Canyonlands National Park: The best hikes, glampsites and viewpoints

Canyonlands National Park: The best hikes, glampsites and viewpoints

  • Travel
  • January 25, 2023
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Imagine vast canyons and meandering riverbeds that feel like the setting of a Wild West epic, with jagged strata of rock sculpted by time.

That’s a taste of Canyonlands National Park — an area spanning over 337,570 acres where the Colorado River and Green Rivers meet in southeastern Utah — which was ancestral lands of Native Americans long before the age of hikers and climbers, inclusive of the Ute, Southern Paiute, and Pueblo peoples for more than 10,000 years. Many groups migrated in and out of the canyons over the millennia, and in the early 19th century the country became part of the Old Spanish Trail as European settlers passed through.

Today, however, this land is too seldom overlooked in favor of other Utah parks such as Zion and Arches. But Canyonlands offers a kind of rugged wilderness that’s becoming increasingly rare. Wilder terrain that’s thankfully free of crowds (compared to the other Big 5) lures outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes.

There’s no question why you should visit Canyonlands – the more pressing concern is how to make the most of so much to see in the time you have. Below is our complete guide to Canyonlands National Park’s highlights, from where to stay to the best guided excursions to book.

All listings on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you book something through our links, we may receive an affiliate commission.

How do I get to Canyonlands?

The closest city to Canyonlands is Moab, a dusty city nestled between canyons that has attracted a large artistic community. Moab has a local airport, Moab Canyonlands Regional Airport, which is 21 miles northwest of Moab and has limited United, Delta and Skywest flights. If you’re flying into Moab, you still need a car to explore Canyonlands. The entrance to the park is about 30 miles from town, although other parts of the park take longer to get to. Depending on how deep you want to travel into the park, consider renting a fully-equipped Jeep from Twisted Jeeps to fulfill your wildest off-road dreams.

When to visit Canyonlands?

Spring and fall in Canyonlands typically offer near-perfect weather for outdoor adventures. Warm days and balmy evenings make for idyllic hiking and camping conditions, with wildflowers darting through the canyons in spring and the earth-toned rock formations taking on even deeper shades of fire in fall. The off-season is also the most popular time to visit the park. So book campsites well in advance if you visit during this period.

Be aware that the summer months tend to be boiling hot, with temperatures often exceeding 100 degrees, making for harsh conditions for all after-morning activities. If you’re going on a trip in the summer, plan accordingly with extra water, rehydration pills, and a hat. Winters in Canyonlands can be just as extreme—don’t let the winter sun fool you. Days are cool, but temperatures often drop well below freezing by nightfall. Shifts are important at any time of the year as the desert can vary greatly from day to night.

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