Canyonlands National Park
Guide

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Introduction

As the largest national park in Utah, Canyonlands National Park is a mecca encompassing over 337,000 acres of colorful canyons, spires, arches, buttes, and mesas. This unique Western landscape is so massive and diverse it’s divided into four districts. The Island in the Sky is the most accessible district, overlooking sheer sandstone cliffs. The Needles in the southeast corner of the park is a majestic setting filled with colorful spires of Cedar Mesa sandstone that dot the region. The Maze is the most remote area of the park, but is an enchanting landscape filled with orange cliffs and jagged rock formations unlike anywhere else in the county. The Rivers is where the heart of the Colorado and Green rivers converge amidst high canyons and sunny desert, making it the perfect space for aquatic adventure.

With warm, dry summers and wet winters, Canyonlands National Park offers spectacular natural splendor no matter what time of year you visit with your RV. From hiking, biking, and horseback riding to kayaking, climbing, and stargazing, the Canyonlands offers seemingly endless possibilities to get away from it all in the serenity of raw wilderness. The park is home to a diverse habitat of plants and critters that can survive in this rugged landscape from cacti and desert wildflowers to mule deer and lizards. You can learn all about the natural history and diversity of the park at the three visitor centers located in separate districts.

The Canyonlands have tons of amazing natural attractions just waiting to be discovered on your next RV getaway. Take a thrilling sunrise hike to the Mesa Arch or snap photos of the gigantic Druid Arch. Enjoy climbing the cliff walls at Indian Creek or soak in the panoramic canyon views at the Grand View Point Overlook. While each district offers many different nature trails for all ability levels, you won’t want to miss a chance to strike out from your camper for a short hike to White Rim Overlook. Here, you can take in jaw-dropping views of the La Sal Mountains, Monument Basin, and the Colorado River.

Park Alerts (1)

[Caution] White Rim Road Flooding [+ Info]

We expect high water on the Green River to cause flooding on the west side of the White Rim Road. This may make the road impassible. Check river levels and read the full advisory on our road conditions page.

RV Rentals in Canyonlands National Park

Transportation in Canyonlands National Park

Driving

Canyonlands National Park is easy to get to by car or RV near the town of Moab off US 191. You’ll have to drive to each district of the park separately, since they are not connected by roads or bridges. The Island in the Sky district is the easiest to access for drivers and RVers, where you drive along the 100-mile White Rim Road. The other districts require hiking, four-wheel driving, or boating to access all of the attractions. The Maze district is the least accessible. The use of large vehicles like RVs and trailers is not recommended in the Maze due to the severity of the roads.

Parking

Parking is limited and depends on which district of the park you are visiting. At Islands in the Sky, you can park at the Visitor Center and the Island in the Sky Campground, which is limited to vehicles up to 28 feet in length. In the Needles district, you can park at the Visitor Center or The Needles Campground, which is also limited to vehicles up to 28 feet in length. The Maze is the least accessible district, although there is parking at the Hans Flat Ranger Station.

Public Transport

There is no public transportation available to the park, but there is Greyhound bus access to the nearby town of Moab and Amtrak train stations in Grand Junction and Green River, where you can take private van service to Moab. You can enjoy plenty of other modes of transportation at the park including biking, horseback riding, and boating. Private tours are available to get guided access to remote areas of the park like the Maze and the Rivers districts. The Rivers District of the park is remote, with access available by boat from launch locations on the Green and Colorado Rivers.

Campgrounds and parking in Canyonlands National Park

Campsites in Canyonlands National Park

Reservations camping

The Needles Campground

Located in the Needles, this campground provides 27 individual sites and three group sites around the district. In the spring and fall, you can reserve 14 individual campsites up to 6 months in advance. Group sites can be reserved from mid-March to mid-November. You will have access to restrooms, trash collection, potable water, and use of the amphitheater. You can roast marshmallows or have a barbeque with wood fires in grates. Staff are on site seasonally. This campground can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 28 feet in length.

