SUMMER ROAD TRIP, DAYS 59 & 60
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 consume me as I sit on a mesa overlooking the extraordinary vast landscape. This park has the wow factor times ten and I’m not sure how many more times I can say, “WOW!”
See for yourself…
Here’s a two day itinerary for Canyonlands National Park and everything you need to know for your visit.
Where is 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 districts on our own two feet which is perfect if you only have a day or two. The entrances are about 100 miles apart so stretching your visit to two days is the best option. If you only have one day and are open to covering some major mileage, it can done if you start REAL early.
Canyonlands National Park Itinerary
Day One – Island in the Sky
The 34-mile roundtrip scenic drive through Island in the Sky is atop the flat mesa overlooking the dramatic canyon. Start early and begin your day at the Island in the Sky Visitors Center, where you get the first glimpse of the 1,000-foot deep canyon.
As you drive around this section of the park there are many pullouts that provide different perspectives on the landscape below. Stretch your legs and take the short hike to the Mesa Arch where you’ll find a gorgeous view of the rocky terrain below. Definitely a must-do in Canyonlands.
At the southernmost section is Grand View Point, follow the paved path to spectacular views of the White Rim and the distant mountains. If you planned for two days and have time, take the 1-mile walk along the cliff edge. It’s short and easy and provides a different perspective into the Maze.
The highlights of the morning also include Shafer Canyon Overlook, White Rim Overlook, and both overlooks at Upheaval Dome.
HOT TIP: The White Rim Overlook is a fantastic spot for a lunch break with picnic tables and restrooms.
Day Two – 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.
It is the most remote area of the park and features extensive hiking trails, incredible geology and vistas galore.
On the way in near the entrance, you’ll notice a turn off for Newspaper Rock, a Utah State Historic Monument. It is one of the largest collections of petroglyphs from over 2,000 years ago.
The highlight of your day includes Roadside Ruin, Cave Spring, Pothole Point, Slickrock and Big Spring Canyon Overlook.
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.
Know Before You Go
- $30 per car, $25 per motorcycle, $15 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 – 13 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces and 13 national parks.
Miles Driven: 257, Total Road Trip Miles Driven: 9,007, Average Gas Price per Gallon: $2.29
Up Next on the Road Trip: Driving Off a Cliff
Have you been to Utah? What’s your favorite thing to do?
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