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What to pack for Canyonlands National Park

What to pack for Canyonlands National Park

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Heading to Canyonlands National Park and wondering what to pack? It can be tricky knowing what to take with you when you visit a National Park. This is especially true when it comes to packing for Canyonlands. It’s a desert environment so you want to make sure you stay cool and covered to prevent overexposure form the sun. There’s also extra considerations to bear in mind if you’re hiking in Canyonlands. But don’t I’ve put together a packing list for Canyonlands National Park that’ll make sure you don’t forget the essentials!

About Canyonlands National Park

a packing list for canyonlands national park utah usa

Canyonlands National Park is just one of the many Utah National Parks (see this Utah parks map). It’s 337,598 acres of colourful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires and rivers in southeast Utah’s high desert.

It’s close to Arches National Park but the scenery is very, very different.

The park is split into four districts (The Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Rivers and The Maze) and Horseshoe Canyon. All these areas are divided by the Green and Colorado rivers. You’ll find desert atmosphere in each district, but they’re all different too in their own way. The Rivers can only be seen by boat and the Maze is the most remote area of Canyonlands.

Getting to and from each district can be difficult. You can’t get from one to other from within the park. You need to go back out the park and drive around it to get to another district. Because of this, it can take 2 – 6 hours by car to get from one district of Canyonlands National Park to another.

Since the Maze requires a lot of experience and backcountry expertise and the Rivers is boat access only, this packing list for Canyonlands National Park focuses on the Island in the Sky and the Needles districts.

A sight-seeing and hiking packing list for Canyonlands National Park

Clothing and Footwear

In the desert environment of Canyonlands National Park, sun protection is essential.

On your Canyonlands National Park packing list you’ll want to wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and, ideally a hat too.

The temperature in the park can change hugely in 24 hours, you should bring enough layers to adjust.

But don’t stress, this Canyonlands packing list has everything you’ll need on it so you won’t forget anything!

Underwear & base layers

I mean yeah, you can bring your usual underwear, of course, but if you’re planning on hiking a lot and want something a bit more resilient and quick-drying then you’ll want to invest in some quick-drying, wicking underwear and a sports bra.

Here are a few suggestions:

If you’re camping or planning to do some sunrise/sunset missions then you might want to pack some base layers with you just so you’re a bit warmer. We were travelling in our van and base layers while sleeping was the best on cold nights!

I love these leggings and this top for base layers.

Socks

You’re going to need some socks but the type you need depends on what you plan on doing. I’d suggest some casual socks that you’d wear everyday for when you’re chilling out, or browsing around Moab and then some thicker socks like these for hiking.

T shirts (long & short sleeved)

You’ll want a combination of t-shirts and the amount depends on how long your trip to Canyonlands is. I personally prefer long sleeved t-shirts over short sleeved ones.

However, if you’re visiting Canyonlands in the summer make sure you pack some short sleeves or tank tops since it gets hot in the afternoon.

Try to avoid cotton and opt for quick drying tees.

T-shirts (short): These tank tops are good for keeping cool on hikes | This short-sleeved tee is super lightweight |

T-shirts (long): long sleeve great for layering 

Warm thinner tops: Half zip shirt with thumb holes which for some reason I always really like (please tell me I’m not the only one!)

Leggings & shorts

You’re going to need something to wear on your bottom half too!

In the desert, the mornings and evenings can often be quite cold. If you’re hiking in Canyonlands at these times you’ll probably want to wear some leggings over shorts.

However, if you’re visiting the National Park during the day shorts are going to make you more comfortable. Just remember your sun cream!

Even though they’re expensive I love my Lululemon shorts and leggings on hikes. These shorts are longer than most of their range which I much prefer.

Otherwise, just pick up a pair of leggings from any store and you’re pretty much good to go! (I think these ones are super cute!)

Insulated hooded jacket or fleece

It doesn’t have to be hooded but you’ll want to make sure you pack an insulated jacket for your Canyonlands trip.

Thom and I both have jackets from The North Face. Mine is this The North Face Thermoball hoody and it’s so warm and cosy. They don’t seem to stock the exact same version anymore, but these are all basically the same idea.

I’ve had my eyes on one of these Patagonia fleeces forever. I actually just bought one and it’s the cosiest thing I own.

Waterproofs

You might think it sounds stupid to pack a waterproof for the desert. But it’d be stupid not to! The desert gets some rain every now and again even if it doens’t last for long.

Staying dry means staying warm and it’s just more pleasant to be in dry clothes than wet ones!

It’d be a good idea to pack both a waterproof jacket and waterproof pants for your trip to Canyonlands National Park.

This Marmot rain jacket comes at a good price, gets great reviews and comes in pretty colours. In terms of waterproof pants, Marmot again is a good bet for reasonably priced waterproof gear.

These are great as they have toggles around the ankles which stops rain running into your shoes or splashing up on to your leg under the pants.

If you think you’ll be spending a lot of time in rainier destinations then invest in a really good Goretex gear. Thom got me an Arc’teryx jacket for my birthday and I love it!

A hat

Depending on the season you’re going to want a sun-shielding hat, a winter hat or even both if you’re visiting Canyonlands in early Spring or late autumn.

Gloves or mittens

Add some gloves or mittens to your packing list for Canyonlands if you’re there in the colder months. I prefer mittens as I swear they keep my hands warmer!

