The scope of the great southwest can never appreciated without seeing it in person. When you all you can see in any direction is sculpted desert, then you will know how impressive Southern Utah really is. And if you want to experience this for yourself, we at the Lodge at Red River Ranch can think of no better place to visit than Canyonlands National Park. Canyonlands is the least visited national park in Utah, it is remote and, best of, spectacularly beautiful.
Canyonlands is divided into serval distinct districts. (Don’t take our word for it, this is the official map.) Since, unless you plan to live in the park indefinitely, you won’t be able to see it all, we’ve compiled a list of the best things to see in the best districts of the park –
Island in the Sky District
1. Mesa Arch – this is the first stop for any trip into Canyonlands. It is the most iconic view in the park, with good reason. Remember that endless sculpted desert we were talking about, this is where to find it. And the arch is pretty impressive too.
2. White Rim Trail – this is your chance to get intimate with the desert. White Rim Trail is actually a road that meanders through 100-miles of Canyonlands, and defines the boundaries of the Island in the Sky District. You don’t have to drive the whole thing, just as much as you fit into your trip. Find out about important safety information here.
3. Lathrop Loop – if you’re the hiking type (and we hope you are) give Lathrop Loop a shot. This moderately-strenuous trail will take you “to the edge” providing you with some great views of the park.
1. Elephant Hill – this trail is one of the more strenuous in the park, and since it’s located in the backcountry of the Needles District, it should approached with caution. But if you decide to make the trek, the desert will open up before you. And there is also a pink elephant. (Well… a rock shaped like an elephant, at any rate.)
2. Peekaboo Trail – a well marked, and moderate trail that has plenty of scenery to offer. It will also allow you access to both Squaw and Lost Canyons. Or, if you’d rather, take the trail to Paul Bunyan’s Potty and Tower Ruin. Oh, who are we kidding? Just do it all.
Maze District (adventures only)
1. Maze Overlook – this should be your first todo in the Maze District. It’s a sight that you won’t soon forget, you will gain a new appreciation for the term “wilderness.” And yes it really does look like a maze down there.
2. Dollhouse – this is one of the rare, maintained trails in the Maze. It will lead you from the Colorado River, past some ancient Puebloan granaries to some impressive sandstone spires (where you should definitely play hide-and-seek.) It will also provide you with an overlook of Surprise Valley.
Horseshoe Canyon – this section, while not actually attached to the rest of the park, is still technically part of Canyonlands. And it is worth making the effort to go see. The petroglyphs in the canyon are some of the largest and best preserved in the country.
There is a lot, and we mean a lot, of things to see in Canyonlands National Park. But we at the Lodge at Red River Ranch think the above list should provide you with a pretty good taste of the American Southwest, and all it’s vastness.