In Canyonlands National Park, river meets desert, forming striking canyons and towering flat buttes and mesas. Explore all four districts of the park.
Island in the Sky is a mesa, a large flat hill with steep sides falling 1,000 feet (300 meters) to the arid lands below. Reach the mesa by hiking, driving or bicycling across a narrow access path near the park’s northern entrance. Then travel along the mesa’s rim and stop for outstanding views at numerous pullouts. One popular site is Upheaval Dome, an unusual formation of rock pushed up in a circle and then warped down. Study the area to determine which theory of its formation you believe: salt bubble or meteorite impact crater.
The Needles district presents the opposite perspective, looking up at towering pinnacles from valleys eroded through the region’s sandstone. Backpack or drive a four-wheel drive to visit some of the individual named features, including Elephant Hill and Tower Ruin.
Venture to the Maze to experience very remote parts of the park. Travel here requires high-clearance four-wheel drive autos or self-sustained backpacking. Get a permit to camp for one or more nights to discover the area’s formations and appreciate its tranquility. Horseshoe Canyon has spring wildflowers and life-size rock art.
Finally, explore the rivers. At the first part of its journey, the Colorado River is relatively narrow, but it has had the strength over many centuries to carve its way through layers of sandstone. Canoe or kayak down the canyons of the Colorado or Green rivers. The two rivers meet at the Confluence and merge to create world-class whitewater conditions down Cataract Canyon. Check river level and flow rate to ensure conditions are appropriate for your plans and skill level.
Borrow a kids’ toolkit from the visitor center to help your children develop naturalist skills. They can earn Junior Ranger badges too.
The park is under an hour’s drive from Arches National Park and Moab. Consider a multi-day trip to explore both parks. U.S. national parks offer beautiful views and affordable adventures for all travelers. Enjoy your trip to Canyonlands National Park.