Canyonlands National Park
Climate, Geography, Map
Overview | Description | Things To Do | Lodging | Nearby
Canyonlands National Park is a wild and primitive desert region between Capitol Reef and Arches national parks of Utah. It runs about 65 miles north-to-south and about 25 miles east-to-west, encompassing 559 square miles (337,570 acres). It is located in the heart of the Colorado Plateau in southeastern Utah and is this state's largest national park.
The confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers is the centerpiece of of the Canyonlands, cutting through horizontal layers of sedimentary rock, and dividing the park into three topographically distinct regions -- Island in the Sky, The Needle and The Maze -- in addition to the unattached Horseshoe Canyon Unit northwest of the main park.
Outside the park's boundaries, three jagged mountain ranges abruptly break the pattern of flat-topped canyon landscape. To the east rise the 12,000-foot La Sal Mountains, to the south the Abajo Mountain and to the west the Henry Mountains.
Canyonlands receives an average of 9.2 inches of precipitation a year. Most of this moisture comes in the form of melting winter snows. The high elevations in the park, 4,000 to 6,000 feet, and the snow create what many ecologists call a cold or high desert. The dryness of the air creates a situation where more moisture could be evaporated from plants and the ground than actually accumulates during the year.
The average maximum summer temperature at Island in the Sky is 90 F and at the Needles it's 94 F. As a result of the unusual conditions, the assemblage of plants and animals found here is a unique blend, not found in other deserts of the world. Summer temperatures, with highs hovering near 100 F, discourage crowds and tend to make strenuous exercise difficult. Most precipitation falls in late summer and early autumn thunderstorms. Winters are cold, with highs averaging 30 to 50 F, and lows averaging 0° to 20° F.
Major airlines fly into Salt Lake City, Utah (5 hours by car) or Grand Junction, Colorado (2.5 hours by car). A commuter airline, Alpine Air, flies into the Canyonlands Airport, 30 miles from the Island in the Sky Visitor Center and Salt Lake City.
Greyhound Bus stops 61 miles northwest of the Island in the Sky Visitor Center region park in Green River, Utah.
Amtrak stops 55 miles northeast of the Island in the Sky Visitor Center in Thompson Springs, Utah. Rental vehicles and taxis can be arranged.
Island in the Sky District
- From Moab Utah, 35 miles southwest via U.S. 191 north, then Utah 313 south
- From Crescent Junction on Interstate 70, 35 miles south via U.S. 191 and Utah 313
- Traveling both east and west on Interstate 70, take the U.S. 191 exit south at Crescent Junction
The Needles District
- The Needles Visitor Center is 77 miles southwest of Moab, Utah via U.S. Route 191, then west on Utah Route 211. It is 49 miles northwest of Monticello, Utah via the same routes.
- From Interstate 70 traveling east, take U.S. Route 191 south from Crescent Junction, 69 miles south to Utah 211, west on 211 for 35 miles.
- Traveling west on Interstate 70, take Utah 128 southwest from the Cisco exit, 45 miles to U.S. 191, 65 miles south to Utah 211, and 35 miles west to the park entrance.
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