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.
Needles Visitor Center is closed in winter. Self-Register backcountry permits are only available outside the visitor center entrance.
Permit required for all backcountry overnight camping trips.
Need to Know
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. Scroll down to see a 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.
Permits must be picked-up in person by 2:30PM MT the day of your trip or your reservation will be cancelled. Instructions on where and when to pick-up your permit will be included in your reservation confirmation letter.
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, email@example.com, (435)- 259-4351 or Hans Flat Ranger Station for trips in the Maze, (435)-259-2652 (Do not call Hans Flat between 5 pm & 8 am except for Maze emergencies.)
A high-clearance, low-range 4WD vehicle is required for all backcountry roads (OHVs are not allowed). All-Wheel Drive vehicles do not meet this definition. 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.
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 canister is required for areas in the Needles.
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.
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 permit reservations for Canyonlands National Park.
Once a permit reservation is completed, it is non-refundable.
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. If the permit has not been issued by 2:30PM MT on the first day of the trip, the entire reservation will be cancelled.
Changes to a reservation including number of people, vehicles, and itinerary (based on availability) can be made by contacting the Canyonlands National Park Backcountry Permit Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (435) 259-4351.
You may list one alternate trip leader to which the permit may be transferred.
To change an entry date (i.e., entire trip dates), you must cancel the permit and reserve a new permit. All fees apply.
No permit changes are allowed once the permit has been issued.
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