is valid for seven days.
  • Annual Local Passports cost $25 and permit entrance into Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Hovenweep National Monument and Natural Bridges National Monument for one year.
  • The America the Beautiful Annual Pass for $80 is the best value when visiting multiple national parks or monuments.
  • Interagency Annual, Senior and Access Passes are accepted.

Exploring Canyonlands – To truly appreciate this geologic fantasyland, you’ll want to allow four or five days to explore all three districts. Don’t forget:

  • Leave Moab with a full tank of gas, food, lots of water, a spare tire and sun protection. There are no restaurants or hotel accommodations in the park.
  • Canyon country is not a friend to mobile phones. Do no rely on GPS units to guide you in the park. Once you enter Canyonlands, cellular service diminishes great, especially in the canyons (away from the pavement).
  • Pets are not allowed on any trails. Pets may be walked on roads or in parking lots and can also accompany you at roadside pullouts and scenic lookouts but must be leashed and restrained at all times when outside a vehicle.

To find out more information about Canyonlands National Park and things to do during your visit, or you want to more about the other national and state parks near Moab, pick up one of our free GuestGuides in town.

Tags: What to Do