If you’re looking for some gorgeous desert scenery and would like to stare in wonder at a land that looks so vast you can’t see where it ends or begins, you need to visit the Canyonlands National Park and the Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah’s Southeast high desert near Moab, UT.
Canyonlands National Park is made up of three parts or districts because of the two rivers that divide it, the Colorado and Green rivers.
- Island In The Sky – The most accessible part of the park and the Northernmost part that is closest to Moab.
- Needles – Situated in the Southeast corner of the park. About 40 miles South of Moab.
- The Maze – The most rugged and remote part located West of the park. If you want some full out adventure, this is where you should probably go, but plan ahead fully. High clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles are a must and a lot of time to get there and also you need time to explore.
Each district has its own characteristics like Island In The Sky is mostly sandstone and is situated up higher that the rest of the park. Hence the name it was given. Needles houses sandstone spires similar to some of the ones you’ll find in and around Goblin Valley State Park. There’s more of the same sandstone formations along with “castles” in The Maze.
Nothing connects the districts because of the rivers.
Some tips before you go
- Plan one district per trip or day depending on how much time you have.
- Check road conditions and with the park at NPS.gov to see of there’s anything notable.
- Research which district you want to visit first.
- Always pack plenty of water, food, sunblock and extra clothing.
- There are fees to get into these parks as with any and I highly recommend purchasing a pass if you plan of visiting a few in a year.
Island In The Sky
I would advise going here first as it is the most accessible and I feel like it is a great introductory part to the park. From Moab, drive 10 miles North and get on UT 313 and drive about 22 miles south west to the visitors center.
There you can nab up some maps of the area with the outlooks and trails and choose which you’d like to check out. I recommend the following pitstops and hikes.
- Mesa arch – A very quick hike to a very popular arch. Can you say screen saver? Depending on when you go, you will probably have to wait your turn to get a decent pic with the famous arch. But people seemed way cool, took turns and got out of the way and even offered to take our picture by it.
- Buck Canyon Overlook – A view point you can easily check out and take some beautiful pics from.
- Grand View point Overlook – This overlook will blow your mind so check it out!
- Green River Overlook – Another mind blower! You gotta check it!
- Upheaval dome – This is a geographical phenomenon that you take a decent hike to. Just follow the markers on the trail like little stacks of rocks on the sandstone (called cairns) and the signs and you’ll have no problem finding it. It looks like white sand made a little mountain in a crater of sorts. Geologists have a few theories of how it was formed but no real clue.
Now if you went early and gave yourself enough time, go out of the park and check out Dead Horse Point State park.
Dead Horse Point State Park
You can seriously get your hike on and your bike on in the park but unfortunately I did not allow myself enough time to get it on!
For another time I will plan on it but if you don’t have a whole lot of time just drive to the Dead Horse Point overlook and check that beauty out at least and take pics.
Lodging ideas for Island In The Sky & Dead Horse Point
- Motels/Hotels/condos/camping/Koa in Moab – These are all fine and cool. I did the hotel thing when I went and regretted not looking into and booking the next idea listed.
- Yurts -“ What?! Yurts? Cool! I wonder what they’re like inside” says I when I saw them in the distance. As of right now, here are your choices for these roundish little rooms for rent with little or all the amenities.
- Talking Mountain Yurts – La Sal Mountain Range Moab, UT. There’s 3 yurts available to rent for up to 8 people ranging from $125 – $275 per night depending on when you go. Portage service for your stuff available for a fee and pets allowed inside yurts for a fee as well. Make reservations at talkingmountainyurts.com
- Dead Horse Point State Park Yurts – Located in the Park obviously, there’s the Wingate Yurts and Moenkopi Yurts available for 6 people in each at $140 per night. Make reservations at www.reserveamerica.com
Glamping – Canvas tents – I didn’t know about these either but the research I did on them left me with questions that may require a phone call to find out.
Under Canvas Moab – From what I gather these are luxurious canvas tents with pretty much everything you want in some secluded areas.
Here’s the gist on the options I read about.
- Deluxe – Complete bathroom inside, wood stove, private deck, sleeps four.
- Safari with four twins – Large cabin style, communal bathhouse, sleeps four.
- Suite – Private bathroom, sleeps four, wood stove, private deck, secluded with views.
Get online and check these out.
These are available for reservation at undercanvas.com with several packages available. They seem pricy, but don’t take my word for it.
Dining in Moab
Of course there’s the ever popular Pasta Jay’s where you can pretty much count on most of the menu items being delicious in my opinion. (love anything even closely resembling Italian food) I really like the Peace Tree Juice Cafe for healthier breakfast options as well.
I usually go to these same places when I visit Moab but here are some other places I’ve heard or read good things about.
- Quesadilla Mobilla – Food truck, Mexican & southwestern food. This has excellent reviews pretty much everywhere you look on the net.
- Desert Bistro – American fusion.
- Sweet Cravings Bakery & Bistro – American, Deli & bakery.
- Eklecticafe – American, cool atmosphere.
- El Charro Locco – Mexican & Southwestern fare.
I’m sure there are a ton more and I will definitely try these suggestions out the next time I’m down there.
Grocery stores in Moab
There are a few grocery store options where you can get some supplies whiles you’re out and about or if you were lucky enough to get one of those cool yurts or canvas tents to cook your own food at.
- City Market – Regular grocery store
- The village Market – another regular ass grocery store
- Moonflower Community Cooperative – Here is a natural and whole foods store with a deli in the back. If you live in or near Moab, you may wish to pay into the co-op.
Coffee! Coffee! Coffee!
If you’re like me, you gotsta have that coffee! Here are a few of the many places in Moab you can grab a cup o Joe.
- Moab Coffee Roasters – Name says it all!
- Eklectica Coffee & Collectables – Breakfast and coffee served here.
- Wicked Brew Espresso Drive Thru – Drive Thru coffee shop.
- Wake & Bake Cafe – Sounds like they serve breakfast & lunch along with locally roasted coffee and smoothies.
- Cafe Italiano – Food truck, Espresso, iced coffee, smoothies and paninis.
- Starbucks – Of course there’s a friggin Starbucks! There’s always one of these corporate death traps. Avoid at all times, unless of course it’s your fave but I guarantee you can find something so much better! I wasn’t even going to mention it but then there’s people who love this place for some reason. I don’t see it, but that’s me and enough about what I want.
Hello Moab my old friend
I’ve been to Moab a handful of times, usually with an agenda in mind, but sometimes its just great to go down and visit and eat and shop at some great unique places. I know there’s a lot more to do and see around this area but unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to get it all in.
They also have the Moab Castle Creek Winery down that beautiful Hwy 128 alongside the Colorado River with the Red Cliffs Lodge. I’ve stayed there and greatly enjoyed a Christmas party one time but wasn’t able to spend a whole lot of time there, so maybe another time….