First-come first-served

Island in the Sky Campground (Willow Flat)

Located in the Island in the Sky district, this campground offers 12 sites that are open year-round. You will have access to restrooms and can relax by a grated fire. You can bring your pets as long as they are on a leash and you can use public wi-fi at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center. RVs and trailers up to 28 feet in length are permitted at the campground.

The Needles Campground FCFS

During the summer and winter, the individual sites at the Needles Campground are first-come-first-served. You’ll enjoy easy access to restrooms, potable water, and use of the amphitheater. You can relax by the fire or enjoy a picnic in the quiet serenity of this Canyonlands campground. Trailers and RV are permitted as long as they are under 28 feet in length.

Alternate camping

Backcountry Camping

If you are a seeking a more intimate experience, to get away from the RV and into the enchanting nature of the Canyonlands, this national park is a mecca for backcountry camping. Each district provides a unique experience for backpackers to take overnight trips where you can gaze up at the starry night sky and see amazing sights beyond the overlook points.

Private Campgrounds

There are numerous private campgrounds located outside of the park, especially near the town of Moab. Whether you are looking for an RV resort experience or spot overlooking the river, there are many campgrounds to choose from. Many of these options provide modern conveniences including internet access, cable TV, and full hookups.

Seasonal activities in Canyonlands National Park

Spring

Backpacking

Spring is the perfect time to discover this vast, rugged oasis in a personal way. Park your rig and head out on foot for a day or overnight backpacking trip through the Canyonlands. While permits are required for overnight trips, you can hike and camp in the Island of the Sky, the Needles, or the Maze. Each district has unique sites and panoramic views that you won’t get to experience in any other way.

Mountain Biking Elephant Hill Road

Canyonlands National Park is a haven for bikers so put your camper in park and get ready to cycle. Located in the Needles district, the Elephant Hill Road is a perfect destination for serious bikers since you’ll be challenged by steep grades and loose rock. The gorgeous views of white and dark brown cliffs and pinnacles is well worth the trip.

Hiking Grand View Point

A trip to the Canyonlands National Park wouldn’t be complete without a hike to the Grand View Point. This easy 2-mile hike along the canyon edge will take you to truly breathtaking views of canyons, spires, and mountains that are unlike any other place on Earth. The sandy and rustic colors of this desert landscape are unforgettable.

Boating

Imagine traveling down the ancient waters of the Colorado or Green River with the springtime wind in your hair and the crystal-clear sky up above. Turn that dream into a reality on a kayak, canoe, or motorized boat trip in the Canyonlands. Whether you want to explore on your own or hire a private boat tour, you’ll enjoy an aquatic adventure unlike any other when you park the RV and hit the water.

Rock Climbing

The sandstone towers at the Island in the Sky district is a mecca for rock climbers around the world. You can conquer some of the most majestic rock pinnacles and formations in a beautiful landscape, surrounded by colorful panoramic views. You can also hire private tours to take a guided rock climb through in an unforgettable setting.

Summer

White Rim Road Scenic Auto Tours

If you want to beat the heat, but still enjoy incredible views of the Canyonlands, you will love a scenic drive along the 100-mile White Rim Road. Located in the Island of the Sky district, you can enjoy panoramic views of the colorful spires, rock formations, and fins that dot the landscape. It’s suggested to take your tow vehicle or a rental car for this trip since it requires high clearance and four-wheel drive.

Hike to Upheaval Dome

This quick, easy hike up to Upheaval Dome is a must on a visit to the Canyonlands. You’ll be blown away by majestic views of mysterious rock formations. If you hike up to the second overlook, you can get even more amazing views from a higher vantage point. The leftovers of an impact crater, Upheaval Dome is one of the most unique sites in the park.

Stargazing

Imagine a summer’s night sky offering a show of over 2,500 stars and a crystal-clear view of the Milky Way. This extraordinary sight is yours at the Canyonlands. Get out of the RV, get your telescope ready and sign up for a stargazing program at either Island in the Sky or the Needles for an unforgettable night at Canyonlands National Park.

