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Shafer Canyon as seen from Island in the Sky, Shafer Trailhead.
Canyonlands is the biggest national park in Utah and some say the best, though the BugForce would disagree, we prefer our rocks to be in funny shapes, colours and easily accessible.
Canyonlands is, however, over 500 sq miles (800sq kms) of undeveloped wilderness - rocks, rivers, wildlife and plants interrupted by only two proper campgrounds and a couple of short paved roads, so for serious solitude seekers this is the park.
Canyonlands is split into three districts, Island in the Sky, The Needles and The Maze
The first, Island in the Sky, is where day trippers go, the highest mesa of the park with the highest number of visitors, a 20 mile paved road and a decent campground, though no water is available.
Views over ragged ravines and other mesas can stretch up to 100 miles, while one section of the Island sports a geological curiosity, a huge crater - ironically called the Upheaval Dome. Geologists can't decide if the crater was caused by underground salt deposits pushing the sandstone upwards or a meteor impact.
The Island's 100 mile White Rim Road is one of the best mountain biking and 4WD trails in the country and will take at least two days.
The Great Gallery, Horseshoe Canyon.
The Great Gallery is in Horseshoe Canyon and features native indian rock art. The full panel is 200 feet long, 15 feet high and the paintings are life-sized human figures. Horseshoe Canyon, also known as Barrier Canyon, is a detached part of Canyonlands National Park in Utah.
Various Colorado River canyons as seen from Grand Viewpoint Trail, Island in the Sky.
The Needles district offers many options scenically, but is not good for bikes or short-term visitors. This is hiking or serious 4WD territory and those with the time and right kit will discover a land of pinnacles, spires and grand arches bereft of tour buses, RVs and travelling sissies. The sissies can, however, sneak in the back way on the paltry 8 miles of hardtop and have a look at one of the best examples of petroglyphs in the area, Newspaper Rock.
The Maze is the wildest district of all, 30 sq miles of weird sandstone formations, a 600ft descent and very little water. Only the toughest survive.
A popular alternative to all that heat, rock and desert ambience is to plunge onto one of the two rivers - the Green or the Colorado - in rubber rafts, kayaks, canoes or even jet boats and spend the day surrounded by water. Unfortunately time was not on our side and we took part in no activities.
Newspaper Rock, in the only easy-to-access section of The Needles district shows 2,000 years of doodles.
Newspaper Rock, The Needles, near Canyonlands but in Arizona. Free-to-view.
This rock was etched with drawings by prehistoric people such as the Fremont and Pueblo cultures, as well as more recent Navajo and even paleface Anglos.
There is no way to precisely date rock art, nor are experts sure of the purpose of the drawings. They could be doodles, stories, hunting magic, or just The Needles Times, latest edition.
Newspaper Rock is located on Hwy 211, 25 miles before the entrance to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. It is 28 miles northwest of Monticello and 53 miles south of Moab.
Just across the highway from the petroglyphs is a pleasant picnic area and campground among cottonwoods along the Indian Creek, though rather close to the highway. There are 8 sites with vault toiletsthat are open year round on a first-come, first-served basis.
Canyonlands is open 24 hours a day all year round; the three visitor centres (Island in the Sky; Maze; Needles) mostly open mid-February through early December from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.