Canyonlands National Park

"We glide along through a strange, weird, grand region.
The landscape everywhere, away from the river, is of rock."
—Explorer John Wesley Powell, 1869.

Canyonlands National Park protects and preserves an immense, wild, desert wilderness at the heart of the Colorado Plateau. Sculpted mainly by water, including by the Green and Colorado rivers, this wilderness contains hundreds of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires. Prior to the park’s establishment in 1964, prehistoric Native Americans, cowboys, river explorers, and uranium prospectors were the few who dared to enter this rugged country.

Canyonlands National Park remains exceptionally wild. The roads are mostly unpaved, the trails mostly primitive, and its rivers are free flowing. Throughout its 527 square miles roam desert bighorn sheep, coyotes, foxes, deer, and bobcats. The rivers are the only major water source in the midst of the dry expanse, and attract a variety of wildlife, including migratory birds that find shelter in the riverside cottonwoods, tamarisks, and willows.



In spite of its isolation, the park faces challenges upholding its mandate to preserve its resources unimpaired for future generations. According to a park assessment conducted by NPCA’s Center for State of the Parks in 2004, Canyonlands National Park faces muliple threats:

  • Non-native invasive plants have taken root throughout the park, and non-native fish outnumber natives in park waters;
  • Oil and gas development on adjacent lands threatens to mar undisturbed scenic vistas, disrupt natural soundscapes, lighten dark night skies, release chemical pollutants into the atmosphere, harm wildlife, and contaminate critical desert waters;
  • Funding and staffing shortages compromise cultural and natural resource protection. Seventy-one percent of identified historic structures suffer the effects of vandalism, weather, neglect, animal and pest infestation, visitation, and erosion;
  • Archival and museum collections do not get the attention they deserve because the park must share its part-time curator with three other parks, and the park does not have money to evaluate and protect cultural landscapes or complete an ethnographic overview and assessment; and,
  • Natural resources staff are unable to stem the invasion of non-native plants and reestablish native vegetation largely as a result of limited budgets.








September 8, 2015

Holy cow this park is amazing. I liked this better than Grand Canyon. As some other people had said, it is challenging but worth it.


September 1, 2015

Very nice park! Lots of fun and would definitely go back!


November 10, 2011

Very nice park, with the exception of lack of water--bring a lot of bottled water with you!! Had a good time coming late in the day when it was a bit cooler, but midJune is still HOT. Found the contrast with Arches,which is ultra-close in distance and very different geologically, very intriguing.


November 10, 2011

Canyonlands is beautiful. Very demanding terrain in a gorgeous but unforgiving area. Bring plenty of water, (a gallon per person, seriously) and do a day hike such as the Syncline Loop in the Island in the Sky district. It is worth it. Easily within distance from Arches as well.

Post a Comment

Share your park story today. Post your park experiences, recommendations, or tips here.*

Enter this word:

* Your comments will appear once approved by the moderator. NPCA staff do not regularly respond to postings. We reserve the right to remove comments that include profanity or personal attacks, promote products or services, or are otherwise off-topic. Opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the position(s) of NPCA. By submitting comments you are giving NPCA permission to reuse your words on our website and print materials.


Want to learn more about the  ?

The   can be seen in the wild in America’s national parks. Why not join the National Parks Conservation Association community to protect and preserve our national parks?

Sign up to protect parks in   & other states

Why not join the National Parks Conservation Association Community to protect and preserve our national parks?

Sign up to protect   and other National Parks

Why not join the National Parks Conservation Association Community to protect and preserve our national parks?

Please leave this field empty
Yes, please sign me up for NPCA’s newsletter and other emails about protecting our national parks!

National Parks Conservation Association
National Parks Conservation Association

Log In

Or log in with your connected Facebook or Twitter account:


Welcome to our growing community of park advocates. Thanks for signing up!

Sign Up:

Or sign up by connecting your Facebook or Twitter account: