Hello little sailors,
Canyonlands National Park invites you to explore a wild landscape of countless beautiful canyons and rock formations. It is a very underrated National Park in my opinion and most people miss out a lot by skipping it.
This March my fiancé and I spent a weekend full of hiking and exploring there. Read on to find out why you should put it on your Travel Bucket List:
Stunning Landscapes Across Four Huge Districts
Each of the districts has unique features and characteristics! The Colorado and Green river divide the park into four huge districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves. These areas share an interesting desert atmosphere, but each offers different opportunities for sightseeing and activities.
We spent our time in the Island in the Sky district, since it is the easiest to access. Perfect for the first time visiting! It offers a scenic drive with various amazing overlooks and several hiking opportunities.
Island in the Sky
Island in the Sky is the home of the famous Mesa Arch, which you’ve probably seen in movies or on Instagram pictures sometime. I desperately wanted to see it for myself since I saw it in the documentary movie “Baraka”.
A lot of photographers and nature lovers like to come out here to watch the sunrise, since the bottom of the arch glows from reflected sunlight on most mornings.
It was our first stop in Canyonlands National Park, and it blew my mind immediately! The short trail to it was fun to hike and we quickly learned a lot about desert plants on our way. Check the plants for little signs when you walk the trails. The first few hours being in the park my brain could not understand views like that at all, it didn’t feel real to me. Tanner and I really felt like someone put us in a painting. Do you ever get such a feeling when you’re out at amazing places like this?
The Needles district offers more of a backcountry experience and requires some hiking or a four-wheel driving to see the area’s attractions.
The Maze district is the most difficult to reach. This district requires considerably more time and self-reliance to visit, so make sure you have enough time and outdoor experience for exploring this region.
Colorado and Green Rivers
The rivers are definitely a unique way to experience the National Park. This adventure requires more time as well, since it usually involves two or more days of rafting. The rivers have played a significant role in shaping the landscape of Canyonlands, which you can also see from above on the many viewpoints.
The rivers offer miles and miles of flat water, perfect for canoeing, kayaking and other shallow-water boats. You can book guided tours online or locally in Moab. If you want to explore the rivers privately please note the regulations of the park (permit for overnight private river trips etc.). You can find more information on their official website.
All in all the four districts give you many opportunities for adventures and different kinds of activities. No matter how long you stay, you will find a way to come back and spend several shorter trips in this beautiful area! You will be rewarded with stunning views and beautiful nature everywhere you look here.
Hiking in the Desert
Being in the high desert of Utah was exciting, especially in Canyonlands National Park. It’s a huge and diverse National Park with many hiking trails. The district Island in the Sky and The Needles provide plenty opportunities for short walks, day hikes and backpacking trips. Due to its remote location, The Maze is primarily a backpacking destination, so keep that in mind! The trails are usually marked with cairns (small rock piles).
Moreover, you’ll get a map from the Rangers when entering the park. For trail research before getting there I recommend the App “AllTrails”.
Everywhere we went I felt like I was put into and old Western Movie. I lovingly refer to the red coloured rocks that you can spot everywhere as “Cowboy Rocks”. If you are a fan of old Westerns you’ve definitely got to check out West USA and its National Parks like Canyonlands, Arches, Monument Valley and so on!
In Canyonlands local ranchers used much of the land for winter pasture in the 1880s through 1975. Cowboys searched the canyons for good feed and water and constructed trails to move their stock across the rugged terrain. To guard their herds, cowboys lived in primitive camps for weeks at a time. The Cave Spring Trail in The Needles district features one such camp.
Our accommodation, the Archview RV Resort & Campground, completed the whole fun and interesting “cowboy feeling” during our vacation.
Moab is the little city right next to Canyonlands. It has much to offer for its size. There are options for all tastes; giving it a big city feel while retaining small town comfort. It offers a number of restaurants, cafés and shops. In many shops you can find handmade crafts and gifts from local artists.
I really enjoyed wandering through the stores and looking at all the amazing things. It is definitely worth the stop for natural wood items, handmade kitchen spoons and other utensils, natural jewelry and much more. Strolling around Moab completes an already perfect vacation!
Where to Eat?
We fell in love with the cozy Peace Tree Juice Café and went there several times for breakfast and dinner. Their food is very delicious, vegetarian friendly and the staff was very welcoming and kind each time we went there.
What we ate:
Vegetarian Quinoa Burger
Nachos with Homemade Salsa
Arches Nationalpark is just Around the Corner!
This red-rock wonderland and Canyonlands are only a thirty minute drive away from each other! It wows with its unique rock formations and its various number of hiking trails. Perfect for combining two National Parks in one vacation!
All in all, Canyonlands and the area around it have many more reasons why it is worth a visit. These were my highlights and my most outstanding reasons to give it a go!
Tanner and I are planning to return and explore more of the districts. We also plan on renting bikes next time! Have you ever visited Canyonlands and biked there? Please let me know! I’d love to hear about your experiences and recommendations.
Fun fact: Did you know that Canyonlands is a very young National Park? It officially opened in 1965 and was founded in 1964. President Lyndon Johnson saw a National Park in this area and signed legislation for it in 1964. He helped to protect and preserve the park’s beautiful landscape of red rocks, incredible canyons and stunning mesas!
Are you ready for your next Outdoor Adventure?
Farewell and see you soon,