Canyonlands is a remarkable adventure destination. None of the park’s viewpoints are without steeply incised canyons within in all directions. Dramatic overlooks offer unbelievable 100-mile views. The abrasive Colorado River’s force, dating back 300 million years, has gouged out the complex series of canyons and shaped the barren jagged landscape.
Where the Green and Colorado Rivers merge the park splits into a Y shape, creating three distinctive districts: The Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze. The most accessible area within the park is the 6,000-foot-high Island in sky, near the Moab entrance and it offers superb vistas. click here for further details
This area is an immense geologic wilderness of rock in an expanse known as the Colorado Plateau. The greatest concentration of canyons in the world is found here, the likes of which found nowhere else on earth. There are spires known as needles that cluster much like skyscrapers against the skyline and everywhere there are vertical roughhewn canyon walls of rich red and dusty orange, depending on the spotlight of the sun.
Nestled along the Green and Colorado Rivers between two other national parks, Arches National Park and Glen Canyon, Canyonlands is Utah’s largest national park with more than 337,500 acres and America’s showcase of geology. It is grander than the Grand Canyon, without the crowds and far more fascinating.
Beneath Canyonlands lies a vast deposit of salt, remnants of the early inland ocean periods. Below the surface, when the salt is squeezed, it rises to cause fractures in the stone which in turn works to create the artistry of arches, mesas, buttes and spires known as “needles” that are found here.
The first Native Americans known to inhabit the Canyonlands region were hunter gathers, who wondered the area 2,000 to 10,000 years ago in search of game and edible plants. The Ute, Navajo, and Paiute Indians were occupying Southern Utah by the 18th century and Europeans arrived to begin sheep grazing in the late 19th century. The craggy canyons once provided hideouts for outlaws such as Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, foiling all attempts to find them.
Prehistoric advancing and retreating of oceans left thick deposits of beach sands, marine limestone, and buried sediment that formed to become solid rock and pressure from the overlying layers and water cemented them. The result of this geologic process ranks Canyonlands as one of the best places in the world to see well established landforms and naked plain. The region’s arid climate and sparse vegetation are what permits the bare expanses of stone.
Few visitors ever truly see the heart of Canyonlands National Park unless they go beyond the easily accessible areas, as there are no paved roads that cross the park. Services are few and far between in and near Canyonlands National Park.
Special considerations, even when intending to remain on the paved roads; carry food, drinking water and emergency vehicle repair gear. The nearest services to the Island in the Sky entrance are found in the town of Moab and the nearest services to the Maze are the towns of Hanksville and Green River.
Canyonlands National Park is located in Utah’s southeastern corner, 240 miles from Salt Lake City by way of US 6, Interstate 70 and US 191.