Canyonlands National Park – Moab, Utah

Canyonlands National Park – Moab, Utah

This park is open year round for enjoyment anytime.  You can start out at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center which is located just inside the park, on the main orad leading into the Island in the Sky District.  It is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm daily, except some winter holidays.  They have extended hours spring through fall.  There are exhibits, publicaitons and inforamtion available at the center.  You can also buy some bottled water to have with you when you go out to see the canyons.

If you start in Needles there is a visitor center there too, located on Route 211, just inside the park.  They also have the same information as Island.

The Maze Dstrict – Hans Flat Ranger Station has the same hours and is located 24 miles south of I-70 on Utah HWY 24.  Just south of the Goblin Valley State Park turnoff, on the east side of the road is a dirt road. Follow this road 46 miles to the Ranger Station. Here is where you obtain permits for overnight trips in The Maze District. You may also call 435-259-2652 for permits.

If you go to the Horseshoe Canyon District you will not find a visitor center or ranger station.  The main turn off to Horseshoe Canyon is 24 miles south of I70 on Utah HWY 24. Just south of the Goblin Valley State Park turnoff, on the east side of the road is a dirt road. Follow the dirt road for 30 miles. There is a fork in the dirt road with directional signage. The left fork goes to Horseshoe Canyon and the Right fork to Hans Flat Ranger Station. No water is available at Horseshoe Canyon. There is a vault toilet but no other service. No camping is allowed in Horseshoe Canyon, but is available at the west rim trailhead. No entrance fees required.

Individual Entrance to Canyonlands: $5 (Good for 7 Days) This fee applies to motorcycles, bicycles and walk-ins (per person).

Vehicle Entrance to Park: $10 (Good for 7 days)
This fee includes all occupants of a vehicle.

Local Passport: $25 (Good for one year)
Good for entrance to Arches, Canyonlands, Hovenweep and Natural Bridges.

Island in the Sky is a sheer-walled mesa that consititues the northern part of Canyonlands National Park.  You can take a scenic drive along the rim of the mesa to see this area.  There are pullouts at vistas where you get a fabulous view of the area that has been created by the Colorado and Green rivers.  For those of you that really like to be way up there, just look down and you will see that in many places you are 1,000 feet above the floor, it is vertually straight down.

Island in the Sky is the most accessible district in Canyonlands.  If you are short on time this is the canyon you want to visit.  It is a great place for four-wheeled drivers and mountain bikers.  The route follows the shelves under the mesa rim and extends for about 100 miles.  Some bikers make it in a day but others choose to camp in the designated campsites and finish the next day.  You do need a permit for overnight stays anywhere in the park and be aware there is no potable water at these sites.

If you are looking at visiting the southeastern nportion of the park you will be visiting Needles.  This area has colorful sandstone spires, hundreds of them in fact, coming up from teh canyon floor.  Along with the spires there are entrenched canyons, natural arches and sheet-walled cliffs.  If you are a rock climber you may find this an enjoyable outting.

The area is famous for its rough jeep trails, some considered the most challenging in the world.  You will need to have a high clearance 4×4 optimized for off-road travel to drive some of the routes that are avaiable.

If you want a beautiful place to hike this is the place for you.  You can get ot Chesler Park, Cave Spring, Confluence Overlook, Elephant Hill or Roadside Ruin from the paths that are available here.

You can also see Newspaper Rock which is a large rock covered with figures carved by various prehistoric cultures.  It is a Utah State Historic Monument.

Another area that requires the 4×4 high-clearance four-wheel drive jeep is the Maze.  It is remote with difficult roads and trails.  If you choose to go here you will need more time than requried at the other stops just because of the remoteness of the area.  Rarely do visitors spend less than three days here and actually is better if you plan a week.

While you are in this area you will be able to see the Doll House, Maze Overlook, Land of Standing Rocks, Golden Stairs, and Orange Cliffs.

This isn’t an area that you casually drop into.  You need to know what you are doing, you need a topographical map and gps in order to get around here and not get lost.  You are 100 miles from nowhere, down axel-busing jeep trails where vehicles crawl along at 5 mph so you certainly don’t want to get lost.  Use the right skill set to visit here, it’s not for the amature first outting.

Most trailheads start from four-wheel-drive roads. Visitors with two-wheel-drive vehicles may park at the North Point Road junction, approximately 2.5 miles southeast of the Hans Flat Ranger Station, and hike 15 miles to the Maze Overlook. Depending on the vehicle, hikers may also be able to negotiate the 14-mile road to park at the top of the Flint Trail switchbacks. Another popular way for backpackers to reach the Maze is via jet boat shuttle from Moab. A two-hour shuttle provides access to Spanish Bottom on the Colorado River. From there, a foot trail climbs over 1,000 feet to the Doll House.

Another exciting place to visit is Horseshoe Canyon.  It contains some of the most significant rock art in North America.  It has the “Great Gallery” which offers well-preserved, life-sized humanoid figures with intricate designs.

This canyon is not contiguous witht he rest of Canyonlands National Park.  It is located between the towns of Green River and Hanksville.  You can access it from the Hanksville side, from Utah Highway 24 via 30 miles of graded dirt road.  Or you can come from Green River on 47 miles of dirt road. 

Hike DetailsRound-trip distance: 6.5 miles
Elevation change: 830 feet
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous
Time needed: 4+ hours
Water: Carry all you need. (There may be running water in the canyon, but don’t count on it. Never drink stream water unless it is treated or filtered.)
Seasons: Spring and fall are best. Hiking can be pleasant during mild periods in winter. Summers are hot, but hiking can be enjoyable during morning hours.

Groups of 20 or more must arrange to hike with a ranger. Contact the ranger station at the number below.

Other rules: No pets; no bicycles; no motorized vehicles. A free permit is needed to bring horses into the area.

Tours: Ranger-led hikes are offered every Saturday and Sunday from April-November. Meet at 9 a.m. at the trailhead bulletin board.

Hans Flat Ranger Station: 435-259-2652.