Canyonlands National Park is a wilderness of countless canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Rivers divide the park into four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves. The park preserves the natural beauty and human history throughout its four districts. While they share a primitive desert atmosphere, each offers different opportunities for wildness and solitude. Though they appear close on a map, there are no roads that directly link the districts. Traveling between them requires two to eight hours by car as there are no locations in the park to cross the river without a boat.
Island in the Sky
The Island in the Sky mesa rests on sheer sandstone cliffs over 1,000 feet (304 m) above the surrounding terrain. The area offers famous four-wheel drive and mountain biking on the White Rim Road and challenging backpacking below the mesa top in a mixture of talus slopes and vast basins without any reliable water sources.
The Needles offers more of a backcountry experience, requiring technical four-wheel driving and backpacking skills. Inexperienced drivers should not attempt the backcountry roads in Needles. There are over 60 miles of interconnecting hiking trails with varying levels of backpacking opportunities.
The Maze is the least accessible district. Due to its remoteness and the difficulty of roads and trails, visitors must be prepared for self-sufficiency and the proper equipment or gear for self-rescue. The four-wheel-drive roads in the Maze are extremely remote, very difficult, present considerable risk of vehicle damage, and should not be attempted by inexperienced drivers. Backpacking routes are very primitive and lead into canyons that look alike and are difficult to identify without a topographic map and excellent navigation skills.
Peekaboo 4WD Road is impassable due to water, quicksand, and dense vegetation across the roadway. Vehicles cannot reach the trailhead or campsites. Backpackers can reserve Peekaboo 1 and 2 campsites by contacting the Backcountry Permit Office at 435-259-4351 or email@example.com. Salt Creek Trail (from Cathedral Butte Trailhead to Peekaboo) can be difficult to navigate due to overgrown sections and dense vegetation; backpackers should be prepared for bushwhacking and walking in deep sand.
Due to specific route knowledge or additional resources (i.e. high clearance 4WD vehicles) needed to reach these areas, backpacking permits for Lower Basins Zone (Island in the Sky), Gooseberry/Lathrop Zone (Island in the Sky), Butler/West Side Canyons Zone (The Needles), and Davis & Lavender Zone (The Needles) can only be reserved at the backcountry permit office or district visitor centers. Please contact 435-259-4351 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
A sizable rockfall north of Labyrinth campsites has temporarily closed a section of White Rim Road to all travel. All vehicles, motorcycles, bicyclists, and hikers should plan for out-and-back trips via Shafer Trail or Potash Road. Vehicles should carry extra fuel as needed.
A permit is required for all backcountry overnight camping trips.
You are responsible for knowing and abiding by all park rules and regulations.
A permit allows for up to 14 consecutive nights. When entering a reservation you may select multiple consecutive nights by clicking on the following date for the campsite/backpack zone you want. Select your first night first, then scroll down to see the list of all campsites/zones and activities. Do not reserve each night/activity separately. There are no refunds for multiple reservations.
Water is the limiting factor. There are very few water sources in the backcountry. The average backpack trip is 2 nights. You should plan to carry as much water as possible.
Island In the Sky/The Needles Designated Campsites
You will be contacted by the Canyonlands Backcountry Permit Office at email@example.com 7 days prior to your trip start date with instructions to confirm your trip and receive your permit by email.
The Maze and At-Large Backpacking Zones
You will receive a separate confirmation email from firstname.lastname@example.org with further instructions. You will be required to pick up your permit in person at the district visitor center.
Permits must be emailed by email@example.com or picked-up in person by 2:30PM MT the day of your trip. Trip leaders should contact the park if they will be late to obtain their permit.
Park Entrance Pass
A park entrance pass (physical or digital) is required for entering Canyonlands National Park.
Watch the required video to help plan your trip. Consider you and your group’s skill level and knowledge of the desert canyon environment. For trip planning information visit the Backcountry Trip Planning page and/or contact the Backcountry Permit Office, firstname.lastname@example.org, (435)- 259-4351 or Hans Flat Ranger Station for trips in the Maze, (435) 719-2218 (Do not call Hans Flat between 5 pm & 8 am except for Maze emergencies.)
Four-Wheel Drive Roads
A high-clearance, low-range 4WD vehicle is required for all backcountry roads (OHVs are not allowed). All-Wheel Drive (AWD) vehicles do not meet this definition. Vehicles on the White Rim Road should not exceed 10' in order to clear overhangs. Needles and Maze District roads require technical 4WD skills. Roads may be impassable due to flooding and quicksand, you must check the road conditions prior to your trip. Plan to travel in groups of 2 or more self-rescue capable vehicles. Towing recovery costs can exceed $1500.
At Large Backpacking Zones
These zones are not alternative options for vehicle camping and are not recommended as last-minute options when designated campsites are full. These zones are remote, have no reliable water sources, have specific regulations, and require a high degree of planning and navigation expertise. You may only camp within the boundaries of the zone(s) you have reserved. Make sure you plan your trip ahead of time and know the boundaries. Camping within 1/2 mile or 1,000 vertical feet of the rivers is not allowed without a packraft or river permit and all required equipment. Overview maps of backpacking zones are available on the park website, but topographic maps are strongly recommended for all backcountry trips.
Packrafters must reserve campsites or at large zones for each night spent outside of the river corridor (1/2 mile or 1,000 vertical feet of the river) and must abide by specific regulations and required equipment.
A park approved, hard-sided animal resistant food canister is required for the Salt Creek designated campsites, the Salt Creek/Horse Canyon Zone, and the Peekaboo campsites.
You must have a commercial human waste disposal bag at all designated backpack campsites and a washable/reusable toilet system at the Maze vehicle campsites and the Peekaboo and New Bates Wilson campsites in the Needles.
Pets are not allowed in the backcountry, even inside of vehicles.
Reservations are subject to review and violations may result in the permit being revoked.
There is a non-refundable $36.00 reservation fee for all overnight permit reservations for Canyonlands National Park.
There is a $5 per person per night permit fee. This fee is refunded for trips cancelled or shortened before the start date.
The $36 reservation fee is non-refundable. The $5 per person per night permit fee is refundable if a reservation is cancelled at least 3 days before trip start date (outside walk up window). These are highly sought after permits. As a courtesy to others, please notify the park as soon as possible if you decide not to use your reservation or any campsites on your reservation.
Changes to a reservation including number of people, vehicles, and itinerary (based on availability) can be made by through your recreation.gov account or by contacting the Backcountry Permit Office (435) 259-4351. Additional fees apply, reduced number of people or nights will be refunded.
You may list one alternate trip leader at the time of reservation. The trip leader and alternate trip leader may not be changed. To change an entry date, you must cancel the permit and reserve a new permit. All fees apply.
No permit changes are allowed once the permit has been issued.
2282 SW Resource Blvd. Moab Utah 84532
Email is the best option for a quick response, email@example.com. (435) 259-4351