Most people have seen the photographs of Mesa Arch at sunrise, but they might not realize that Mesa Arch is in Canyonlands National Park. Canyonlands doesn’t have a lot of arches like the nearby Arches National Park. That doesn’t make Canyonlands any less spectacular of a national park. The park features an extensive network of mesas, buttes, and canyons along with parks of the Green and Colorado Rivers. This large national park has four districts – Island of the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the rivers. Camping in Canyonlands is a bit of a challenge since the districts spaced out and front-country camping is only offered in Island of the Sky and the Needles.
Camping will allow you to see the after-hours show in the park. Star-gazing in the Canyonlands can be spectacular from the campground or at one of the many arches. You can easily attend the evening ranger programs at the campground’s amphitheater.
All prices are accurate as of March 9, 2021.
- Canyonlands Campgrounds at a Glance
- Getting to Canyonlands National Park
- Things to Know about Canyonlands Camping
- What to pack for camping in Canyonlands National Park?
- Where to camp in Canyonlands National Park
- Getting a Canyonlands National Park Campsite
- RV Camping in Canyonlands National Park
- Canyonlands National Park Campgrounds
- Thoughts on Camping in Canyonlands National Park
- Pin to Save for Later: The Ultimate Guide to Camping in Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands Campgrounds at a Glance
|The Needles||Needles||March to November||Year-Round||29||$20||Yes||F*, FP, G, PA, W*|
|Willow Flat||Island of the Sky||No||Year-Round||12||$15||Yes||FP, G, PA|
- D – Dump Station
- F – Flush Toilets
- FP – Fire Pit
- G – Generator
- H – Full Hookups
- P – Pit Toliet
- PA – Accessible Pit Toliet
- L – Laundry
- S – Shower
- W – Water
- * – Seasonal
Getting to Canyonlands National Park
The closest airport to Canyonlands National Park is Grand Junction Regional Airport (GJT). This small airport is located about 1.5 hours from the park. The closest major airport is Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), located just over three and a half hours away from the park entrance. If you are road tripping through several of the nearby Utah, Colorado, Nevada or Arizona National Parks, airport options include Las Vegas (LAS), Denver (DIA) and Phoenix (PHX).
Canyonlands National Park is located about 5 miles north of Moab, Utah along US-191
There are several shuttle operators who run daily shuttles from Grand Junction or Salt Lake City to Moab, Utah. Currently, there is no public transportation within Canyonlands National Park.
Estimated Drive time to Canyonlands National Park from major cities
- Grand Junction, Colorado – 1.5 hours
- Salt Lake City, Utah – 3.5 hours
- Las Vegas, Nevada – 5.25 hours
- Denver, Colorado – 5.25 hours
- Phoenix, Arizona – 7.5 hours
Related – Best RV Rentals in Salt Lake City
Estimated Drive time to Canyolands National Park from nearby National Parks
- Arches National Park – 0.5 hours
- Capitol Reef National Park – 2 hours
- Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park – 3 hours
- Mesa Verde National Park – 3 hours
- Bryce Canyon National Park – 4 hours
- Zion National Park – 5 hours
- Great Basin National Park – 5 hours
- Grand Canyon National Park – 5 hours
- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve – 6 hours
- Rocky Mountain National Park – 6.5 hours
- Yellowstone National Park – 8 hours
Things to Know about Canyonlands Camping
- Canyonlands National Parks had 2 campgrounds. One campground is located in the Island of the Sky District and one campground is located in the Needles District. Camping is only permitted in this campground and in designed backcountry areas.
- The Campgrounds are open year-round.
- Reservations are available for 12 campsites in the Needles Campground from March to November.
- Reservations can be made up to six months in advance. Reservations are limited and if you want a reserved site you need to be ready to book exactly six months in advance of the first day of your trip.
- There are ADA-specific sites in both campgrounds.
- Generator use is permitted.
- The larger the RV the fewer campsites are available. The RV and travel trailers are limited to 28 ft in length.
- Hookups and Dump Stations are NOT available in Canyonlands National Park.
- Standard campsites can have up to 10 people. You are allowed a maximum of two vehicles and two tents. Large groups should reserve the one of the group sites Group Site.
- Checkout time for all campgrounds is 10:00 a.m.
- All wood and charcoal fires are allowed unless fire danger prompts special restrictions. All fires must be contained in park-provided fire pits. Please do not transport firewood. Burn it where you buy it. Firewood can be purchased in Moab The collection of vegetation for fires is prohibited.
- Please ensure that your fire out full out before leaving it unattended.
- Store all food items in your car. Please do NOT leave any food, utensils out, or any scented items. This includes toothpaste, toothbrush, chapstick. Please put everything else in your car or bear box. Scavenger animals are drawn to campgrounds in search of food items. If the animals find food, they will continue to hang around and start to become an issue. Please help keep the wildlife wild by not feeding them.
