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
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Backpacking in Canyonlands National Park
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Be Prepared for the Backcountry
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The Freedom of Wild Places
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