Canyonlands National Park
The canyon country of southeastern Utah puts on its supreme performance in this vast park, which spreads across 527 square miles. The deeply entrenched Colorado and Green Rivers meet in its heart, then continue south as the mighty Colorado through tumultuous Cataract Canyon Rapids. These two rivers are administered as the park’s River District. Additionally, they divide the main body of Canyonlands National Park into three other districts.
Island in the Sky lies north between the rivers, the Maze is to the west, and Needles is to the east. In addition, a fifth district, the Horseshoe Canyon Unit, with its trove of rock art, lies a dozen miles west of the park’s main land block. Each district has its own distinct character. No bridges connect the three land districts in the main block, so most visitors have to leave the park to go from one region to another.
The huge park can be seen in many ways and on many levels. Paved roads reach a few areas, four-wheel drive roads go to more places, and hiking trails reach still more, yet much of the land shows no trace of human passage. To get the big picture, take an aerial tour from Moab over this incredible complex of canyons. However, only a river trip or a hike lets you experience the solitude and detail of the land.
The park can be visited in any season of the year, with spring and autumn the best choices. Summer temperatures can rise above 100°F. Carrying (and drinking) water becomes critical then; carry at least one gallon per person per day. Arm yourself with insect repellent from late spring to midsummer. Winter days tend to be bright and sunny, though nighttime temperatures can dip into the teens or even below 0°F. Visitors coming in winter should inquire about travel conditions, as snow and ice occasionally close roads and trails at the higher elevations.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition