Canyonlands National Park

Offroad zurück nach Moab

Canyonlands National Park is divided into three parts by the Colorado and Green Rivers: Needles, Island in the Sky, and Maze. The area was declared a national park on 12 September 1964 and covers an area of 1,366 km². We have compiled the most beautiful sights of Canyonlands Park for you in this travel report.

Canyonlands - Parkeingang Needles
Canyonlands – Needles Park Entrance

Canyonlands National Park – Needles District

On our first day in Canyonlands National Park, we visited the Needles District. This takes its name from the red and white grained rock peaks that characterize the area. To get close to the Needles, an off-road vehicle or the time for a longer hike is recommended.

Offroad to the Colorado Overlook

At the park entrance we learned from a friendly ranger that we happened to be here during the "National Park Week" and could thus save the 10 USD entrance fee. After we had a quick look at the visitor center about the park, we decided to drive an off-road route to the Colorado.

At first it was an easy dirt road, but after a few kilometers the route became more and more challenging. Suddenly, there were large stones, ledges and deep holes in front of us. Sometimes one of us had to get out of the car to guide the other over the obstacles. Really a great off-road ride! However, we did not find the view of the Colorado as impressive as we had imagined. On the way back, we had a great view of the Rocky Mountains. It's crazy – we're sweating here in the desert and in the distance the mountains are covered with snow.

Elephant Hill Trail

After the off-road action had taken a little more time, we decided to go on a short hiking tour on the Elephant Hill Trail. The path led us into the mountains past mushroom-like rock formations to the vicinity of the rock needles.

After the rather strenuous hike, we made our way to the small town of Moab, 63 kilometers away. We hadn't booked a hotel room for tonight in advance. We didn't expect so many holidaymakers to be out and about on a weekend at this time of year. After four unsuccessful attempts in different hotels, we finally found an affordable free room for the night.

Canyonlands National Park – Island in the Sky

The next morning we set off to explore the second part of the national park, Island in the Sky. This is probably the most famous part of the park. It is located in close proximity to Moab, which many tourists find to be an ideal place to stay for visits to Arches and Canyonlands.

Grandview Point

After the obligatory stop at the visitor center, we first drove to Grandview Point. Here, a ranger was explaining how the park and its individual rock layers were formed. From the plateau, hence the name Island in the Sky, we had a great view of the southeastern Needles area.

Upheaval Dome

We found our next stop, the Upheaval Dome, very interesting. There are two theories about the formation of the 400-metre-deep crater. The first is that slowly moving salt deposits underground pushed up the sandstone layers above, creating the jagged craters. According to a newer, much more spectacular theory, the crater is said to have been formed by the impact of a meteor.

Blick in den Krater des Upheaval Dome
View into the crater of the Upheaval Dome

All-wheel drive route "Shafer Trail"

For the way back to Moab, we decided against the paved road and for the four-wheel drive route "Shafer Trail". The route first led down from the plateau in narrow serpentines, always with one side on the abyss. The path was easier to navigate overall, except for a few rock steps. Shortly before we came back to the main road in Potash, we passed a salt works. Here in the mountains, salt is broken down by evaporation of the water in large artificially created lakes. Due to the salt bottom, the water had a very beautiful and rare turquoise color.

Sunrise at Mesa Arch

Our last day in Canyonlands National Park started very early. We really wanted to be at the famous Mesa Arch before sunrise. Unfortunately, we were not the only ones with this idea, so we joined a group of Asians. The moment when the sun comes out on the horizon is simply magical.

Are you still looking for a suitable hotel in Moab?

You can find a hotel that suits your budget through the various online travel agencies such as Agoda,,,Expedia,,, or

  • Needles District
  • Island in the Sky


My name is Christian and I was born in the green heart of Germany and studied computer engineering in Ilmenau, Thuringia. Since 2021, I live with my wife Christin and our son in Merseburg and work in Leipzig as a product manager. What I love about travelling is flying, discovering delicious food and drink, and staying in great hotels. I am a travel enthusiast and always on the lookout for the next adventure. I have been posting about my experiences on the road since 2007.

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