Canyonlands National Park is so large that it’s separated into three distinct districts: Island in the Sky, The Maze, and Needles.
Island in the Sky
The most visited section of Canyonlands is Island in the Sky, which overlooks the Green River as it twists through miles of canyons. To get to this section of the park, you’ll drive up a mesa, pass the turnoff for Dead Horse Point State Park (made famous by Thelma and Louis) and enter the park. Be aware: you’ll see signs warning that no gas stations or stores are located on the mesa. The scenic drive will take you to Green River Overlook, which offers the breathtaking view that this district is known for. Another must-see in this section of Canyonlands is Mesa Arch (pictured top), which you can access on the 0.5-mile Mesa Arch Trail.
To visit the Needles district, head South from Moab about an hour and follow the signs for Needles. This section of Canyonlands got its name from the multicolored sandstone spires, which will remind you of the famous hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. It’s best to visit Needles if you have an all-terrain or 4WD vehicle, or plan to hike long distances.
The Maze has the most primitive trails of the Canyonlands districts, and is the least visited of the three. Only experienced hikers, off-road drivers and backpackers are recommended to visit the park, since both the trails and the roads are difficult to traverse.
Like Arches National Park, Canyonlands is best visited in the spring and fall months, to avoid the extreme summer and winter temperatures.
Use our Utah’s National Parks Itinerary to see all five of the national parks in Utah!