Canyonlands National Park

Scenic Driving
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park (Corel)

Driving in Canyonlands can mean a comfortable ride on a paved road or a tortuous four-wheel-drive climb up a steep, rock road. Paved and two-wheel-drive dirt roads on Island in the Sky and in the Needles lead to interesting natural features, overlooks, trailheads, picnic areas, and developed campgrounds. Four-wheel-drive roads wind throughout the park, offering trips as short as a day or longer than a week. The Maze has rougher conditions. Primitive campsites are located along many of these roads; permits are required for all overnight trips.

For Your Safety
Inquire at one of the park's visitor centers for the right maps and most up-to-date road information. Keep with you at least one gallon of water per person per day, a towrope or winch, shovel, tire chains, the works. In remote areas, travel in the company of a second vehicle. Motorized vehicles and bicycles must stay on designated roads.

Recommended Routes

Island In The Sky

From U.S. 191 take Utah 313 south to the Island. A paved road continues across the Island. Facilities include: four-wheel-drive roads; self-guiding and primitive trails; developed campground; primitive campsites (backcountry permit required); picnic areas; overlooks; road-side and trailside exhibits; ranger talks and evening campfire programs (seasonal); and commercial tours from nearby towns.

It's well worth your time to drive the scenic and paved park road. Between the Colorado and Green rivers is a mesa accessible only by car across the Neck. The entrance road to the Island leaves U.S. 191 about ten miles north of Moab. Approximately 17 miles in, the pavement veers off to Dead Horse Point State Park, also known as the upper Grand Canyon.

Grand View Point
Over the Neck, the Island road leads 12 miles farther to Grand View Point. This is the spot where you can instantly sense the immense scope of the park—it truly can't be beat.

Also take the branch road to River Overlook, Murphy Point (this is a rough road), and Upheaval Dome Overlook.

White Rim Trail
A four-wheel-drive road allows you to easily navigate this renowned 100-mile trail. You can do it quickly in two days, or do a leisurely exploration. The broad, arid ledge of White Rim lies midway between the top of the Island and the rivers. White Rim, which is bighorn country, winds around Monument Basin—which has a slickrock rim.


The most developed area in the park, Needles has a host of popular four-wheel-drive trips. Rentals and tours can be made at the Needles Outpost—near the Canyonlands entrance.

From U.S. 191 take Utah 211 west to the Needles. The paved road continues into the park. Facilities include four-wheel-drive road; self-guiding and primitive trails; developed campground; primitive campsites (backcountry permit required); overlooks; evening campground programs (seasonal); and commercial tours from nearby towns. Water is available spring through fall. Entrance and camping fees are charged.

Salt Creek and Horse Canyon Four-Wheel Roads
A good introduction to four-wheeling in Canyonlands. The 20.3-mile road up Salt Creek affords you an impressive view of Anasazi sites—rock art and Indian ruins. An additional 2.6-mile trip can bring you to Angel Arch. Horse Canyon Road is approximately nine miles. Look for the Tower Ruins, which has well-preserved Anasazi cliff dwellings.

Lavender Canyon
A good choice for inexperienced four-wheelers. Lavender Canyon is a 35-mile round-trip. It doesn't actually enter Canyonlands until the Cedar Mesa area. A maze of narrow canyons here offers interesting areas to hike.

The Grabens
To reach these vertical-walled, grass carpeted valleys requires negotiating infamous Elephant Hill. With steep, rocky inclines and sharp switchbacks, Elephant Hill tests the skills of the most accomplished four-wheel-driver. Continuing past the Grabens, roads and trails lead to the Confluence Overlook, a point 1,000 feet above the meeting place of the Green and Colorado rivers.

The most inaccessible part of Canyonlands, the rugged interior here requires a four-wheel drive to maneuver around in. Drifting sand may slow down your car, but you certainly won't hit traffic!

From Utah 24 or 95 take two- and four-wheel-drive routes east to the Maze. Facilities include: four-wheel-drive roads; primitive hiking routes; primitive campsites (backcountry permit required); overlooks; and commercial tours from nearby towns. No water is available.

On the summit of the Orange Cliffs is the Hans flat ranger station. There are three branch roads from here—a two-wheel drive to the head of Flint Trail; a four-wheel drive to Cleopatra's Chair and Panorama Point, and a jeep road north along the spur, heading to Horseshoe Canyon.

Horseshoe Canyon
Accessible by two-wheel drive and worth the trip as it offers hikers an opportunity to see "The Great Gallery"—an amazing panel of Indian pictographs. Located 46 miles southwest of Green River off State Highway 24.

Maze Overlook
It's a long drive—80 miles past pavement, 170 miles by road from Moab park headquarters; but the view here makes it worth the trip. Canyon rock art serves as probable evidence that hunters and gatherers prior to the Anasazi and Fremont lived at the Maze uplands.


park finder
step one
Where are you going?

step one
What do you want to do?

+ More Activities

GEARZILLA: The Gorp Gear Blog

Receive Gear Reviews, Articles & Advice

Preview this newsletter »

Ask Questions