The largest and least-visited park in the Southwest, Canyonlands National Park is both breathtakingly beautiful and totally inhospitable, an arid wilderness of high plateaus and deep canyon carved by the mighty Green and Colorado Rivers. The park is divided into several different areas, each of which is at least a 100-mile drive from the others, so it pays to plan ahead. The most popular section, the Island in the Sky, stands high above the confluence of the rivers and gives the most sweeping panoramas—100 miles in every direction from over 6,000 feet above sea level. South of the rivers, The Needles district holds 50 square miles of spires, arches, and canyons and is the best place to undertake lengthy hikes. One trail leads from the end of the road down to the mouth of Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River. Another area of Canyonlands, The Maze, is west of the rivers and virtually inaccessible.

There’s one visitors center near the entrance to Island in the Sky and another near the entrance to the Needles. The Canyonlands Park Headquarters (2282 SW Resource Blvd., 435/719-2313 or 435/259-7164) in Moab also has extensive information. Adjacent to Canyonlands are two state parks, Dead Horse Point in the north and Newspaper Rock in the south, both of which are also well worth a look.

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