Island in the Sky offers the best opportunities for sightseeing by car. The overlooks along the 34-mile roundtrip scenic drive are perched 1,000 feet above the surrounding terrain, providing spectacular views of the canyons below as well as the other districts. 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 additional overlooks or explore some of the short trails.
The scenic drive at The Needles continues 6.5 miles past the visitor center, ending at Big Spring Canyon Overlook. Along the way are several pullouts for short hiking trails, viewpoints, and a picnic area. Graded gravel roads lead to Cave Spring and the Elephant Hill trailhead, where there is a second picnic area. The Elephant Hill access road provides the best view of The Needles from a car.
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 to extremely technical. Research your route thoroughly before attempting:
If you plan to enjoy the park's four-wheel-drive roads, please be aware of the following:
Do I need a permit?
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. People caught in the backcountry of Canyonlands with disabled vehicles can expect towing fees in excess of $2,000. AAA and other towing insurance may not be valid on backcountry dirt roads.