What to pack for camping in Canyonlands National Park?
- Printed Campsite Reservation: Just in case anyone asks for it.
- America the Beautiful National Parks Pass: Canyonlands National Park costs $30 for a 7-day pass. If you intend to visit more than 3 National Park Services sites in a year, the America the Beautiful Pass will more than pay for itself.
- National Park Passport: The National Park Passport Book is the cheapest and best souvenir of your national park adventures. This book makes it easy to collect the National Park Cancellation Stamps. The cancellation stamps have the date of your visit and make it easy to track when you visited each national park service unit.
- Tent: This is one of the heaviest and most important pieces of camping gear. It is your shelter from the elements at night.
- Sleeping Pad: A sleeping pad is a small, packable inflatable mattress. Here is my favorite closed cell sleeping pad.
- Sleeping Bag: Your sleeping bag is important for a good night’s sleep and preventing you from getting to cold.
- Pillow: An inflatable pillow is a lightweight comfort item that can make getting a good night’s sleep much easier.
- Camp Stove: This portable mini backpacking stove makes car camping cooking much easier. I’d rather cook on this over a campfire any day.
- Fuel for the camp stove: I generally by my camping fuel at Walmart or REI on my way to the park. You can’t fly with it so it’s just easier to get on site.
- Cooler: One great thing about car camping is that you can keep a cooler in your car and it can keep fresh meat cold and provide cold drinks.
- Kitchen Set: It doesn’t take much to make an impressive camp meal but having the right tools can make you seem like a gourmet chef.
- Cooking Pot: Since I use a camping stove, I have this great set of folding pots that I do most of my camp cooking with.
- Spork: The Spork is the essential eating utensil of the campsite.
- Food: If I bring a cooler, I love planning easy to cook camp meals with fresh ingredients otherwise, I use a mix of dry backpacking foods.
- Snacks – There are limited services in the park. So pick up all your snacks before you go. Pack a couple of different options so you are prepared for any craving.
- Fruit: Pick hard fruits such as apples or pears. These hold-up in the heat and in packs without getting squished to mush. Another option is freeze-dried fruit. Freeze-dried strawberries are the BOMB. They are crunchy, sweet and the best part is they are lightweight and yummy. These are my new favorite trail snack.
- Vegetables: Cucumbers and carrots hold up well during hiking and in a hot car.
- Granola Bars: Take your favorite non-coated in chocolate granola bars. Anything coated in chocolate will melt and be a sticky mess. My favorite is a selection of Cliff Bars. They are great even when squished.
- Refillable Water Bottles – Do your part to reduce litter in our parks by bringing a refillable water bottle with you. A reusable and refillable water bottle can save you a lot of money and really help the environment. Here are my favorite water bottles
- Hydration Bladder – If you are hiking longer distances, a hydration bladder is the best way to hike with significant quantities of water. It is a rare hike when I don’t bring a full bladder with me.
- Sunscreen – You don’t want to get burned on your visit.
- Lip balm – Your lips need just as much sun protection as your skin does.
- Sunglasses – Similar to sunscreen, you need a good pair of polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare of the sun.
- Hat – Hats are another sun protection device. A hat can keep the sun off your face and neck and help minimize the need for sunscreen while on the trail.
- First aid kit – As with any outdoor adventure, accidents happen. It is better to be prepared and have a compact first-aid kit ready to help with any accidents.
- Headlamp – Always keep a headlamp handy. You never know when you might want it. It can be used for midnight bathroom runs to sunrise/sunset hikes. A good headlamp makes it easy to operate in the dark.
- Shoes – Shoes are probably the most important piece of gear to any hiker. Hiking shoes should be seen as an investment. On the trail, your feet are your transportation and a solid pair of hiking shoes help support your feet and can prevent injury.
- Hiking Day Pack – A good day pack is the best way to transport all your gear when hiking. I highly recommend getting a backpack that is designed for outdoor use. These packs come with handy pockets and straps. My 40 L day pack has a pocket for my water bladder and a clip to hold the water line in place.
- National Park Obsessed Shirt – Share your love of the National Parks and support National Park Obsessed with a National Park Obsessed T-Shirt.
If you are new to visiting the National Parks, check out our National Park Essentials Guide to get you started.
Where to camp in Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands Campground Map
Campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park
- Willow Flat Campground
- The Needles Campground
Campgrounds in Arches National Park
- Devil’s Garden Campground
Click here to learn more about camping in Arches National Park.
