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.

Getting There


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.

By Auto

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.

Other DesertUSA Resources
Gem Trails Guides Book
Related Books & Gifts - Trading Post
Desert Rocks, Minerals & Geology Index
Desert Survival Primer
Desert Survival Kit



Overview | Climate/Map | Description | Things To Do | Lodging | Nearby


Share this page on Facebook:

DesertUSA Newsletter -- We send articles on hiking, camping and places to explore, as well as animals, wildflower reports, plant information and much more. Sign up below or read more about the DesertUSA newsletter here. (It's Free.)

The Desert Environment
The North American Deserts
Desert Geological Terms



Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
The movie Stagecoach, in 1939 introduced two stars to the American public, John Wayne, and Monument Valley. Visiting Monument Valley gives you a spiritual and uplifting experience that few places on earth can duplicate. Take a look at this spectacular scenery in this DesertUSA video.

Glen Canyon Dam - Lake Powell Held behind the Bureau of Reclamation's Glen Canyon Dam, waters of the Colorado River and tributaries are backed up almost 186 miles, forming Lake Powell. The dam was completed in 1963. Take a look at this tremendous feat of engineering - the Glen Canyon Dam.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Canyon de Chelly NM offers the opportunity to learn about Southwestern Indian history from the earliest Anasazi to the Navajo Indians who live and farm here today. Its primary attractions are ruins of Indian villages built between 350 and 1300 AD at the base of sheer red cliffs and in canyon wall caves.


Take a look at our Animals index page to find information about all kinds of birds, snakes, mammals, spiders and more!

life straw

Rockhound books

USB Charger solar

Hot temperatures in the desertAre you interested in the temperatures in the desert?

Click here to see current desert temperatures!

Copyright © 1996- and Digital West Media, Inc. - -