Whitewater Rafting

The majestic Colorado and Green Rivers are a perfect place to get both some shade and some sun while you cruise down the aisles of mother nature. There are several private companies you can hire for a whitewater rafting tour through the canyons to create some memories that will last a lifetime.

Geology and Patio Talks

If you want to hear the captivating stories of rangers and learn about the rich natural and cultural history of the Canyonlands you’ll want to stop at a Geology or Patio talk at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center or Grand View Point. You’ll discover the amazing background to the natural formation and days of the cowboys that make up the incredible story of the park.

Fall

Hiking White Rim Overlook

This 1.8-mile easy hike is one you won’t want to miss. As one of the most popular trails in the park, this route will take you to breathtaking views of the Colorado River, La Sal Mountains, and the Monument Basin. You’ll hike through native desert fauna and catch glimpses of local wildlife until you reach some of the most amazing views in the park.

Exploring Cave Springs

If you have always wanted to be a cave explorer, you’ll be in for a treat when you head out from your camper for a hike to Cave Springs. Once you venture the short, .5-mile hike and climb ladders to get to your final destination, you will be greeted with a historic cowboy camp and prehistoric petroglyphs. The inside of the cave is a sight to be seen with colorful walls, mosses, and streams. Get the camera ready!

Horseback Riding

With mild temperatures, autumn is a perfect time to trail ride in the Canyonlands. Horseback riding in the backcountry of the Canyonlands means you can get an intimate, one-of-a-kind experience among jaw-dropping canyon views and incredible rock spirals and arches. There are many local private companies that offer horseback riding tours for all ages.

Guided Hike of Horseshoe Canyon

If you want to venture into the Maze, which is the most remote district of the park, you can take a ranger-led hiking tour of Horseshoe Canyon. The amazing setting features some of the most magnificent rock art in the country. You’ll hike through beautiful wildflowers, sheer sandstone walls, and cottonwood groves, so make sure you bring your camera.

Bird Watching and Wildlife Viewing

Fall is a great time of year to get out those binoculars and discover the diverse natural habitat of the Canyonlands National Park. With over 270 bird species that call this amazing landscape home, you can catch a glimpse of turkey vultures and canyon wrens. You will love the incredible views of desert cottontail, kangaroo rats, and lizards that live in this one-of-a-kind wilderness.

Winter

Sunrise Photography at Mesa Arch

The popular short hike to Mesa Arch in the Island in the Sky district is a perfect way to start your winter day. You can take majestic sunrise photos as the colors of the sun illuminate this incredible stone arch and enjoy panoramic views of the La Sal Mountains and rock spires in the distance.

Cross-Country Skiing the Gold Basin Trail

Located just outside the of the park, the Gold Basin Trail is a wonderful way to experience a winter wonderland in the Canyonlands. You can criss-cross through the snow to get amazing panoramic views of the Canyonlands National Park and the La Sal Mountains covered in light snowfall.

Tour the Island in the Sky Visitor Center

If you take your RV to the park in November or December you can learn about the amazing history and geology of the Canyonland National Park. You can watch a 15-minute orientation video to get the big-picture introduction to this incredible canyon oasis. You’ll love the detailed exhibits and displays where you can get a behind-the-scenes look at the natural history that makes this part of Utah so unique.

Winter Horseback Riding

The winter is a magical time in the Canyonlands when light snow glistens in the sun against the colorful backdrop of rocky spirals and majestic cliffs. On warmer days, you can hire a private company to take a winter horseback riding tour. On horseback, you’ll see a unique side to the park that most miss.

Winter Backpacking

If you’re an experienced backpacker, you might be up for the challenge of getting out of your rig and conquering the Canyonlands backcountry in the winter. Since park services are more limited in the winter you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of gear and water, but you can take day hikes or overnight backpacking trips to get one-of-a-kind views in various areas of the park that are unlike those at any other time of year.

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