Canyonlands

Canyonlands is the underrated, less-visited and larger sibling of Arches National Park. Both parks are usually reached from Moab, Utah, but Arches is infinitely more accessible than most parts of Canyonlands. While Arches packs a mighty scenic punch in a relatively small area, the human infrastructure (or lackthereof) and ruggedness of Canyonlands makes the visitor earn their scenery in ways Arches does not.

Comprising of four units, most visitors see Canyonlands in the Island in The Sky district, due to its proximity to Moab. The Needles district is more remote and has less tourist facilities than Island in the Sky. The Maze district is the most remote and least visited district in the park, with no tourist facilities outside of Hans Flat ranger station. This area has the lowest human population density in the lower 48 states. Horsehoe Canyon is an unattached auxiliary unit near the Maze district which hosts world-class petroglyphs and dinosaur footprints.

While Canyonlands is not a particularly large national park in terms of acreage, the park is usually not seen it in its entirety in one visit due to long driving times between districts due to extremely rugged terrain created by tectonics and the Green and Colorado rivers. Hans Flat ranger station and the Needles visitor center may only be 24 miles apart by air, but the drive between the two is over 200 miles and nearly 6 hours driving time. Some visitors skirt these logistical limitations by boat rides along the Colorado and Green rivers or small plane flights to various nearby airstrips. Even for these visitors, the general lack of water sources in the area poses considerable logistical problems. The Maze and Needles are not tourist destinations, they are geographically complex wilderness areas that should require the highest levels of preparation and self-reliance. Even mundane mistakes made here are potentially lethal due to distances from water and emergency services.