The Island in the Sky offers the best opportunities for sightseeing by car. The overlooks along the scenic drive are perched 1,000 feet above the surrounding terrain, providing spectacular views of the canyons below as well as the other districts. Several short trails, including Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome and Aztec Butte, lead to interesting natural and cultural resources. Plan on spending at least an hour in the park in order to drive out to Grand View Point. More time is needed to enjoy the other overlooks or explore some of the short trails.
There are hundreds of miles of four-wheel-drive roads in Canyonlands, providing access to various campsites, trailheads and viewpoints in the park's backcountry. These roads range in difficulty from intermediate, like the White Rim Road at the Island in the Sky, to extremely technical routes like Elephant Hill in the Needles and the road to the Land of Standing Rocks in the Maze.
Permits are required for all overnight trips in the backcountry. During the spring and fall, demand for permits frequently exceeds the number available. If you plan to visit Canyonlands during peak season, especially to camp along the White Rim Road, it is recommended that you make reservations well in advance.
All vehicles must remain on established roads. ATVs, UTVs, OHVs and non-street-legal dirt bikes are not permitted. High-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles and some experience are required for most backcountry roads. Other vehicles (e.g. low-clearance all-wheel-drive or high-clearance 2WD) usually have difficulty negotiating the rough slickrock, loose rocks, deep sand and steep switchbacks found throughout the park.
Most vehicle rental agreements restrict vehicles to paved roads. Check your contract and be aware that the rental company can charge you for damage to the vehicle outside of the contract agreement specifications.
Drive carefully! Towing charges are very expensive. Visitors caught in the backcountry of Canyonlands with disabled vehicles can expect towing fees in excess of $1,000. AAA and other towing insurance may not be valid on backcountry dirt roads.
Did You Know?
Pinyon pines do not produce pine nuts every year. These delicious nuts can only be harvested every three to seven years. This irregular schedule prevents animals from adapting to an abundance of pine nuts and guarantees that at least some nuts will become new pine trees instead of a quick meal. More...