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The Hidden Dangers in Canyonlands National Park

If you plan to visit Canyonlands National Park, knowing about the dangers you might encounter will help you have a safe trip.

This striking destination is popular due to its expansive views and abundant hiking trails. What could possibly be so risky about this park? 

Today, we’ll share some of the hidden dangers within Canyonlands so you know what to expect.

Let’s roll!

Man sitting on bicycle looking at magnificent view dangerously close tto the edge of a cliff in Canyonlands National Park, Moab, Utah.
Drop-offs are one of the many dangers in Canyonlands

The Wonders of Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands is Utah’s largest national park. Located in the state’s southeastern region, it features stunning vistas and geological formations. The Green and Colorado Rivers converge here, creating three distinct districts. 

Islands in the Sky is the northernmost region. You could easily mistake the massive gorges for part of the Grand Canyon. You’ll see large plateaus towering above the landscape as you look around. 

You may even find yourself in the clouds when conditions are right. If it isn’t overcast, you might be able to see 20 miles in every direction from the 1,500-foot-high mesa.

Southeast of Islands in the Sky is the Needles District. Covered in desert brush and rock spires, it feels like another planet. This area is popular for backcountry explorers and has numerous hiking trails and campgrounds. 

The Maze is the most isolated part of Canyonlands and perhaps the most dangerous. Typically, only folks with lots of experience traverse this rugged terrain. You won’t find established trails, and the labyrinthian landscape can easily disorient folks who aren’t prepared. 

No matter which Canyonlands district you visit, you’ll be up against certain unavoidable dangers. While it isn’t necessarily more treacherous than any other remote area, you’ll want to know the risks before heading into the park. 

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you already know that weather can be one of the greatest threats to your safety. Here are three of the most serious climate-related hazards in the park.

Intense Heat

Shade is often hard to come by in Canyonlands. And the combination of prolonged sun exposure and high temperatures can be deadly. During summer, it might reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Drinking at least a gallon of water daily is a good baseline. However, you’ll want to pack extra for your excursion in a worst-case scenario. 

You can find water refill stations in some parts of the park, but in areas like The Maze, you’ll be limited to what you can carry. If you have a water filtration system, you might bring it as a backup. 

In addition to staying hydrated, it’s a good idea to wear a hat and light, loose-fitting clothes that protect you from the sun. 

Need a place to stay? The Best Free Camping Near Canyonlands National Park.


The weather in Canyonlands can turn on a dime, and you could be in grave danger when it does. Pop-up thunderstorms mean more than a pleasant shower when you’re in the desert. Because the ground is so dry, rainwater stays on the surface, creating flash floods. 

The National Parks Service website states that the only safe option during these storms is to get in your vehicle or back indoors. That said, seeking shelter inside is probably impossible if you’ve hiked miles to a campsite. 

Before you set up camp, take a look around your site. If it looks like a dry riverbed, assume it’s an area where water flows during storms. Choose a spot above the flood zone but below high-altitude places prone to lightning strikes if possible. 


Because the park is in the high desert, you can expect blazing daytime temperatures during the summer. But the cold that moves in after nightfall may surprise you and is one of the hidden dangers of Canyonlands. Dress in layers to ensure you’re ready for whatever Mother Nature has in store. 

In winter, it can stay well below freezing day and night. And from late fall to early spring, the risk of hypothermia increases. 

Even if you’re only planning a day hike, pack essentials to prepare for an overnight stay. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you injure yourself or become disoriented, you’ll be glad you brought that sleeping bag.

Dangerous Wildlife in Canyonlands National Park

You can expect to encounter the locals whenever you venture into the wilderness. And at Canyonlands, some of them are pretty dangerous.

Venomous creatures like rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders hide in unsuspecting places. Watch your step as you hike through the park, and never put your hand in a nook or cranny you can’t see into. 

Larger animals you might meet include black bears, mountain lions, and mule deer. As always, give them plenty of space and avoid leaving food that could attract them. 

If you encounter any predators, you can yell and make yourself look big to scare them away. Don’t turn your back on them until they’re out of sight. 

Finally, many animals and insects in the park can transmit diseases. Wear bug repellent and keep your distance from rodents like beavers and kangaroo rats. 

A nearby, but extremely crowded park: 5 Reasons To Avoid Arches National Park In 2022.

What Are the Dangers of Hiking in Canyonlands?

It’s no wonder this national park is a hot spot for hikers. The striking red-rock cliffs, sprawling vistas, and hidden oases draw in tons of annual visitors eager to explore. However, beauty and danger often go hand-in-hand, and Canyonlands is no exception. 

Sharp drop-offs are typical on the mesas, so avoiding ledges is critical. Sadly, stories of people dying while attempting an epic selfie are more common than ever. Don’t be the next casualty. Even a short fall can be disastrous when you’re deep in the high desert. 

Canyonlands’ remote location means cell service will be spotty. You shouldn’t expect to make any calls unless you have a satellite phone and a backup charger. While plenty of people head to the wilderness precisely for this isolation, it can be deadly if you have an accident.

Even if you can call for help, rescuers may be unable to reach you. Take a park map with you and stay on designated trails. If you do happen to meet trouble, you’ll have a better chance of being rescued if you know where you are. 

Plan your excursions with the Moon Arches & Canyonlands National Parks: Hiking, Biking, Scenic Drives.

Are the Dangers of Canyonlands Worth It?

Even though danger lurks in Canyonlands National Park, we still think this destination is worth the risk. Don’t let fear deter you from exploring this otherworldly landscape.

As with any other wilderness area, it’s vital to use common sense, stay aware of your surroundings, and plan for the worst. If you do these things, you should have an excellent time in the park and return with fantastic memories.

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