Why Canyonlands Should Be Your Next National Park

Why Canyonlands Should Be Your Next National Park

Deep gorges, far off buttes, trails on slick rock, and canyons as far as the eye can see – this is what you’ll find at Canyonlands National Park.  Located in southeastern Utah, this area is an adventure lovers paradise.  Canyonlands National Park often gets overshadowed by its more popular next door neighbor, Arches, but read on to find out why Canyonlands should be high on your list to visit.


Canyonlands has been home to people for over 10,000 years

  • LOCATION:  Utah
  • CLOSEST MAJOR CITIES:  Moab, Utah (located here) | Salt Lake City, Utah (about 250 miles)
  • ANNUAL VISITORS:  900,000 (2021)
  • 29th most visited US National Park out of 63
  • TOP THINGS TO SEE:  Grand View Point and Mesa Arch

More About Canyonlands National Park

  • Canyonlands National Park contains four sections, known as districts:  Islands in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze, with the rivers considered their own section as well.  Of these districts, Islands in the Sky is the most easily accessible and thus the most popular area to visit.
  • The deep canyons were carved by the Colorado River about 20 million years ago.
  • Canyonlands officially became a national park in 1964.
  • Butch Cassidy and his gang hid out in Canyonlands!
  • Canyonlands is an official Dark Sky Park, where one gets incredible views of the night sky.  In the summer, there are ranger-led stargazing programs.  Guests are permitted to enjoy the park after dark on their own anytime, however.

Why You Need to Visit Canyonlands!

We didn’t know what to expect when we planned our visit to Canyonlands.  We planned to be in Moab, Utah for several days while we visited both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.  Arches was familiar with Delicate Arch the star.  But after our visit to crowded Arches, we were pleasantly surprised with our experience in Canyonlands.   

The crowds are low compared to other parks

Anytime a place is overrun with masses of people it takes away from the experience.  Jockeying for parking, having to stop and move over on narrow parts of trails, and taking in views with tripods and people all over the place makes it feel a bit chaotic rather than the serene outdoor experience one desires.  However, as the national parks continue to grow in popularity, especially over the last couple years, this has become expected.  When you find a park that is lower on crowd levels it’s very much appreciated.  We never had issues finding parking in Canyonlands and we only passed a few other hikers on the trails.  And the views were vast with no one else in them!

Look ma, no crowds!

It is close to amenities

Many national parks are pretty remote and far from amenities.  Not Canyonlands.  It’s located about 30 miles from Moab, which has a plethora of things to do, places to dine at, and types of lodging to choose from.  You also have many outdoor adventures at your finger tips from riding ATVs, bike riding, white water rafting, horseback riding, and more.  

Being close to the nearby town of Moab was great

You don’t have to hike to get the views

Because the Islands in the Sky District is high above the mesas, one can walk short distances in several places to take in the views.  This is great if with small children or people with limited mobility.

Buck Canyon Overlook is easily accessible with a short, paved path to the viewpoint

You get more bang for your buck

As mentioned, Canyonlands is very close to Arches National Park, at just 26 miles apart.  Getting to stay in one home base while visiting two parks is pretty awesome!

The views are incredible

Both Mike and Braden said they preferred Canyonlands to Arches, which we had visited the day prior.  It resembles the Grand Canyon with its deep gorges and far off buttes.  Just standing and taking in the views is humbling.

How about these views?!

When we visited

Early April 2021.  We found this to be a great time to visit with clear, blue skies and comfortable temperatures for hiking.  

Our experience with lack of crowds was in early April, which we thought would be a popular time.  It was our spring break which also bumped up to Easter weekend.  We found Arches to be quite busy but our experience at Canyonlands was much less so.  I have read that Canyonlands can get crowded in the summer.  If you can, try visiting in the spring!  

Where we stayed

Moab Under Canvas | Moab, Utah

Moab Under Canvas was a fun and unique place to stay.  This is a bridge between camping and a hotel stay and is known as “glamping”, a play on “glamour camping”.  We had a very comfortable bed plus cot in the main tent and a teepee tent with two twin beds.  Our main tent also had a full bath including a hot shower.  The glampground had amenities such as grills, fire pits, and nightly entertainment.  We enjoyed our stay here for the few days we were in Moab.

Our “glamp site” at Moab Under Canvas

Read more!

We have several articles on our treks through Utah’s national parks.

Our trip to Canyonlands was combined with visiting both Arches and Capitol Reef National Parks.  You can read all about it here, Rounding Out Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks.  We also wrote an article on the Best Time to Visit Delicate Arch.  

For a full guide on visiting all of Utah’s national parks in one visit, be sure to read our Guide to Visiting Utah’s Epic Mighty Five National Parks.

For the Ultimate Southwest Road Trip, our guide will take you through all five of Utah’s national parks as well as Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.  This guide includes other epic things to see and do on this 1-2 week road trip.

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