The Wow Factor at Canyonlands National Park


Updated February 2018

Nature has a way of making me feel small and insignificant yet powerful and important all at the same time. These feelings consumed me as I sat on a mesa overlooking the extraordinary vast landscape of Canyonlands National Park. The park has the wow factor times ten and I’m not sure how many more times I can say, “WOW!”

See for yourself…

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

In southeastern Utah, Canyonlands National Park is the largest park in the state at 527 square miles. It is broken up into four separate districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze and The River. We visited Island in the Sky and Needles, two of the most easily accessed areas by car. The Maze is the most remote area and is the least accessible. It is considered some of the most rugged land in the states and is an off-roading paradise.

We would love to come back and rent a rock crawler, but for now we hiked through the wild terrain of the other two districts on our own two feet.


Canyonlands National ParkCanyonlands National Park (28)

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park Itinerary

Island in the Sky

The 34-mile roundtrip scenic drive through Island in the Sky is atop the flat mesa overlooking the dramatic canyon. There are many overlooks that provide different perspectives on the landscape below.

The highlights of our day include Mesa Arch, Shafer Canyon Overlook, White Rim Overlook, Grand View Point, and both overlooks at Upheaval Dome.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Island in the Sky (3)

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

The Needles

The Needles District, on the southeast corner of the park, earned its name from the spears of Cedar Mesa Sandstone that stand at attention throughout the district. The drive is on a short paved road leading to 60 miles of interconnecting trails.

The highlights of our day include Roadside Ruin, Cave Spring, Pothole Point, Slickrock and Big Spring Canyon Overlook.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National ParkCanyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

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Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park (33)

Canyonlands National Park (31)

Canyonlands National Park (30)

Perfect Base for Exploring Canyonlands: Moab

Home base for the week is Canyonlands RV Resort & Campground in the town of Moab, only 3.5 hours from Salt Lake City and 90 minutes from Grand Junction. The town is in an ideal location: 5.5 miles south of the entrance to Arches National Park, 30 miles northeast of Dead Horse Point State Park, 32 miles northeast of Island in the Sky Visitor Center in Canyonlands National Park, and 76 miles east of the entrance to Needles District, Canyonlands National Park.

Moab has many lodging options including hotels, motels, resorts, B&B’s and campgrounds. It is a gateway to a playground for the adventurous: hiking, four-wheel drive excursions, white-water rafting, canoeing, biking, and horseback riding.

Canyonlands National Park (29)

Know Before You Go

  • $25 per car, $15 per motorcycle, $10 per person on foot/bike.
  • Island in the Sky Visitor Center open 9:00 am – 4:30 pm (March – December).
  • Needles Center open 8:00 am – 5:00 pm (March – November).
  • Maze District – Hans Flat Ranger Station open 8:00 am – 4:30 pm (year round).
  • Leashed pets only in parking areas and campground, not on trails or backcountry areas.
  • Stay on trails to protect fragile soil.
  • Parking is permitted only in designated areas and is strictly enforced.
  • Water is not available in most areas except the Visitor Centers from Spring – Fall.
  • Most excursions for horseback riding, kayaking, biking, rafting, or off-roading depart from Moab.

And so our epic 80 day summer road trip continues – 12 U.S. states, 2 Canadian province and 13 national parks.

Miles Driven: 257, Total Road Trip Miles Driven: 9,007, Average Gas Price per Gallon: $2.29

All States Visited: Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, British Columbia & Alberta Provinces, Washington, Oregon, Idaho

If you would like to see our full itinerary, start at the beginning here. And Start at Day One here.

Next: Driving Off a Cliff

Have you been to Utah? What’s your favorite thing to do?

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17 Responses

  1. Chris Travels

    Your pictures are AMAZING! What more can be said? I am in Utah now and it definately has beautiful, “otherworldly” landscapes, for sure!

  2. Betsy

    You should check out the Amana Colony in Iowa and be sure to take the walking tour. So interesting.

  3. Lisa

    I love love Utah. We are going back in the spring again. Your pictures capture the beauty so well. It is a hikers paradise! North Utah is amazing too.

    • Dang Travelers

      We fell in love with Utah as well Lisa! Cannot wait to go back and visit Zion and Bryce too. Too many places, so little time! Thanks for reading!!

  4. Paul

    Wow the landscape looks so amazing and your pictures really make us want to explore there right now! At least you still have more plans to return to explore the harder to reach places.

  5. Llamateurs

    Wow, I know everybody says that, but photos are completely out from this planet 😀 Wow x 1000 ! 🙂 I would really like to visit this place now! But it is quite far by now…but maybe in the future!

  6. Juliette @ Snorkels To Snow

    Wow what magnificent photos! You’re right, I would feel very insignificant too there! My brother & father did a big US trip some years ago and into Canyonlands National Park and I remember viewing the photos from their trip, in awe.

  7. Nancy

    Wow, at first look at your photo’s I thought this was going to be about Monument Valley but what a surprise to find this is in Utah! The petroglyphs are very cool too.

  8. Vivian Lee

    In my opinion, Canyonland is one of the most beautiful national parks in the States, plus it is not at all touristy. When I was there last summer with my friends, we were the only group wandering around, literally! However it can get quite hot in the summer. Only managed to visit he needles, I’ll be back again! Thank you for your great post!

  9. Alina Popescu

    The photos in this post are simply incredible! I love these views and would like to spend some time here, even if it doesn’t look like the easiest trip ever. The scenery is just too gorgeous.

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