The ultimate road trip guide to Canyonlands National Park

Home to "The Island in the Sky," a jaw-dropping scenic landscape.

  • 15
  • 57:58
  • 615 mi
  • $102
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Created by roadtripper668373 - March 5th 2021

Canyonlands, one of Utah's five National Parks, is known for being a destination for adrenaline junkies and adventurers. Its location is pretty rugged and remote (conveniently located near Arches National Park, as well as other National Recreation Areas, State Parks, Historic Sites, and more), but hidden among those buttes, canyons, mesas, and rivers are all kinds of treasures to be found. Native American ruins, breathtakingly-hued rock formations, endless views of the stars in the night sky, and a true sense of adventure await.

Photo of Canyonlands National Park
4.5

Some tips for visiting Canyonlands: -There aren't any bridges or roads within the park that connect the separate units (the Needles, Island in the Sky, the Maze, Horseshoe Canyon and the Rivers) so you'll have to leave the park and go around. That means the park is less crowded within and more undeveloped, but plan accordingly. -If you want a different way to see the park, look into a rafting expedition down the Green or Colorado Rivers. You can ride the rapids on a less intense route if you're a beginner, or tackle a more challenging stretch of river if you're up for it. -Due to the park's remote location, Canyonlands is known for having some of the darkest skies and best stargazing in the country. Bring binoculars or a telescope if you want, but you'll likely be able to see the Milky Way with your naked eye.

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19mi 00h 35m
Photo of Dead Horse Point State Park
4.5

Hwy 313, Moab, UT, US

Dead Horse Point State Park

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13mi 00h 26m

2282 Sw Resource Blvd, Moab, UT, US

Mesa Arch

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The hike to Canyonlands' most popular feature, Mesa Arch, is one of the easiest and most popular. The paved, well-marked loop is less than a mile round trip, and takes you right up to the edge of this arch, which frames an incredible view of the Island in the Sky. Pro tip: the arch faces East, which means it offers drop-dead gorgeous views of the sunrise, so don't forget to pack your camera!

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14mi 00h 27m
Photo of The Pony Expresso Coffee Shop
4.0

1 Dead Horse Point, Moab, UT, US

The Pony Expresso Coffee Shop

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There aren't many places to get food near Canyonlands that are closer to the park than Moab, but The Pony Expresso Coffee Shop in Dead Horse Point State Park is a life-saver. Sandwiches, smoothies, snacks, and, of course, coffee, make this a good place to grab lunch to bring to the park.

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1mi 00h 06m
Photo of Dead Horse Point State Park
4.5

Hwy 313, Moab, UT, US

Dead Horse Point State Park

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The best view of Canyonlands is actually from Dead Horse Point State Park. Like Canyonlands, it has hiking, camping, and is great for biking, and if you're on your way from Moab to Canyonlands, it's worth it to stop by and soak up the views from one of the overlooks.

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33mi 08h 32m

Moab, UT, US

Fort Bottom Ruins

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The hike to Fort Bottom Ruins is special in that it takes you to some Native American ruins! The site is the remains of what was once a tower, likely built by Anasazis 750 years or so ago. Along the way, you'll also pass by a former cowboy's cabin, and get some awesome views of the Green River.

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76mi 09h 09m

1710 E Main St, Green River, UT, US

Tamarisk Restaurant

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Tamarisk Restaurant is popular with the locals for its awesome views of the river, and for its killer breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. You'll find staples like salads, prime rib, and burgers, as well as more funky offerings like coconut crusted tilapia and craft beer.

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57mi 01h 01m
Photo of Blondie's Eatery & Gift
4.0

40 N Hwy 95, Hanksville, UT, US

Blondie's Eatery & Gift

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An oasis of AC and wifi in the middle of the desert, Blondie's Eatery and Gift is a little roadside stop that's legendary, and not just because it's the only place for miles. The burgers are decadent, the milkshakes are rich, the breakfast is filling, and the service is great. It's absolutely a road trip classic!

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80mi 16h 48m
Photo of Horseshoe Canyon
3.0

Lower San Rafael Rd., Hanksville, UT, US

Horseshoe Canyon

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The hike out to Horseshoe Canyon is a little more strenuous, but it takes you right up to some of the biggest, best-preserved, and most intriguing pictographs in the country. One panel of art is over 7 feet tall!

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152mi 17h 50m
Photo of Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott
4.0

1863 North Highway 191, Moab, UT, US

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott

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18mi 00h 25m

11037 S Hwy 191, Moab, UT, US

Hole N' The Rock

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36mi 00h 40m
Photo of Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument
3.6

Utah 211 Scenic, Monticello, UT, US

Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument

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Located on the access road to the Needles, Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument is one of the largest collections of petroglyphs in the world. The oldest carvings here are about 2,000 years old, and there are 650 drawings depicting animals, humans, symbols, and more.

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52mi 00h 58m

Multicolored pillars of sandstone give the Needles District of the park its name, and there are various trails and overlooks where you can appreciate them! There's also Squaw Campground, which is a great place to spend the night and appreciate the stargazing while road tripping to the park. And there's a visitor center here as well.

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54mi 00h 60m
Photo of Horse Head Grill
3.5

380 South Main St, Monticello, UT, US

Horse Head Grill

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Ribs, burgers, and sandwiches make for hearty lunches and dinners at Horse Head Grill, plus they serve a great breakfast. It's got a super authentic, Western vibe going on...with the pictures of old ranches on the walls.

0mi 00h 02m
Photo of Peace Tree Juice Cafe
4.0

516 N Main, Monticello, UT, US

Peace Tree Juice Cafe

From uber-healthy options, like the quinoa bowl, to the sugary, delicious coconut-crusted French Toast, the breakfast at Peace Tree Juice Cafe is outstanding. The sit-down day menu, which has steak and fish, as well as sandwiches and salads, is just as good. Plus, the juice is a great way to fuel up for a long day of hiking.

The best time of year to visit Canyonlands National Park: The extreme temperature range, from 25 below zero to 115 degrees, is one of the world's most varied. Visiting in the dead of summer or the middle of winter is not advisable. Fall and spring are way better. The park rarely attracts crowds, so don't worry about the busy season being too busy.