Four-Wheeling in Canyonlands National Park
Nearly 200 mi of challenging backcountry roads lead to campsites, trailheads, and natural and cultural features in Canyonlands. All of the roads require high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles, and many are inappropriate for inexperienced drivers. Especially before you tackle the Maze, be sure that your four-wheel-drive skills are well honed and that you are capable of making basic road and vehicle repairs. Carry at least one full-size spare tire, extra gas, extra water, a shovel, a high-lift jack, and—October through April—chains for all four tires. Double-check to see that your vehicle is in top-notch condition, for you definitely don't want to break down in the interior of the park: towing expenses can exceed $1,000. For overnight four-wheeling trips you must purchase a $30 permit, which you can reserve in advance by contacting the Backcountry Reservations Office (435/259–4351). Cyclists share all roads, so be aware and cautious of their presence. Vehicular traffic traveling uphill has the right-of-way. It's best to check at the visitor center for current road conditions before taking off into the backcountry. You must carry a washable, reusable toilet with you in the Maze District and carry out all waste.
Island in the Sky
White Rim Road. Winding around and below the Island in the Sky mesa top, the dramatic, 100-mile White Rim Road offers a once-in-a-lifetime driving experience. As you tackle Murphy's Hogback, Hardscrabble Hill, and more formidable obstacles, you will get some fantastic views of the park. A trip around the loop can be done in one long day, or you can camp overnight with advance reservations. Campsite reservations open in July for the subsequent year, and popular spring and fall weekends fill up immediately. Bring plenty of water, a spare tire, and a jack, as no services are available on the road. White Rim Road starts at the end of Shafer Trail. Off the main park road about 1 mile from the entrance, then about 11 miles on Shafer Trail, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, UT, 84532. 435/259–4351. www.nps.gov/cany.
Elephant Hill. The first 3 miles of this route are designated as passable by all vehicles, but don't venture out without asking about road conditions. For the rest of the trail, only 4WD vehicles are allowed. The route is so difficult that many people get out and walk—it's faster than you can drive it in some cases. From Elephant Hill Trailhead to Devil's Kitchen it's 3½ miles; from the trailhead to the Confluence Overlook, it's a 14½-mile round-trip and requires at least eight hours. Don't attempt this without a well-maintained 4WD vehicle and spare gas, tires, and off-road knowledge. Off the main park road, 7 miles from park entrance, Needles, Canyonlands National Park, UT, 84535.
Flint Trail. This remote, rugged road is the most popular in the Maze District, but it's not an easy ride. It has 2 miles of switchbacks that drop down the side of a cliff face. You reach Flint Trail from the Hans Flat Ranger Station, 46 miles from the closest paved road. From Hans Flat to the end of the road at the Doll House it's 41 miles, a drive that takes at least six hours one way. The Maze is not generally a destination for a day trip, so you'll have to purchase an overnight backcountry permit for $30. Despite its remoteness, the Maze District can fill to capacity during spring and fall, so plan ahead. Hans Flat Ranger Station, 46 miles east of Rte. 24, Maze, Canyonlands National Park, UT, 84525.
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