The Complete Canyonlands Trip
A distant corner of Utah worthy of an extended, careful exploration.
Exploring the Canyonlands Region
The Canyonlands Region of Utah combines the best of the Moab area's easy proximity to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park's most accessible district with some of the United State's most remote and culturally significant landscapes.
While this itinerary will get you started on where to go, this is a region that blossoms with high-contrast desert beauty and powerful prehistory. Take your time to learn about this destination, hire local guides and pause whenever you can to appreciate the forces of nature that created this place.
Canyonlands is made up of three land districts (and the rivers that carved it), and this itinerary explores a couple of them as part of an expansive and awe-inspiring journey through the region.
Get up early and you can catch the first few rays of sunlight streaming through Mesa Arch and the dramatic view it frames of Canyonlands National Park from atop the mesa of the Island in the Sky district. Another short hike will take you to a 1,000-foot high vantage point above the Needles District and wide-open canyonlands. Or drive to Dead Horse Point State Park, an even higher vantage point above the Colorado River, as it curves steeply around the canyon wall.
First-time visitors should plan extra days for Arches National Park and an expanded Moab adventure. Otherwise, start the drive south on U.S. 191 toward a rugged and adventure-rich region with diverse voices as distinctive as the landscape. Criss-cross the land along the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway with stops in the Indian Creek and Shash Jaa units of Bears Ears National Monument, the Needles district of Canyonlands, Hovenweep National Monument and the gateway communities of Monticello, Blanding and Bluff.
Wrap up the region with a guided exploration of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and a trip to Natural Bridges National Monument. It's worth noting that the long, scenic roads back north tempt with detours to more of Utah's most beloved landscapes. In other words, it's worth taking the plus sign of this itinerary seriously.
Read these resources to learn how to travel thoughtfully and experience Utah most fully.
- Start: From Salt Lake City, drive roughly three and a half hours southeast to Moab
- Finish: From the Natural Bridges National Monument, head back to Salt Lake City
- Hours of driving: 16+ hours, including travel between the region and Salt Lake City
Arches Devils Garden Primitive Loop
If you take the Primitive Loop Trail and all short spur trails to nearby arches and other features, this becomes the longest maintained trail in Arches National Park. It’s also one of the most spectacular hikes you can take in any national park.
Bears Ears Area Starter Kit
A pair of distinctive, towering buttes stand against beautiful scenery. We call them "Bears Ears." With the help of local expertise, respectfully explore ancestral cliff dwellings and massive natural bridges in a fascinating desert ecosystem.
Bears Ears National Monument
A pair of towering buttes stand against beautiful scenery. The twin buttes are so distinctive that in each of the native languages of the region their name is the same: Hoon'Naqvut, Shash Jáa, Kwiyagatu Nukavachi, Ansh An Lashokdiwe, or in English: Bears Ears.
Big Needles Loop
Get important Canyonlands National Park Big Needles Loop hiking information here. Find location, difficulty level, length and more.
Canyonlands Slickrock Foot Trail
If you’re a beginner or experienced hiker with a half day to spend in the Needles District, the Slickrock Foot Trail is an excellent way to enjoy it. Many hikes in the Needles follow canyon bottoms, but this trail stays high and gives an overall perspective of the entire southeastern corner of Canyonlands National Park.
Delicate Arch Trail
If you’ve ever seen a postcard or poster of Arches National Park, you’ve probably seen Delicate Arch. This amazing arch has become the symbol of Arches National Park, which is somewhat surprising because it is barely visible from the road.
Fisher Towers Trail
The Fisher Towers Trail explores the Fisher Towers, one of the Utah canyon country’s most bizarre landscapes.
The approach to Canyonlands National Park’s Gooseberry Trail is a short stroll across pock-marked slickrock dotted with various shades of desert brush and gnarled juniper. The distant La Sal Mountains peek through the atmosphere.
White Rim Trail
For a scenic, multi-day Canyonlands mountain biking tour, head for the White Rim Trail! Learn more and plan your expedition today.