• Spires of Cedar Mesa sandstone in Chesler Park (Needles District)

    Canyonlands

    National Park Utah

There are park alerts in effect.
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  • Some unpaved roads are closed

    Recent rains have caused extensive damage to some roads in the Needles District and some of the roads into the Maze District. More »

  • Safety in Bear Country

    Black bears have been seen in the Needles, Maze, and along the Colorado River. Be alert and store food and garbage properly: in hard-sided, latched containers (or your vehicle) when not being prepared or consumed. More »

  • New backcountry requirements in effect

    Hard-sided bear containers are required for backpackers in parts of the Needles District. More »

4WD Roads in the Needles

photo: Driving up Elephant Hill
Driving up Elephant Hill
NPS Photo by Neal Herbert
 

About 50 miles of challenging backcountry roads lead to campsites, trailheads and many natural and cultural features. All of these roads require high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles. Inexperienced drivers are discouraged from attempting these roads as the risk of vehicle damage is great and towing expenses typically exceed $1,000.

If you plan to take advantage of Needles' 4WD roads, please remember the following:

  • All vehicles and bikes must remain on designated roads.
  • ATVs, UTVs, and OHVs are not permitted. Motorbikes must be highway-legal.
  • Pets also are not permitted, even in vehicles.
  • All vehicles must be registered and operated by a licensed driver.
  • Roads may close intermittently due to poor driving conditions or weather.
  • 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, it is recommended that you make reservations well in advance.

Drive Carefully!
Towing charges are very expensive. Visitors caught in the backcountry with disabled vehicles can expect towing fees in excess of $1,000.

ELEPHANT HILL

One of the most technical four-wheel-drive roads in Utah, Elephant Hill presents drivers and mountain bikers with steep grades, loose rock, stair-step drops, tight turns and tricky backing. Once over the hill, equally challenging roads lead to various features as well as BLM lands south of the park. No water is available at the campsites, but vault toilets are provided at all camping areas except New Bates Wilson. Groups camping at New Bates Wilson must bring their own toilet.

COLORADO OVERLOOK

Moderate road, good for mountain bikes. Visitors can avoid the large rocks and stair-step drops in the last 1.5 miles by parking on the road and walking to the overlook. (Be sure to leave room for other vehicles to pass.) Outstanding views of the Colorado River canyon. Unprotected overlook; use caution. No vehicle camping.

SALT CREEK & HORSE CANYON

Permit required for day and overnight use. Roads travel along canyon bottoms where deep sand, deep water and quicksand are common. Too sandy for mountain bikes. At Peekaboo, vehicle campsites are available and prehistoric rock art may be seen. Vehicles are no longer permitted to drive upstream of Peekaboo in Salt Creek Canyon. Horse Canyon road leads to several arches and Tower Ruin.

LAVENDER CANYON

Permit required for day use. Road follows a canyon bottom where deep sand, deep water and quicksand are common. Too sandy for mountain bikes. There are two major creek crossings with steep banks. Many arches and archeological sites may be viewed from the road. No vehicle camping inside the park.

Backcountry Vehicle Campsites
Each campsite will accommodate up to 10 people and 3 vehicles. Vault toilets are provided, except at New Bates Wilson and Peekaboo where groups must provide their own.

Campsite Driving Time
(from visitor center)
Number of Sites

Peekaboo

45 minutes

2

Devils Kitchen

2 hours

4

New Bates Wilson

2.5 hours

1

Bobby Jo

3 hours

2

Horsehoof

3 hours

1



Did You Know?

Detail of the Great Gallery pictograph panel

Some of the rock art in Horseshoe Canyon was painted over 3,000 years ago. Now known as "Barrier Canyon" style rock art, it was painted by nomadic groups of hunter-gatherers that roamed throughout the southwest. More...