Best of Canyonlands National Park
White Rim Road: Take a few days to drive or bike this trail at the base of the Island in the Sky. Only high-clearance four-wheel-drive rigs or sturdy mountain bikes can make it on this scenic drive along the Colorado and Green Rivers.
Mesa Arch Trail: This easy trail leads to a dramatic cliff-side arch. The sun rising through the arch is a sight to behold—if you have time and energy for just one hike in Canyonlands, this should be it.
Grand View Trail: This short hike along slickrock cliffs captures the essence of the “Island in the Sky.” A sheer mile below the trail, the gorges of the Colorado and Green Rivers join to form Cataract Canyon, and in the distance, the odd promontories of the Needles District punctuate the skyline.
BLM Newspaper Rock Historical Monument: This is one of Utah’s foremost prehistoric rock-art sites and also one of the most easily accessible. The distinctive petroglyphs here span 2,000 years of human history.
Cave Spring Trail: The Cave Spring Trail in the Needles District introduces the geology and ecology of the park and passes an old cowboy line camp. It’s also a good introduction to slickrock hiking; rock cairns mark the way and ladders assist hikers on the steep sections.
Chesler Park: A lovely desert meadow contrasts with the characteristic red and white spires of the Needles District. The trail winds through sand and slickrock before ascending a small pass through the Needles to Chesler Park; the park itself is encircled by a loop trail.
Land of Standing Rocks: Rock spires stand guard over myriad canyons in the Maze District. Land of Standing Rocks is a good place to camp, hike, and generally explore, but it takes some getting to. Be sure to have a high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle, a compass, and some good maps.
Great Gallery Trail: Ghostly life-size pictographs in the Great Gallery are in remote Horseshoe Canyon, just west of the main part of Canyonlands. The hike in to the gallery also offers pleasant scenery and spring wildflowers.
River-Running through Cataract Canyon: Downstream from its confluence with the Green River, the Colorado River enters Cataract Canyon and picks up speed. The rapids begin four miles downstream and extend for the next 14 miles to Lake Powell. Especially in spring, the 26 or more rapids give a wild ride equal to the best in the Grand Canyon.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition