Canyonlands National Park is in Utah, not far from the city of Moab and the Arches National Park. It is 1,366 km2 (848.7 sq mi) of desert canyons, mesas and river gorges etched into the sedimentary rock by the passage of time and the Colorado River system.
Two main rivers, the Colorado and the Green Rivers, and their tributaries divide the park into three areas: the Islands in the Sky, the Needles and the Maze. The rivers themselves provide a fourth distinct area to explore.
The climate is classed as high desert, with land reaching elevations of ~1,219 to 1,828 m (4,000 to 6,000 ft) and overall less than 25 cm (10 in) of rainfall a year. The park therefore experiences wide fluctuations in temperature, with heat at the height of summer exceeding 100°F plunging to lows of 0°-20°F in winter.
Typical of a desert environment, many of the mammals that live here are either crepuscular or nocturnal, preferring to forage during the cooler evenings or at night-time. These include mule deer, coyotes, porcupines and black-tailed jackrabbits at nightfall, with rodents, foxes, bats and owls at night. Visible by day are some of the park’s 273 resident and migratory bird species, the most common of which are ravens.
There’s evidence of nomadic populations visiting this area from 2000 - 1000 BC, through a wealth of distinctive rock art called ‘Barrier Canyon style’. Visible mainly on the cliff walls of Horseshoe Canyon, these murals and petroglyphs are believed to be some of the oldest in the United States.
The rugged terrain makes Canyonlands an ideal pilgrimage spot for hikers, backpackers and mountain bikers. There are no roads within the park linking the four districts, but there are trails ranging in difficulty from easy to much more strenuous. For those seeking solitude or exploring off the beaten track, the Maze district is the remotest of the areas attracting only 3% of the 350,000 visitors annually.