Canyonlands National Park features more than 337,000 acres of incredibly scenic and colorful landscape. The park is separated by the Colorado and Green Rivers into three main districts–The Maze, Island in the Sky, and The Needles, plus remote Horseshoe Canyon which is geographically separated. The two rivers join at the Confluence, and have been a significant force in sculpting the deep sandstone canyons, as well as offering world-class white water adventure.
Each district in Canyonlands shares remote desert qualities but each also has its own distinct character. There are no roads which connect the districts, so it’s best to settle on a section and plan to spend a few days exploring. The Maze district on the western edge of the park is accessible from Hanksville, and is just one more reason to visit Capitol Reef Country.
The Maze section of Canyonlands is one of the most spectacular and remote wilderness areas in Utah. Here in The Land of the Sleeping Rocks the Maze is bordered by the Orange Cliffs of Glen Canyon, and is defined by sheer cliffs, canyons, and ravines sculpted by water and gravity. Strenuous trails lead to Shot Canyon, Water Canyon, Horse Canyon and more. Four-wheel drive roads in the Maze are extreme. Flint Trail is one of the most popular, but can be closed during winter and slippery when wet. Expect to spend several days exploring this area and come well-prepared as there are no amenities such as food, gas, or potable water here (you can find all of this in Hanksville). Bring at least one full-size spare tire, a high-lift jack, gas, water, and tire chains in the winter. This section of Canyonlands can be reached from Hanksville via Highway 24 to the unpaved Lower San Rafael Road (County Road 1010), near Goblin Valley. From here, it’s about 48 miles to the Hans Flat Ranger Station, and then another three to six hours to reach the canyons. While it’s generally easy for passenger vehicles to travel the county road, a high-clearance vehicle is required once inside the park. The Hans Flat Ranger Station is open during the day year-round.
Horseshoe Canyon is located northwest of the Maze district and can be reached from the 31-mile unpaved Robbers Roost Road, or from a four-wheel drive track from the Maze. This small district, about five square miles, is well known for its hundreds of ancient Indian pictographs, accessible from a rocky, two-mile spur road that leads into the galleries. Art lovers, history buffs, and adventurers alike may want to tackle the strenuous 3.25-mile trail that leads to The Great Gallery, showcasing some of the best preserved rock art on the Colorado Plateau. The trail follows a sandy dry wash, and descends 600 feet below the slick-rock canyon rim. Guided fall season and springtime hikes in Horseshoe Canyon can be arranged through the Maze district.
Island in the Sky, Horseshoe Canyon, and the Needles districts are the best options for single day trips. The Maze is ideal for multi-day to week-long back-country trips, mountain biking, extended hiking, four-wheel adventures, boating on the Colorado River, or rafting on the white waters of Confluence. Summer and winter temperatures can be extreme, with fluctuations of up to 40 degrees in a single day. There is no public transportation available to or within Canyonlands National Park. Back-country permits are required for overnight camping. Solar power provides all of the electrical needs in Hans Flat. There are many campsites within the park and the closest to Hans Flat include High Spur (45 minutes); Flint Seep, Happy Canyon and The Neck (1 hour), Golden Stairs (1.5 hours), Panorama Point and Cleopatra’s Chair (2 hours). Campsites from two to 4 hours from the ranger station include Maze Overlook, Ekker Butte, and Teapot Rock. Chimney Rock, Doll House, Standing Rock, and The Wall all require a five to six hour drive. There are limited spots at each campsite, and it’s first come, first served.
Read more about Canyonlands – here.