Utah’s largest and most magnificent national park, CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK is as hard to define as it is to map. Its closest equivalent, the Grand Canyon, is by comparison simply an almighty crack in a relatively flat plain; Canyonlands is a bewildering tangle of canyons, plateaus, fissures and faults, scattered with buttes and monoliths, pierced by arches and caverns and penetrated only by a paltry handful of dead-end roads.

Canyonlands focuses on the Y-shaped confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers, buried deep in the desert forty miles southwest of Moab. The only spot from which you can see the rivers meet, however, is a five-mile hike from the nearest road. With no road down to the rivers, let alone across them, the park therefore splits into three major sections. The Needles, east of the Colorado, is a red-rock wonderland of sandstone pinnacles and hidden meadows that’s a favourite with hardy hikers and 4WD enthusiasts, while the Maze, west of both the Colorado and the Green, is a virtually inaccessible labyrinth of tortuous, waterless canyons. In the wedge of the “Y” between the two, the high, dry mesa of the Island In The Sky commands astonishing views, with several overlooks that can easily be toured by car. Getting from any one of these sections to the others involves driving at least a hundred miles.

Canyonlands does not lend itself to a short visit. With no lodging and little camping inside the park, it takes a full day to have even a cursory look at a single segment. Considering that summer temperatures regularly exceed 100°F and most trails have no water and little shade, the Island In The Sky is the most immediately rewarding option. On the other hand, for a long day-hike you’d do better to set off into the Needles.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Podcast: the Black Masking Indians of New Orleans

Podcast: the Black Masking Indians of New Orleans

In 18th-century Louisiana, escapee African slaves would make a break for the bayous. Here they might encounter Native Americans and occasionally find asylum wit…

10 Sep 2018 • Rough Guides Editors volume_up Podcast
The best day-trips from San Francisco

The best day-trips from San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge, rows of colourful Victorian houses, trams chuntering up steep hills: San Francisco is a city full of iconic sights. But it's worth teari…

15 Aug 2018 • Rebecca Hallett insert_drive_file Article
Stargazing in Utah: a postcard from Antelope Island

Stargazing in Utah: a postcard from Antelope Island

Following the USA’s total solar eclipse in 2017, 'astrotourism' is big news. And the growing global light pollution problem means so-called 'dark sky parks' a…

03 Aug 2018 • Jacqui Agate insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs