Canyonlands National Park In An Afternoon

There are affiliate links in here.  I get a small commission if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you.

No, no, no.  I’m not saying you can see the whole of Canyonlands National Park in an afternoon.  But you can do some hiking in at least one district and maybe start off in the other in the morning.  I’ll just assume you’re staying in Moab and I would recommend a visit to Island in the Sky first, then head over to the needles for a little break from the crowds of Moab.


This was almost our plan, except we were in Arches.  It was SO busy there we didn’t really even hike.  There were so many people and it was very difficult to find parking in some areas and we took that as a sign to go back another time when it’s (hopefully) less crowded.  So, off to Canyonlands we went.  According to my National Park book, it looked there was a lot more hiking in The Needles, so that’s where we went.


We started off and it’s maybe an hour and a half from Moab?  I’m not even sure.  Yes, Google says 1 hour 26 minutes.  The drive was pretty and something new for me.  Along the way we stopped at Newspaper Rock to see a rock face covered in petroglyphs, which was pretty cool.  I always like stopping to check out some petroglyphs.  There isn’t much to do there other than check out the rock, so we kept going and eventually made it to our destination.


The Needles district of Canyonlands is very different from Island in the Sky.  First of all, you’re in the canyon instead of way above it.  Second, It looks very different.  I mean, you really can’t tell what it would look like in the canyon from Island in the Sky, but I don’t think it’s this.  Yes, I know, I could be very wrong about that, but I’ll worry about that later.  Maybe I’ll go back to the Island in the Sky and make a mental note to look into the canyon better.


We made a stop at the Wooden Shoe Arch Overlook thing and then drove to the end of the road.  The visitors center was already closed, so that’s more reason to go back to either of the paved districts (unlike The Maze.)  There was a trail at the end, I think it was the Canyon Overlook Trail, or something along those lines, but I don’t know exactly.  We didn’t want to do a long hike, but we did want to do something so we set off and followed the cairns into the canyon, then up the other side and over the top to hang out around there and enjoy the mountain views a bit.


We didn’t stay terribly long since we had at least a three hour drive home, but it was a lovely little hike, nothing too difficult, and I would love to go back to see more of the Needles District.  I would like to see part of The Maze as well, which is the least visited, more backcountry district in Canyonlands.  It was a brief visit, but I’m glad I got to explore a new part of the park.

Tips for visiting The Needles District of Canyonlands:

  • A lot of the hikes in The Needles require permits.  You can get those at the visitors center.
  • As always, bring water, especially if you’re here in the summer as it got hot.
  • There are a lot less visitors here than Island in the Sky and a lot less than Arches, so if you want a break from the crowds, consider The Needles.
  • There is a turnoff for The Needles Overlook, that isn’t how you get into The Needles,  Pass that road then there will be another turnoff.  Don’t worry.  There are signs.
  • If you have all day for The Needles, stop at the overlook, which I haven’t done yet, and then head into the canyon to do some hiking.

Have you been to The Needles?  What about another district in Canyonlands?  What did you think of it?  What did you do there?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.