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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Utah: The White Rim, Canyonlands

A bit of nerve opens up the stunning canyonlands made famous by Wile E. Coyote.

by: Steve Howe

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Contact Information:

Canyonlands National Park 2282 S. West Resource Blvd. Moab, UT 84532-8000 801/259-7164

Location: The White Rim is in southeast Utah, north of the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers in Canyonlands National Park, 35 miles southwest of Moab, Utah. For more area information, contact:

Grand County Travel Council
Box 550
Moab, UT 84532

San Juan County Travel Council
Box 490
Monticello, UT 84535

Getting There: To get to the Needles District, from U.S. 91 take Utah 211 west. To get to the island in the Sky District, from U.S. 91 take Utah 313 south. To get to the Maze District, from Utah 24 or 95 take two- and then four-wheel drive routes east.

Seasonal Information: The busiest seasons are spring and fall, when daytime highs average 600 to 80ºF and lows average 200 to 50ºF. Spring brings wildflowers to life and autumn ushers in golden leaves.

Summer temperatures average in the low 90s in the day and the 60s at night. In July and August, there can be a strong chance of thunderstorms.

Winter temperatures average in the high 30s in the day and low 20s at night.

Wildlife: Common are desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyotes, peregrine falcons, golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, ravens, blue herons, river otters, and beaver.

Insects: Mosquitoes, cedar gnats, and deer flies all make their presence felt in Canyonlands' backcountry. At times, mosquitoes and deer flies can be so intense as to make tentless camping very difficult and long pants mandatory for hiking in wash bottoms. Early spring and fall are good times to avoid these pests.

Plant Life: There are 94 types of flowers that grow in this region.

Facilities: Backpackers stay either in designated sites or in at-large camping zones.

In the Needles district, there is frontcountry camping at Squaw Flat, offering water and pit toilets for $6 per night. In the Island in the Sky District, Willow Flat offers free sites with pit toilets. Both campgrounds provide picnic tables and grills. These sites operate on a first-come, first-served basis.

There are group sites for 11 or more people in the Needles District. These must be reserved for $10 plus $2 per person per night. To reserve, call 801/259-4351.

Needles Outpost, a private campground, is located adjacent to the Needles District. This site provides gas, food, and jeep rentals spring through fall.

Campgrounds usually fill every night from March to Memorial Day and again from Labor Day through mid-October, so be prepared with a backup plan in case no sites are available.

There are visitor centers in the Sky and Needles districts. The information center for the Maze District is located at Hans Flat Ranger Station.

Parking: Contact park office for information.

Permits: A backcountry permit is required and should be reserved well in advance. Permits are also required for both day and overnight horse use in the park. No permit is required for day hiking.

During the spring and fall, demand for backpacking and four-wheel-drive camping permits frequently exceeds the number available. To reserve, call 801/259-4351.


  • All wood fires are prohibited in the backcountry except in the river corridor. Charcoal fires are allowed only at vehicle campsites and in the river corridor.
  • Pets are prohibited in the backcountry, even inside vehicles.
  • Hunting or feeding wildlife is prohibited.
  • Climbing on natural arches is prohibited (except for Washer Woman Arch) and climbing is not permitted in the Salt Creek Archaeological District in the Needles. All climbing must be free or clean aid climbing.

FEES From March through October, there is an entrance fee of $4 for private vehicles or $2 for cyclists and walk-ins (good for seven days).

For day use in restricted areas, the permit fee is $5; for backpacking, $10; for flat water, $10; for four-wheel drive campsites, $25; for Cataract Canyon white water, $25. During the spring and fall, reservations (800/22-3770) are recommended.


  • Though large snowfalls are uncommon in the park, even small amounts of snow or ice can make trails and roads treacherous or impassable.
  • Beware of flash floods.
  • Bring your own water. One gallon per person per day is the minimum recommended.
  • Pack in, pack out.

Leave No Trace:

  • Remain on marked trails.
  • When you see rocks piled along the roads or campsites, do not try to move them or drive beyond them. They are placed there by rangers to help stop further destruction of impacted areas. All LNT guidelines apply.

Maps: Topos and other maps are available at any of the Park Service visitor centers. Backcountry Trip Planner is a good source.

Publications are also available from: Canyonlands Natural Historical Association
3031 South Highway 191
Moab, UT 84532

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