Virtually every National Park enthusiast considers Utah—which is home to 5 National Parks—to be a treasure trove of natural beauty. Most visitors are eager to flock to Zion, Bryce, or Arches. Even though Canyonlands receives far fewer visitors than its iconic cousins, the scenery is every bit as breathtaking. If you’re a fan of dark skies, remote hikes, and quirky roadside oddities—there is a good chance that Canyonlands will soon be your favorite National Park.
Canyonlands National Park is a Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park, which means that it is home to some of the darkest night skies in North America. Visitors can expect to see an impressive assortment of stars without the aid of a telescope. The Milky Way is visible with the naked eye, as are several planets. Depending on the time of year, visitors can attend ranger-led stargazing hikes. If you’re planning your own stargazing expedition, it is vitally important to make sure that there is no full moon in the sky that will obscure your view of the stars.
Needless to say, there is plenty to see at Canyonlands when the sun is shining. Canyonlands is home to some of the most distinctive red rock formations in the West, including the spiky peaks of the Needles District, which live up to their name. Most impressive of all is Druid Arch, which looks as though it was constructed by the same team who assembled Stonehenge. Accessing Druid Arch is not easy, as it does require a brutally steep 10-mile hike. A moment of solitude in the shadow of Druid Arch is certainly worth all of the huffing and puffing required to view one of nature’s most unique arches.
One of the many features that makes Canyonlands so unique is that there are several peculiar roadside attractions in and near the park. A family home that is literally carved into the side of a red rock mountain called Hole N’ The Rock never fails to wow visitors. Hole N’ The Rock served as Albert Christensen’s family home for many years. The remnants of a spiritualist compound called Home of Truth founded by a woman named Marie Ogden in 1933 who was eager to communicate with her deceased husband Harry is located just outside of the Needles District. Marie Ogden was originally from New Jersey, and sought a remote place where her followers could commune with the spirit world without the noise of city life interfering.
If you’re a seasoned hiker who is not afraid to journey off the grid, a trip to Canyonlands National Park will thrill you beyond words. Even if you’re a city slicker who likes to walk at a leisurely pace and explore roadside oddities, Utah’s best kept secret has plenty to offer. America’s lesser-visited National Parks are the best places to explore the beauty and restorative power of nature. Die-hard city dwellers should give Canyonlands National Park a try. A night under the stars surrounded by red rocks may foster a whole new appreciation for the outdoors.