Skip to main content
Header image

Canyonlands National Park


Set in the high desert of the American Southwest, Canyonlands National Park comprises 337,598 acres (136,621 hectares) of rugged landscape divided into four distinct districts by the Green and Colorado rivers. Deep craters, towering rock spires, white cliffs, and majestic buttes dominate the landscape of Utah’s largest national park.

There are many ways to explore the park, though a majority of visitors do so by driving a 34-mile (55-kilometer) scenic loop through the popular Island in the Sky district. The Needles district attracts hikers, while the Maze rewards those who make the effort to get there with remote slot canyons and stunning rock formations. The Green and Colorado rivers set the scene for relaxing rafting trips.

If you are pressed for time, you can see the park’s highlights in a day—or even as little as half a day—on a tour from Moab. A more leisurely schedule enables you to see the park as part of a multi-day tour from Las Vegas or Salt Lake City through a star-studded lineup of Arizona and Utah parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, Capitol Reef, Arches, and the Grand Canyon.

  • Canyonlands National Park is a must-visit for adventure travelers and families.

  • Don’t forget to bring water and sun protection; the desert heat can be intense.

  • Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking over uneven surfaces.

  • Dress in layers; the temperature can fluctuate wildly in a single day.

  • Wheelchair users can access the Island in the Sky and Needles visitor centers and several overlooks.

Canyonlands National Park’s Islands in the Sky district is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southwest of Moab, about 40 minutes via UT 313. The easiest way to get there is to drive or join a guided tour from Moab.

The best times to visit Canyonlands National Park are spring (April and May) and fall (September and October), when daytime highs are typically 60°F to 80°F (15°C to 26°C). Expect temperatures over 100°F (37°C) during the summer months.

Situated in its own area of the park, Horseshoe Canyon was added to Canyonlands National Park in 1971. It’s best known for the Great Gallery, a panel of life-sized carvings considered among the most important collections of rock art in North America. The rewarding hike to the Great Gallery covers 7 miles (11 kilometers) roundtrip and takes at least five hours to complete.

Plan to spend at least two days in Canyonlands National Park. That’s enough time to explore a couple of the park’s most important areas. Popular destinations include the Island in the Sky mesa—it has sheer cliffs with sweeping views—and the colorful area of sandstone spires known as the Needles.

Many people consider spring the best time to visit Canyonlands National Park. Mild temperatures and sunny weather mean April and May are perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities. They’re generally the best months for wildflowers, too, with brilliant blossoms on prickly pear cactus, Harriman’s yucca, and other desert plants.

You could spend days exploring Canyonlands National Park by car—but you can explore some scenic highlights in half a day. A favorite route is the 34-mile (55-kilometer) round-trip drive from Moab to Island in the Sky, following a paved road that winds past soaring overlooks, trailheads, and rock formations.

There are many scenic drives through Canyonlands National Park. Many require high-clearance—such as the 100-mile (160-kilometer) White Rim Road—but paved routes take in fabulous scenery. Favorites include the out-and-back from Moab to Island in the Sky’s Grand View Point and the road to Big Spring Canyon Overlook and the Needles.

No, you don’t need reservations to visit Canyonlands National Park. You’ll need to pay an entrance fee, though, and some popular areas require permits. Secure permits in advance to drive some popular dirt roads, spend a night in the backcountry, take a river trip, or use a group campsite.

Canyonlands National Park is quieter than some national parks in Utah, including Arches, Zion, and Bryce Canyon. Popular areas and parking lots still get crowded at busy times, however. Since summer is peak season at Canyonlands National Park, you can avoid heavy traffic by visiting in spring or fall.


Travel Like an Expert with AAA and Trip Canvas

Get Ideas from the Pros

As one of the largest travel agencies in North America, we have a wealth of recommendations to share! Browse our articles and videos for inspiration, or dive right in with preplanned AAA Road Trips, cruises and vacation tours.

Build and Research Your Options

Save and organize every aspect of your trip including cruises, hotels, activities, transportation and more. Book hotels confidently using our AAA Diamond Designations and verified reviews.

Book Everything in One Place

From cruises to day tours, buy all parts of your vacation in one transaction, or work with our nationwide network of AAA Travel Agents to secure the trip of your dreams!