These Smartwool ones are so cosy & warm!

A buff

Buffs are incredibly versatile. They’re good for staying both warm and cool as well as protecting yourself from the sun and the sand or dust.

Shoes

When it comes to packing for Canyonlands you’re most likely going to want to pack both hiking shoes with a sturdy and thick sole as well as something more casual.

What you take in terms of casual shoes is completely down to preference. I like my Addidas Stan Smiths but you could take some hiking sandals or flipflops for chilling around camp in.

With regards to hiking shoes, I love my Keen Terradora (review here) for summer hikes where I’m not carrying a big pack. They’d be perfect for most of the easier and moderate hikes in Canyonlands National Park.

However if you’re doing something longer where you’ll be carrying a big pack you’ll probably want something with more ankle support.

Personal items to pack for Canyonlands National Park

Besides clothes, you’ll also have to pack some other things to make sure you’re prepared for your trip to Canyonlands.

Some of these you’ll have already thought of, but others are fun things to pack that’ll just make your trip even more fun!

Daypack

q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B077XDPBNX&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=thatadven 20ir?t=thatadven 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B077XDPBNXEven on the shortest hikes having a day pack is a good idea. It’s somewhere to store your water and snacks as well as your 10 essentials.

I use my Lowe Alpine Aeon backpack all the time – full review here.

A Couple of Water Bottles or a Hydration System

q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B001NCDE98&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=thatadven 20ir?t=thatadven 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B001NCDE98This is down to preference but just make sure you have plenty of water. Canyonlands and Arches National Parks nearby recommend you drink at least a gallon a day (4 litres) of water.

Desert air is so dry that your sweat quickly evaporates. Often, you won’t know you are sweating.

Hydration systems are useful because you can drink without having to move anything from your bag. If you’re in the market for a hydration system, this one from Platypus is fantastic and I use it every day while dog walking.

Personally, I tend to use water bottles like this just out of habit. Plus, if you’re backcountry camping and need to purify your water, then you can have one bottle being purified and another you can drink from.

Dry bags

q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B001AZNATC&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=thatadven 20ir?t=thatadven 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B001AZNATCHaving some dry bags in your backpack while you’re out hiking in Canyonlands National Park is a great idea. Despite being in the desert, you never know when it’s going to rain.

I’d recommend some varied sizes, one for your phone and your camera as well as separate, larger one for your clothing layers.

A headlamp

q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B01KYTQ78K&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=thatadven 20ir?t=thatadven 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B01KYTQ78KEven if you don’t plan on camping or staying in the park after dark it’s important to always have a head lamp with you. You might get distracted watching the sunset and have to hike back to your car and a headlamp is super useful for that! Or, if you’re heading to a ranger talk this will help you get to and from them safely.

I like this headlamp (partly ’cause of the colour), but also because it’s super bright, can be dimmed, and doesn’t weigh much at all.

Quick-drying towel

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These ones are very light, pack up small and dry quick!

Toiletries

You’ll want these items whether you’re back country camping in Canyonlands or not.

If you are camping then be sure to check out my post on how to stay feeling clean without a shower. It’ll come in handy!

  • Toothbrush with cover and biodegradable toothpaste
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Women’s hygiene items – I swear by Diva cups and yes you can totally use them while hiking and camping, they only need wiping and rinsing. Waaay better for the environment too.
  • Personal wipes
  • Any medications you’re on

Sun protection

I’m fair skinned so sun protection is something I’m used to thinking about. When you go to Canyonlands you’ll need to think about it whether you usually do or not.

You’re in the desert, it’s going to be hot during the day time (unless it’s winter) and there’s often little shade.

Sun protection isn’t just sun cream. You’ll also need your hat form above, sunglasses and, ideally, some SPF rated lip balm.

  • Sunglasses
  • Lip balm
  • Suncream: is it weird to have a favourite sun cream because I totally do. I started wearing Sun Bum this past summer while out dog walking all day and I love the smell and how it feels. It makes me actually want to wear suncream rather than do it out of a need.

First-aid kit

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These first aid kits are super lightweight and have most of what you’ll need in them.

Bug Spray

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Add bug spray to your Canyonlands packing list. People always recommend bug sprays high in deet but personally these don’t seem to work that well for me. The ones that work best for me are citronella scented bug sprays. They also smell a lot better!

If you don’t want to use a bug spray that’s too chemically then you can get some great natural bug sprays such as these.

Camera

Trust me, you’re going to want to take photos!

Money

You’ll need it at some point!

National Parks pass

You can buy a yearly pass at REI.com which I think it’s by far the best value if you plan on visiting a few, or the same National Park more than 3 times in one year.

You can also buy a pass at the park gate but that’s $30 whereas the year pass is $80!

A Star Chart or Star App

This is by no means an essential but it will be fun. Canyonlands has super dark skies and if you stay at night you’ll be grateful you packing a star chart or added a star app to your phone.

SkyView® have a free app for iPhone or Android, which Thom has on his phone. You simply move your phone around the sky and it’ll show you the constellations. I love it!

Where to stay near Canyonlands National Park

You’re most likely to be either camping near Canyonlands or staying in a hotel in Moab. Take a look at my guide to Moab if that’s where you’re basing yourself while visiting Canyonlands National Park. Here’s a few suggestions of top hotels near Canyonlands National Park. 

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