Canyonlands National Park, a unique destination full of spires, buttes, arches, rivers and most spectacular of all, vast canyons. This park is home to The Needles, Maze and Island of the Sky districts. Each area offers its own unique scenery and vastness that provide feelings of solitude. Canyonlands is sliced into these three areas by the Green and Colorado rivers. Beautiful vistas and overlooks have kept park visitors in awe for many years. Canyonlands is still an untrammeled and quiet mass of canyons that often appeal to the more rugged of hikers, 4 wheel drivers and mountain bikers.
If you plan to visit Canyonlands National Park, summers are hot and winters cool, if not sometimes very cold. Any time of year it is best to travel with layers and as water is not available in most parts of the park, plan ahead by picking up water in the nearby towns such as Moab.
If you have time, don't forget to visit the nearby park, Arches National Park. These two parks compliment each other beautifully with two very different types of scenery. If a desert and canyon area is something you have not yet seen, Canyonlands National Park is a must see!
Flora and fauna
The desert animals that live in the park are mostly nocturnal and include kangaroo rats, woodrats (also called packrats) and most other small desert rodents, skunks, ringtails, foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, bats and owls. Other animals are most active during dawn and dusk hours and include mule deer, desert bighorn, coyotes, porcupines, desert cottontails, black-tailed jackrabbits, and many songbirds. The handful of animals likely to be seen during the day include rock squirrels, antelope squirrels, chipmunks, lizards, snakes, hawks, and eagles.
Plants in the park include drought escapers (those which make use of favorable conditions when they exist) and drought resistors (those capable of growing with little water). Drought escapers are usually annuals that grow only when enough water is available. Seeds may lie dormant for years if conditions are not favorable. Most grasses are escapers, as are wildflowers that bloom after seasonal rains during spring or late summer. Drought resistors are typically perennials. Many have small, spiny leaves that reduce the impact of solar radiation, and some may drop their leaves if water is unavailable.
Spines and hairy leaves act to reduce exposure to air currents and solar radiation, limiting the amount of water lost to evaporation. Cacti, yuccas and mosses are examples of drought resistors. Yuccas have extensive taproots that are able to use water beyond the reach of other plants. Moss, a plant not commonly associated with deserts, thrives because it can tolerate complete dehydration: when rains finally return, mosses green up immediately.
Island in the Sky: Views from Island in the Sky reach from the depths of the Green and Colorado rivers to the heights of distant mountaintops and above. They stretch across canyon after canyon to the horizon 100 miles distant. A broad, level mesa wedged between the Green and Colorado, Island in the Sky serves as Canyonlands" observation tower.
Maze District: The Maze country west of the Colorado and Green rivers is Canyonlands at its wildest. It ranks as one of the most remote and inaccessible sections in the United States. there is the Maze itself, a perplexing jumble of canyons that has been described as a "30 square mile puzzle in sandstone."
Needles: The contrasting names in the Needles country reflect the diversity of the land itself: Devils Kitchen and Angel Arch, Elephant Hill and Caterpillar Arch, Gothic Arch and Paul Bunyans Potty.
By Air: Canyonlands Field Airport, from which Great Lakes Airlines provides daily commuter service to Denver, is located on US Route 191 just 16 miles north of downtown Moab.
By Car: To reach the Islands in the Sky district take US Highway 191 to Utah Highway 313 (10 mi/16 km north of Moab, or 22 mi/35 km south of I-70) and then drive southwest 22 mi/35 km. Driving time to the visitor center from Moab is roughly 40 minutes.
The Needles district can be reached by driving 40 miles (60 km) south of Moab or 14 miles (22 km) north of Monticello on US Highway 191, then take Utah Highway 211 roughly 35 miles (56 km) west. Highway 211 ends in the Needles, and is the only paved road leading in and out of the district.
The Maze district is one of the most inaccessible areas in the continental United States. The outskirts of the Maze can be reached by driving two and one-half hours from Green River. From I-70, take Utah Highway 24 south for 24 miles. A left hand turn just beyond the turnoff to Goblin Valley State Park will take you along a two-wheel-drive dirt road 46 miles (76 km) southeast to the ranger station. From the ranger station, the canyons of the Maze are another 3 to 6 hours by high-clearance, 4WD (more if traveling by foot). Another four-wheel-drive road leads into the Maze north from Highway 95 near Hite Marina (driving time is 3+ hours to the park boundary).