Discover The Land of Hundreds of Canyons

Imagine not just one canyon, but a wave of hundreds or thousands of them carved by water and gravity as far as you can see. Sounds exciting...

Imagine not just one canyon, but a wave of hundreds or thousands of them carved by water and gravity as far as you can see. Sounds exciting? That's about Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah. Little known place before it became a national park in 1964, Canyonlands National Park still looks and feels worlds away when wandering a bit off the paved roads. In fact, the park remains largely unhampered, so you can explore it on foot or from your 4x4 for days or even weeks without seeing another person, that's how vast and remote it is. 

Canyonlands National Park is quite popular thanks to its proximity to Arches National Park and Moab, Utah, an outdoors capital of the United States. Most people visit the two national parks in one trip, so no wonder Canyonlands National Park gets over 600,000 visitors per year (Arches gets roughly twice as many). 
The park sits on the Colorado River Plateau, the main water artery of the Southwest. 
Yes, the same Colorado that carved the world renowned Grand Canyon and the same one that lost its natural delta due to irrigation and overuse. 
Canyonlands National Park is separated into four very distinct regions: Island in the Sky, Needles, Maze and The Rivers. 
The first one, Island in the Sky, sees the most visitors as it's almost literally across the road from Arches. It's followed by Needles, slightly more remote, but still very accessible. The last two get about 3% together out of 600,000 visitors. That's the place you want to be if you crave solitude. 
Island in the Sky is a huge mesa (a table from Spanish) that sits at the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers. It's like an observation deck that overlooks all other parts of the park. 
It offers some shorter trails, but you really have to hike down the mesa for longer multi-day hikes. In the time we had, we only visited this region of the park, but I'll definitely planning to come back for Needles one day.
I had two favourite places at Island in the Sky. Both are short hikes from parking lots. First place is called Mesa Arch. You definitely want to be there at the sunrise to catch that iconic light inside the arch. Beware - it can get crowded.
Second place is called Upheaval Dome, very unusual for the area. Scientists are still trying to crack the mystery and figure out whether it's an enormous crater left after a meteor hit the earth and fractured the rock, or is it a salt dome. But, no matter the root cause, it looks gorgeous to walk on the rim on the dome. 
It's very unlikely to spot any animal in the desert in the wintertime, but we thoroughly enjoyed juniper trees and cacti that can be seen here and there.

When to go
Park is open year around, 24/7. 

Each region must be accessed separately; no bridges or roads connect the regions within the park.
Island in the Sky. From Moab, take US 191 north and then take UT 313 to the park's entrance.
The Needles. From Moab, take US 191 south and then take UT 211 to the park's entrance.
The Maze can only be reached through unpaved roads suited for high-clearance 4x4 vehicles. Check the weather before heading out as flash floods can make the roads impassable and even dangerous.

Additional Information
For additional information visit Canyonlands National Park's official website.

My other posts about the trip to Colorado, New Mexico and Utah:

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