*Before you travel to this literal “island in the sky”, call ahead for park hours and availability*
Formed by two of the most potent powers on the planet – water & gravity – the landscapes awaiting you at captivating Canyonlands National Park are – in a word – unique. This is your chance to literally get off-grid, discover the beauty in the world, and a little bit of human history while you’re at it.
Canyonlands National Park is Utah’s largest national park. It has a landscape and biological diversity staggering to the mind. Canyonlands was granted official national park status in 1964 to help preserve the 527-square-mile area of eroded landscapes, canyons, arches, and mesas carved by tributaries and the Colorado River. Along with the Green River, the two rivers cut the park in four sections:
- Island in the Sky
- The Colorado River and Green River
The areas all have an ancient desert appearance, but each has its own distinct character offering varied exploratory opportunities.
Just a half-hour outside Moab, Utah, the best place to experience Canyonlands is from Island in the Sky. This is an entirely paved scenic route through the park that lets you see the breathtaking views, picnic at any of the pullout areas, go hiking, or trail-riding with your four-wheelers. The backcountry spots are perfect for day trips or overnights. As this is backcountry, make sure you come prepared with requisite gear.
Part of the allure of Canyonlands can only be appreciated at night – it’s a stargazer’s dream. Air quality is excellent and some of the lowest light pollution in the west makes for pristine night sky viewing.
Weather at the Canyonlands has two settings – horridly hot and critically cold. Located in Colorado’s ‘high desert’, elevations range from nearly 4,000 to over 7,000 feet above sea level. The area receives under ten inches of precipitation per year and temps can swing more than 40 degrees in a single day.
If you’re planning a visit to Canyonlands, be aware there are no lodgings or dining establishments within the park. There are, however, a couple camping areas and ‘roughing it’ opportunities in the backcountry. While backcountry camping is allowed, it’s preferable to go as part of a tour led by a knowledgeable park ranger so you can see the more iconic sites Canyonlands has to offer.