Canyonlands National Park

Utah, United States North America icon North America

Canyonlands National Park is located in the southeastern corner of Utah.  The national park covers an area of 527 square miles (1,364.9 sq km).  Canyonlands combines with Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Zion National Park to highlight the natural beauty of the state.

The park is renowned for its abundant canyons, buttes, mesas, and spectacular desert landscapes.  The Colorado River and the Green River along with their tributaries have carved through the Colorado Plateau creating these endless breathtaking landscapes.

The national park is separated into four regions.  These regions or districts include the Island in the Sky, the Maze, the Needles, and the two rivers.  Although each features its own ecological aspects, there is a common denominator of arid desert characteristics amongst them all.

A scenic road, known as White Rim Road, cut across the park in between the river region and the Island in the Sky.  This road is popular among cyclists and four-wheelers.

Cataract Canyon was created by the Colorado River and serves as part of the boundary to the Island in the Sky district.  This district provides scenic vistas viewing the White Rim and the rivers below.

Most of the arches are remote and require extensive hikes or four-wheel-drive excursions to experience them.  Horseshoe Canyon is part of the Maze district and it features historical rock paintings that add intrigue and cultural history to the natural beauty of the park.

The plant life is abundant as well but reflective of arid desert zones.  The desert atmosphere features 11 different cactus species with several other wildflowers and shrubs.  The Utah juniper and pinyon pine are some of the common trees found across the park.

The park is home to over 270 species of birds with a good number of predator species gracing the skies.  Both the powerful golden eagle and majestic bald eagles are found in Canyonlands.  The popular wildlife of the park includes badger, bats, black bears, bobcat, cougar, coyote, elk, mule deer, ring-tailed cat, and skunk. 

Canyonland Highlights

Canyonlands is bountiful with highlights that all leverage the stunning desert landscape that was carved by the Colorado and Green Rivers.  Mesas, buttes, canyons, and arches abound throughout the park.

The Island in the Sky, the Maze, and the Needles are all regions of the park and feature multiple highlights in each area.  Hiking through the park is a highlight as these trails take you to stunning vistas and viewpoints that will leave you speechless.

Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch offers an incredible sunrise view underneath the arch.  The arch is also known as Rotary Arch and Trail Arch.  This is a pothole arch located on the eastern side of the Island in the Sky.

White Rim Road

This scenic unpaved road travels a distance of 71.2 miles (114.6 km).  It follows along the top of the sandstone ridge that sits below the Island in the Sky mesa.  The road usually takes 2 days on four-wheelers and three days on mountain bikes.

Cataract Canyon

Cataract Canyon extends a distance of 46 miles (74 km) along the Colorado River. Half of the canyon is below the waters of Lake Powell.  Whitewater rafting is a common way to engage the canyon.  The walls are layered with colors.  The whitewater rapids are similar to those found in Grand Canyon National Park.

Trails of Canyonlands National Park

There are several trails that allow visitors to engage the national park in full.  Mountain bikes and ATVs allow more of the park to be experienced easier and quicker, but hiking is more intimate.

Grand View Trail: This is an easy 2-mile round-trip that goes allow the mesa edge ending with one of the most stunning views in the world.  This amazing view is what earned the trail’s name, the Grand View Trail. 

Horseshoe Canyon Trail:  This is a difficult 6.5 mile (10.46 km) that crosses through the Maze District.  One of the features of the trail is the historical rock paintings from original natives.

Mesa Arch Trail: This is a short easy trail that is just over half of a mile.  It provides an incredible sunrise view underneath the Mesa Arch. It also provides views of canyons, rock spires, and the La Sal Mountains. The trailhead is just at a wide parking area off Grand View Point Road.

Confluence Overlook Trail:  This is a moderate 11-mile round-trip trail that leads hikers to a vista overlooking the spot where the Colorado River and Green River merge together.  The trail gets hot making hikes in the summer months challenging.  

Upper Salt Creek: This is a really difficult and challenging 22.5 mile (36.2 km) one-way trail.  The trail provides access to some of the most incredible arches and landscapes.  This is a backpacking adventure and for those who are more physically fit.

Canyonlands Highlights

  • Island in the Sky
  • The Maze and the Needles
  • Horseshoe Canyon rock paintings
  • Cataract Canyon
  • Mesa Arch
  • White Rim Road

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