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Canyonlands NP

Aztec Butte is a prominent landmark and offers a delightful climb to a 1000 year old granary and a pair of naturally sculpted arches. 

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands

Located in Utah’s Canyon Country, Canyonlands National Park is divided into three districts. These districts are not connected by roads and are called “The Island in the Sky”, the Needles” and “the Maze”.

A closer look among the sandstone and juniper reveals remnants of a lost civilization of Anaszi peoples, leaving their pictographs on rock walls and granaries tucked into high cliff walls. Aztec Butte is a natural sandstone arches which creates two large picture windows and a marvelous viewpoint that looks out over a beautiful desert landscape. One of a handful of short and unique hikes in the area, the Aztec Butte Trail is estimated to be a two mile roundtrip up the south face, over the top, and down to the first ledge.

The Island in the Sky 

The Island in the Sky, also known as Between the Rivers, is close to the town of Moab and Arches National Park. With an average elevation of 6,100 feet is the highest section of the national park.
The approach to the Island in the Sky Visitor Center via SR 313 is 32 miles and takes about an hour. Once arriving at the Island in the Sky’s visitor center your first priority should be Grand View Point. Take the short hike to get to the view point where the miles-wide expanse of canyon can be even more impressive than the Grand Canyon.
The Needles  

Named after the colorful spires of Cedar Mesa Sandstones dominating the area, the Needles District forms the southeast corner of Canyonlands National Park. While only 15 miles south of the Island in the Sky it takes 137 miles by road.  On US Highway 191, drive 40 miles (60 km) south of Moab or 14 miles (22 km) north of Monticello, then take Utah Highway 211 roughly 35 miles (56 km) west. Highway 211 ends in the Needles, and is the only paved road leading in and out of the district.

The Newspaper Rock is designated a state Historical Monument and is situated along the Needles districts of Canyonlands National Park, 12 miles from US 191 and 30 miles from the park boundary. The 200 square foot rock is covered by hundreds of ancient Indian petroglyphs (rock carvings) and is one of the largest, best preserved and easily accessed groups in the Southwest. The petroglyphs have a mixture of abstract forms, animal and human, and no one has been able to fully interpret their meaning up to date.
Canyonlands Petroglyphs
Newspaper Rock - Photo by Jim Unterschultz, Canada

The Maze 

The Maze is big, wild, remote and untamed. It is the least accessible district of Canyonlands. There are no amenities - no food, no water, no gasoline and no entrance fee. The Roads require high-clearance four-wheel-drive and therefore is the least accessible district of Canyonlands. Because of the remoteness and the difficulty of roads and trails, travel to the Maze requires more time. Most of the visitors spend more than three days in the Maze.

Coming from I-70 you take Utah Highway 24 south for 24 miles and turnoff to Goblin Valley State Park which takes you along a two-wheel-drive dirt road 46 miles southeast to the ranger station. From the ranger station, the canyons of the Maze are another 3 to 6 hours by high-clearance, 4WD. Another four-wheel-drive road leads into the Maze north from Highway 95 near Hite Marina (driving time is 3+ hours to the park boundary). This is a place where you need to know what you are doing before you attempt to visit it. You need a topographical map and a GPS - and you need to know how to use them. Remember you are 100 miles from nowhere and your 4WD crawls along at 5 mph.

4WD Roads in the Maze
National Park Service Photo from