Canyonlands Travel Tips
Canyonlands National Park Logistics
Location: Canyonlands National Park is located in east-central Utah, southwest of Moab. Commercial airlines serve Grand Junction, Colorado, and Salt Lake City, Utah. By car, these cities are at least 2 and 4 hours (respectively) away from the closest park entrance (Island in the Sky). Commercial air service is also available between Denver and Moab.
Each district of Canyonlands must be visited separately; no bridges or roads connect the districts within the park. To get to the Needles District from Moab take U.S. 191 south for 40 miles and turn right (west) onto S.R. 211. Follow this paved road 35 miles to the Needles District entrance station. Be careful not to take Needles Overlook Road, which takes off a few miles before the correct junction. This road does not take you to Canyonlands National Park. Watch for the Canyonlands National Park sign before turning. From Monticello drive 14 miles north on U.S. 191 and turn left (west) onto S.R. 211.
To get to Island in the Sky from Moab, drive north on U.S. 191 10 miles to S.R. 313. To reach the same point from farther north, drive 22 miles south from I-70. Once on SR 313 drive southwest 25 miles to the Island in the Sky entrance station.
Only unpaved roads access the Maze. The Hans Flat Ranger Station is two and one-half hours from Green River, Utah. From I-70, take Utah Highway 24 south for 24 miles. A left-hand turn just beyond the turnoff to Goblin Valley State Park will take you along a two-wheel-drive dirt road 46 miles (76 km) southeast to the ranger station.
There are two additional areas in Canyonlands National Park: the Horseshoe Canyon Unit, which is a detached section northwest of the Maze and features prehistoric pictographs in the Great Gallery; and the River District, which includes stretches of the Green River and Colorado River.
Fees and Permits
7-day entrance passes to Canyonlands National Park cost $30 per private vehicle (15 passengers or less) and $25 per person for motorcyclists and $15 for bicyclists and pedestrians. The National Park Service allows free entrance on various days throughout the year. See the park website for dates.
When to visit and visitor center hours
Canyonlands National Park is open year-round, 24 hours a day. Each district has its own visitor center with operating hours that change with the seasons. These are great places to find Canyonlands travel tips, maps and more. Spring and fall are the best times to visit. Summer can be brutally hot, while winter can be extremely cold. Of course, with extreme temperatures you will find fewer visitors and more solitude.
Island in the Sky visitor center is open daily spring through fall from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with longer hours during the summer. It is closed in the winter. Backcountry permits are issued up until one hour before closing. The visitor center is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and from late December through February.
The Needles visitor center is open daily spring through fall from at least 8:30 a.m to 4:00 p.m. It is closed in the winter. The visitor center closes on Thanksgiving Day and from early December through February.
The Hans Flat Ranger Station in the Maze is open daily, year round, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It will be closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.
Geography and Geology
Canyonlands National Park is a unique outdoor museum of natural history and geology. It is a landscape dominated by rock. Here erosion has sculpted, sliced, and shaped the bedrock into cliffs, pinnacles, flying buttresses, minarets, abrupt canyons, and rounded domes. The horizontal strata of sedimentary rocks, stacked like layers on a wedding cake, yields a lesson in geological history. Each rock layer seen here — Navajo sandstone, Kayenta Formation, Wingate sandstone, the Chinle and Moenkopi Formations, White Rim sandstone, and Cutler Formation — tells a tale of the earth’s varied history.
The cliff-forming Navajo and Wingate sandstones were deposited as immense sand dunes that blanketed most of Utah during the Mesozoic Era. Earlier formations were laid down as sand, silt, and mud on floodplains and broad river deltas during moister times.
GPS coordinates of park entrances
There is no overnight lodging in Canyonlands National Park. Lodging is available in the nearby towns of Moab, Hanksville, and Monticello. Visit the Discover Moab website for more information.
There are several camping options in and around Canyonlands National Park. Three miles west of the Needles entrance station is Squaw Flat Campground (26 sites, $15 per night, electrical hookups, drinking water, fire pits, picnic tables, tent pads, ADA sites, and flush and vault toilets). Reservations are accepted for group campsites only.
Nine miles southwest of the Island in the Sky entrance is the Willow Flat Campground (12 sites, $10 per night, fire pits, tent pads, vault toilets, no water, no reservations).
Campers should also know that the terrain between Island in the Sky and Dead Horse Point is BLM administered public land. If all other camping options have been exhausted, those prepared for self-sufficient (and minimum-impact) camping might find decent primitive sites along dirt roads to the west of Highway 313 between Island in the Sky and the Dead Horse Point turnoff. Keep in mind that camping on public land at undesignated sites requires special diligence to maintain the pristine nature of the land. Use existing fire rings or do without your evening campfire, and remember that campfires are often prohibited by late summer.
There is also a campground at Dead Horse Point State Park, reached by turning east of S.R. 313 before you enter Canyonlands northern entrance. The campground here has electrical hookups and water, and, unlike the first-come-first-served national park campgrounds, you can use your credit card to reserve a site (go to www.reserveamerica.com or call 800-322-3770).
Nearest Groceries and Supplies
There are no services in Canyonlands National Park, but the Needles Outpost on S.R. 211 just outside the park offers fuel, a well-stocked general store and camping options. Food, gas, lodging, and other services are available in the nearby towns of Moab, Hanksville, and Monticello.
Climate and Weather
Life here has adapted to powerful forces. Precipitation in Canyonlands National Park averages a meager 8 inches annually, while the extreme temperature range, from 25 below zero to 115 degrees, is one of the widest in the world.
Spring and autumn offer the most moderate temperatures for visitors and is the best time to visit. Summer temperatures can rise about 100 degrees F, and winter can be cold with lows in the teens or even lower.