Hey, guys! Angelique here. I am so excited for the lucky 12 women who get to experience Canyonlands National Park with Sadie and me in October. We have a couple of spots left, so if you haven’t signed up but feel called to do so, give yourself this gift right NOW!! You don’t want to miss out!
I backpacked in Canyonlands for the first time in 2017, and I’ve gone back every year since. Typically, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t return to the same spot more than once. There are just too many beautiful spaces to explore in this amazing world of ours to keep visiting the same places over and over! Still, I keep going back to Canyonlands.
Canyonlands covers 337,598 acres of preserved land and is broken into three districts: Island in the Sky, Needles, and the Maze. While all of these districts are part of the same park, no roads connect the three. And even though the three have all been sculpted over time by water and gravity, each district has its own distinct characteristics.
Island in the Sky is the most popular part of the park because it is the most easily accessed. The turn off for Island in the Sky is only about 20 miles from Highway 191, which is the highway that takes you to Moab. Just before Island in the Sky is Dead Horse State Park, which makes visiting Island in the Sky even more appealing to tourists. Island in the Sky is recognized by its sandstone cliff mesa that rises 1,000 feet above the landscape below.
The Maze is the least accessible part of the park and therefore the least visited. It often makes the list of the most dangerous places to hike! The Maze is about 70 miles from Interstate 70 and is a 3.5-hour drive from Moab. Visiting the Maze and experiencing this isolated, untamed land requires a reliable high-clearance 4WD vehicle, as well as self-sufficiency, rock crawling capability, and time . . . lots of time. I took my Jeep to the Maze this past April, and even though our campsite was only 40 miles from paved road, it took 7 hours to get there! You’ll also need extra gas to get in and out of the Maze, and if you end up needing towed out, you’re looking at a $3000 bill!
I’ve saved the best for last! The Needles District will play host to our Simply Wild retreat. Needles is 74 miles outside of Moab, so while it sees more traffic than the Maze, it doesn’t see nearly as much traffic as Island in the Sky. The name “Needles” comes from the spires of Cedar Mesa sandstone that rise hundreds of feet above the slot canyons and vast grasslands that sprawl the district floor. Needles offers visitors a backcountry experience with opportunities for both hiking and four-wheeling. Backcountry campsites are spread out and must be reserved ahead of time, so you feel like you’ve got the place to yourself—and because it’s so remote, you kind of do!
In 2015, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) granted Canyonlands Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park status! In all the backpacking I’ve done, I’ve never seen the Milky Way and its clusters of stars and planets spill across the sky as clearly as I have among the pristine, uninterrupted dark skies of Canyonlands. As Canyonlands Superintendent Kate Cannon said, “The Milky Way stretching across the park’s incredibly dark night sky is a sight many visitors will never forget.”
Unspoiled night skies. Expansive sunrises and sunsets. Rugged terrain surrounded by geological wonders. Isolation from the outside world. These are just a few reasons why I love Canyonlands so much. I’m excited for you all to experience this and so much more at Simply Wild.