435-425-3322 | thelodge@redriverranch.com | Our weather today is:
Red River Ranch logo

Red River Ranch

Canyonlands: In-depth

Canyonlands: In-depth

Posted in: Historical places, Outdoor adventures, Travel on February 19, 2020.

Let’s Look at Canyonlands

We’ve done Arches, we’ve done Bryce, now it’s time to do Canyonlands! As you know, we’re starting this year off with a series of posts that deep-dive into each of the national parks. Obviously, we’ve written about the parks before, a lot. But we at the Lodge at Red River Ranch thought we’d write about them again, just in case we missed anything the first dozen times. So here we go – ladies and gentlemen, Canyonlands National Park: In-depth!

A cliff view of Canyonlands National Park

Welcome to Canyonlands. Photo by Dann Petty via unsplash.com

The Visitor Center

As with any other national park, you gotta check out the visitor center before you really get going. And Canyonlands has not one, but two, visitor centers. There’s the main center, the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, and the Needles Visitor Center. (The centers have strange hours in wintertime, just so you’re aware. You can see if they’re open here on their site.) The visitor centers are always fun places to hang out, there have cool exhibits and films, but you’re mostly here for information. So grab a trail guide, buy a map, and talk to the rangers about your plans. They always have good suggestions and recommendations. Also, some pretty cool programs too.

A rain storm seen from a distance over a muted desert

An immense space. Photo by Nick Dunlap via unsplash.com

Three Regions

Canyonlands is a big park. So big in fact, that they decided to section it into three unique districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze. Most visitors spend their time in the Island in the Sky. Which makes sense, Canyonlands is not quite as developed as some of it’s more popular cousins (since it’s actually the least visited of all the national parks in Utah) and Island in the Sky is where most of the infrastructure is located. And we agree. You should probably spend most of your time there. But there is also some great stuff in the Needles District. And if you can, you really need to drive the White Rim Road! But for now, let’s do some hiking…

Mesa Arch with the sun shining behind

Mesa Arch. Photo by John Fowler via unsplash.com

The Trails

Island in the Sky –

  • Mesa Arch – this is the big one, the most popular spot in the whole park. And when you’re there, you’ll understand why, it’s a tough view to beat: a sweeping desert vista hundreds of feet below you, framed by a massive arch. It’s only a short, half-mile roundtrip hike from the parking lot to Mesa Arch, so it’s perfect for even the most reluctant hiker.
  • Grand View Point – another popular trail is Grand View Point. It’s a fairly easy, one-and-a-half mile roundtrip hike to a stunning overlook to a canyon drop-off. It’s a little bit like the Grand Canyon, only without nearly as many people.
  • Murphy Point – This might actually be our favorite hike in the park. It really gives you an idea of the vastness of the whole region. There is nothing but canyons, and buttes, and open desert for as far as you can see. Candlestick Tower can be seen from the end of the trail. The whole thing is about 3.5-miles long.

The Needles –

  • Roadside Ruin – not so much a trail, as a pit stop to see some pretty great ruins. It’s only a 20-minute walk roundtrip, so it’s worth taking the time to see the tower. Canyonlands has this page to give you some historical context.
  • Cave Spring – ok, ok, this is another short hike to see a cool historical site. But this time it’s a cowboy camp! This trail is also easy, and only takes 45-minutes to hike. Check out the Canyonlands page on this one too.
  • Slickrock Foot Trail – this is a great hike that gives you a chance to immerse yourself in the desert scenery. It leads to great views of Big Spring Canyon. It’s a moderately easy 2.5-mile trek, and should only take a couple hours to complete.

The dramatic switchbacks of the White Rim Road as seen at sunset

The switchbacks of the White Rim Road. Photo by Nate F via unsplash.com

White Rim Road

We’ve talked about the White Rim Road before, in great detail. So we’ll just say that it’s probably the single greatest road you can drive in Canyonlands, and maybe even in all of Southern Utah. It’s 100-miles of primitive, gravel road that unlocks the best scenery in the national park. It’s got lots of excitement, loads of good hiking spots, and plenty of memories-to-be-made.

The Nitty Gritty

As of this writing, Canyonlands costs $30 to enter in a single vehicle. It’s got two campgrounds, one in Needles, on in Island in the Sky. And you can, of course, check out the official site for lots more good and useful info!

Want to Read More?

Go ahead, explore some more.
There are hundreds of articles, containing lots of insider information.