Canyonlands National Park   9 comments

Canyonlands-NP-00Where Is It: Roughly in the middle of nowhere. It’s:

  • 365 miles west of Denver, CO
  • 244 miles SE of Salt Lake City, UT
  • 472 miles NE of Las Vegas, NV
  • 364 miles NW of Sante Fe, NM

The Birth: From National Parks Traveler:

On September 12, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson established Canyonlands National Park. It was Initially 257,640 acres, and then expanded to 337,598 acres in 1971.

Those who want a larger park point out that if from the lip of Grand View Point an immense ruddy landscape in a constant state of decay sweeps before your eyes, and yet, though you’re in the heart of Canyonlands, not all you see is within the park.

There have been efforts in the 80s and 90s to expand the park, stretching its boundaries so all you can see from its most scenic vistas is a part of the park. However, Utah’s residents often resent the federal government’s land ownership in large part because they see it as an impediment to economic development. Therefore, enlarging the Park has never become a successful movement.

It Happened Here: Prospectors searched Canyonlands for uranium in the 50s and 60s … bulldozing roads and digging several deep shafts. Some ore was found, but yields were not worth the effort. Shortly after that failure, the area was designated a National Park.

Size: 337,598 acres.

# Visitors: 452,952 visitors in 2012. January is the least attended month; May is the greatest.

Plants: The cactus, especially the saguaro, has become emblematic of the American southwest. Eleven species of cactus are found in Canyonlands, though the saguaro is not one of them.

Animals: Many species avoid the hot daytime sun, but most are active at least during dawn and dusk. Black bears are uncommonly seen in the Park. Bighorn sheep and mule deer are much more common, though the mountain lions that prey on them are rarely seen.

Choices: From

A Few Hours Drive the park’s 20 miles (32.2 km) of paved roads and enjoy the spectacular views.  Sunrise and sunset are particularly beautiful times of day to enjoy these lofty panoramic views of canyon country.
1/2 day Drive the paved scenic drive and hike some of the shorter trails, such as the Mesa Arch or Upheaval Dome Trails.  A recent theory suggests that Upheaval Dome was created by a meteor impact.
Full Day Drive the paved scenic drive and hike some of the longer trails in the park, such as the 5 mile (8 km) round trip Neck Spring Trail.  Those with high clearance/4WD vehicles can drive down the Shafer Trail to the White Rim and explore Musselman Arch, or drive all the way down to the Colorado River via Lathrop Canyon.
Several Days Backpackers can experience the solitude of Canyonlands by hiking some of the trails from the mesa top to the White Rim (steep & strenuous) and spend the night in the backcountry.  4-wheel drive enthusiasts or mountain bikers may want to travel the 100 mile “White Rim Trail” which loops below the Island in the Sky mesa.  Reservations for White Rim campsites and backcountry permits are required.  (435) 259-4351

Fees: $10 for a private vehicle’s entrance; good for 7 days.

Staying There: There is no lodging in the Park. Camping sites go quickly and are frequently difficult to get. Don’t show up midday and expect to get a site.

Contact Info:

2282 SW Resource Blvd.
Moab, UT 84532
Park Administration: (435) 719-2100
Recorded Information: (435) 719-2313
Backcountry Reservation Office: (435) 259-4351

Current Issues: A new park policy, begun September 22, requires backcountry travelers to carry out their human waste. Overnight backcountry permit holders for Chesler Park and Elephant Canyon backpacking campsites and the Peekaboo vehicle campsite in the park’s Needles District are affected.

The Park is also removing two vault toilets from Paul Bunyan’s Potty and the Peekaboo vehicle campsite. “These toilets are being removed due to the increasing difficulty of servicing the toilets, and in an effort to return the areas to their remote backcountry condition, the park said in a release.”

Don’t Miss This: From National Park Traveler’s website:

So if you’re planning to visit Canyonlands in the near, or even the not-so-near, future, let us point out some stops you definitely shouldn’t avoid.

* Do visit the Island in the Sky District of the park. For starters, the views from the Grand View and and Green River overlooks explain without a doubt how this national park got its name. But there’s more. The photograph of sunrise through Mesa Arch is iconic. Scampering up onto the back of Whale Rock is a guaranteed kid-pleaser, and also allows you a gander into the maw of Upheaval Dome, which some scientists believe was created by a rock from outer space smashing into the Earth. An added bonus for history buffs is the short hike up onto Aztec Butte, where you can see the ruins of granaries built by ancestral Puebloans to store corn and grains.

* It’s a somewhat long drive if you’re staying in Moab, but don’t deny yourself a visit to the Needles District. The trek here rewards you with the park’s best campground — Squaw Flat –, a nice auto tour that leads you past such interesting points as Wooden Shoe, Roadside Ruin, and Pothole Point, and, if you manage to find a spot in the campground, some of the most star-studded skies in this part of the country. If you’re too late for a first-come, first-served spot at Squaw Flat, just east of the Needles entrance you’ll find the Canyonlands Needles Outpost, which also offers campsites as well as gas, a store, and a small restaurant.

* Once you get to the Needles, get out and walk around. Head a bit of a ways, if not farther, down the trail to Chesler Park. The red rock landscape with its boulders, spires, and cliffs wraps itself around you. Also make a point of walking along the Cave Spring Trail. Though less than a mile in length, it certainly packs a lot into that short stretch. You’ll see an historic cowboy camp stuffed into an alcove, spot some prehistoric petroglyphs, and climb up two wooden ladders onto the top of this rockscape where you’ll enjoy some great views of the surroundings.

* Either while going to or coming from the Needles, stop and check out Newspaper Rock. Though outside the national park, this state historic site is well-worth a stop. The rock is actually a 200-square-foot panel of cliffside that has served, down through the centuries, as a kind of graffiti tableau for Native Americans. Pondering aloud what the artists meant is a proven conversation starter.

* Don’t write-off a spring or fall trip to this park. The weather is cooler than summer, the crowds fewer, and the lodgings more easily snagged. Just avoid Easter weekend, as that’s when a large off-road vehicle event takes over Moab and lodgings not only can be hard to find but are more expensive than usual.

* Do yourself a favor: Bring a cooler, or buy one of those cheap Styrofoam ones in Moab, and pack it with ice and cold drinks. You’ll appreciate this stash when you get back to your rig after one of your short hikes. And don’t forget salty snacks. Visit in summer and you’re sure to perspire and rundown your on-board stores.

* Treat yourself to breakfast at the Jailhouse Cafe in downtown Moab. You’ll find all the calories you’ll need for a day in the park. And enjoy a dinner at the Desert Bistro on the north end of town. It’s owned and operated by two climbers, so if you want to find some secret spots, ask Karl or Michelle.


National Park Service: Canyonlands National Park

Live Laugh RV: Yep, That’s My Photo

Jason’s Travels: Exploring The Canyonlands

Puddle-Wonderful: Canyonlands

9 responses to “Canyonlands National Park

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  1. Double WOW!!!

  2. Another wonderful national park. I’m hoping all our parks will reopen soon. Would love to see this one in the coming year — it’s on the short term bucket list!!!

  3. Am wondering if you can drag an RV there safely in the winter months.

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