Campgrounds in Dead Horse State Park
- Kayenta Campground
- Wingate Campground
USFS and BLM Campgrounds near Moab
- Goose Island Campground
- Grandstaff Campground
- Drinks Canyon Campground
- Hal Canyon Campground
- Oak Grove Campground
- Big Bend Campground
- Upper Big Bend Campground
- Upper Onion Creek Campground
- Lower Onion Creek Campground
- Fisher Towers Campground
- Hittle Bottom Campground
- Dewey Bridge Campground
- Jaycee Park Campground
- Williams Bottom Campground’
- Gold Bar Campground
- Horsethief Campground
- Cowboy Campground
- Kings Bottom Campground
- Moonflower Canyon Campground
- Hunter Canyon Campground
- The Ledge Campground
- Ken’s Lake Campground
- Courthouse Rock Campground
- Sand Flats Recreation Area
- Hamburger Rock Campground
- Oowah Campground
- Warner Lake Campground
- Mason Draw Campground
Private Campgrounds near Moab
- Act Campground
- Down Flats RV Park & Campground
- Moab KOA
- Moab Rim Camppark
- Moab Valley RV Resort & Campground
- Pack Creek Campground
- Portal RV Resort Campground
- Slickrock Campground
- Up Creek Campground
- Archview RV Resort & Campground
- Canyonlands RV Resort & Campground
- OK RV Park
- Spanish Trail RV Park
- Desert Moon Mobile RV
- Ballard RV Park
Getting a Canyonlands National Park Campsite
Canyonlands Camping Reservations
Reservations can be made half the sites in the Needles Campground from March 15 to November 15. Reservations can be made online at Receation.gov. Reservations are can be made up to six months in advance (i.e. Reservations for September 2 open on March 2). Reservations open at 10 a.m (EST). open.
It is highly recommended to make your reservation as early as possible this is especially true if wanting to make a July or August reservation. I’d create your account on Receation.gov and be ready at 10 am exactly six months before the trip.
Group site reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance.
Canyonlands First-Come-First-Serve Campsites
First-come, first-serve camping is available year-round. The Willows campground is always first-come-first-serve. Half the sites in the Needles Campground are first-come, first-serve Fill times varies depending on the season. But the earlier in the morning you arrive the better your chances of getting spaces. The campgrounds typically during the springm fall, weekends and around holidays.
Typical Canyonlands Campsite Fill Times:
Friday and Saturday and holidays have earlier fill times.
- Needles Campground
- Spring – Early Morning
- Summer – May not fill
- Fall – Early Morning
- Winter – May not fill
- Willow Flats Campground
- Spring – Early Morning
- Summer – May not fill
- Fall – Early Morning
- Winter – May not fill
RV Camping in Canyonlands National Park
There are no RV hookups in Canyonlands National Park. The longer your RV is the more limited your camping option. Not every campsite in a campground can accommodate the maximum length trailer.
The following Canyonlands campgrounds can accommodate RVs or travel trailers:
- Needles Campground – up to 28 ft in length
- Willow Flats Campground – up to 28 ft in length
Canyonlands National Park Campgrounds
The Needles Campground is a picturesque campground in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. This campground is nestled in rock formations and trees. There is a decent amount of shade in the campground and water is available in the campground.
This campground used to be known as Squaw Flats Campground and you may still find this campground called this term in official park literature or on other websites. Squaw is an offensive, derogatory, misogynist, and racist term for Indigenous women and should be removed from location names and our vocabulary.
Sites: 26 individual sites, 3 group sites
Cost: $20 per night
Reservations Accepted?: Yes for half the sites for stays between March 1 and October 31. The rest of the sites are first-come, first-served.
ADA specific sites: Yes, there are 2 designated campsites. One site is reserved for people with disabilities. The other is held for people with disabilities until 8 pm. After 8 pm, anyone may occupy that site for one night.
RVs?: Yes, the max length is 28 ft.
Facilities: Potable water, fire pit, flush toilets, picnic table, sinks
Season: The Needles Campground is open year-round.
Typical Fill Time: Early morning but varies by season
Closest General Store: Moab
Willow Flats Campground (Island of the Sky Campground)
Willow Flats Campground is located on the Island of the Sky District. This campground is located near the Green River Overlook making it a great place to for watching the sunsets while eating dinner. This campground is a limited development campground meaning you need to plan on bring your own water when camping here. From spring to fall, water is available at the visitor center. Most campsites have an open shelter to provide a bit of shade in the campground.
Sites: 12 individual sites
Cost: $15 per night
Reservations Accepted?: No, First-come, first-served
ADA specific sites: Yes, there is 1 designated campsite. The site is first-come-first-serve for people with disabilities year round.
RVs?: Yes, RV’s are limited to 28 ft.
Facilities: fire pit, vault toilets, picnic table
Season: Willow Flats Campground is open year-round.
Typical Fill Time: Early morning in the spring and falls. Varies the rest of the year
Closest General Store: Moab
Thoughts on Camping in Canyonlands National Park
I hope this guide answers all your questions about camping in Canyonlands National Park. If you still have question let us know in the comments below.