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Celebrating Utah’s National Parks: Canyonlands

MOAB, Utah — Located in southeastern Utah, Canyonlands National Park is known for its breathtaking desert landscapes, panoramic overlooks, towering rock formations and Native American rock paintings which decorate the vast maze of remote canyons.

On September 12, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Public Law 88-590 establishing 257,640 acres as Canyonlands National Park. Congress then expanded Canyonlands to its present size of 337,598 acres in 1971, making it the largest National park in the state.

Peekaboo Rock Art. Photo: National Park Service.

Canyonlands is located roughly 30 miles from Moab. The best way to see the park is to visit the Island in the Sky district which offers several pullouts with spectacular views along the paved scenic drive. There’s also many hiking trails and four-wheel-drive roads that access backcountry areas for day or overnight trips.

The Island in the Sky sits atop a colossal 1500 foot mesa, and lives up to its name as its actually an Island in the Sky. Approximately 20 miles of roads lead to some of the most spectacular views in this vast canyon country. From these many different viewpoints visitors can see nearly 100 miles in any given direction, which presents breathtaking panoramic views that encompass thousands of square miles of the Canyonlands.

Shafer Trail, Island in the Sky.
Shafer Trail, Island in the Sky. Photo: National Park Service.

Island in the Sky also features a campground (Willow Flat) with 12 sites, first-come, first-served. The campground is open year-round. Nightly camping fee is $15 per site which fill up quickly from spring through fall. There are toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings in the campground. There are no hookups for RVs and no water at the campground. You can get drinking water outside the visitor center spring through fall.

Individuals can Drive the park’s 20 miles of paved roads and enjoy the spectacular views. Sunrise and sunset are particularly beautiful times of day to enjoy these magnificent panoramic views of the canyons. There are also several other scenic routes where people can then hike some of the shorter trails, such as the Mesa Arch or Upheaval Dome Trails.

White Rim Road
White Rim Road. Photo: National Park Service.

Backpackers can experience the serenity of Canyonlands by hiking some of the trails from the mesa top to the White Rim and spend the night in the backcountry. Indiviudals interested in four-wheeling 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 a Backcountry Permit is required.

Hiking at Canyonlands

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