This land was once the domain of prehistoric American Indians, who constructed their buildings out of the region's rock, hunted deer and bighorn sheep, and left numerous drawings on rock walls. Most of the park's archaeological sites are in the Needles District. They include the well-preserved cliff dwelling called Tower Ruin, high on a cliff ledge in Horse Canyon, and an easy-to-reach ancient granary, near the Needles Visitor Center, that is accessible on the short self-guided Roadside Ruin Trail. Throughout the park you'll also find evidence of more modern peoples -- the trappers, explorers, and cowboys of the 19th century.
In Horseshoe Canyon, a separate and remote section of the park on the west side of the Green River, you'll find the Great Gallery, one of the most fantastic rock art panels in the Southwest. More than 80 feet long, the panel contains many red-and-white paintings of what appear to be larger-than-life human figures. The paintings are believed to be at least 2,000 years old.
Exploring Canyonlands by Car
No driving tour has yet been designed to show off Canyonlands National Park. The Island in the Sky District has about 20 miles of paved highway, some gravel roads accessible to two-wheel-drive vehicles, and several view points. The Needles District has only 8 miles of paved roads. Many (but not all) of Needles' view points and trail heads are accessible only by high-clearance 4WD vehicles or on foot. The Maze District has only two main roads, neither of them paved. Both lead to trail heads.
If you happen to have a serious 4WD, and if you are equally serious about doing some hard-core four-wheeling, this is the park for you. Because of the constantly changing conditions of dirt roads, we strongly suggest that you discuss your plans with rangers before setting out.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.