Who doesn’t want to visit a place that has four districts with names such as Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and The Rivers? The names alone ooze magic, so it’s not a stretch of the imagination to expect a high desert wilderness bursting with bewitching beauty and captivating vistas when you visit Canyonlands National Park. With innumerable canyons and buttes carved out by the Colorado River and its tributaries, every view changes depending on the angle and time of day, so you’ll never see the same thing twice when you visit this national treasure.
According the National Park Service, “Canyonlands National Park preserves 337,598 acres of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires in the heart of southeast Utah’s high desert. Water and gravity have been the prime architects of this land, sculpting layers of rock into the rugged landscape you see today.” With the Green and Colorado Rivers naturally dividing this park into four districts, visitors find that each district offers something unique. Because the park is divided by canyons and rivers, most visitors opt to spread their visit out over a few days as there is no single road that takes you through the park.
Island in the Sky
The easiest district to visit in a short period of time, Island in the Sky offers a plentitude of outlooks to stop and admire the views. The district itself is a mesa that rests on sheer sandstone cliffs over 1,000 feet above the surrounding terrain. Be sure to walk to Grand View Point for amazing views of the other districts and Utah’s second-highest mountain range, the La Sal Mountains. Another popular destination in Canyonlands National Park in Utah is Mesa Arch, an easy hike known for its breathtaking sunrises. If the tourist spots aren’t your jam, don’t worry. Island in the Sky offers miles of backcountry trails for hikers and off-roaders alike, providing access points to miles of backcountry adventures.
Named for the colorful spires of Cedar Mesa Sandstone found throughout this district, there are plenty of foot trails and 4×4 adventure roads to tackle in this colorful gem. Some of the more popular sites to visit include Roadside Ruin, a short loop offering a firsthand view of well-preserved ancestral ruins, as well as Pothole Point, a hiking destination that leads you through uneven slickrock with potholes and rock formations. Another favorite is Cave Spring, an old cowboy camp that also features prehistoric rock paintings.
The least accessible district, visitors usually plan to spend a minimum of three days exploring the true backcountry of this national park.
The Rivers at Canyonlands National Park
Winding and twisting through monumental rock formations, this district is often admired from afar using viewpoints from the surrounding areas. Should you wish to take a journey on the river itself, there are guided river trips available to book.