The Unsettling Reasons This Bucket List Hike In Canyonlands National Park Is So Dangerous

You might be surprised to hear that Connecticut was ranked number one as a hiker's paradise, and you might have never heard about the amazing hiking at Oregon's only National Park, but you've certainly caught the news that Utah has more than its share of trails. From extreme to easy, Canyonlands National Park is one area that offers something for every type of hiker.


If you fall into the adventurous category, The Maze at Canyonlands National Park might be for you. This hike gives new meaning to the phrase, "off the beaten path." It's not only very remote, but would barely be considered a path. Plus, the landscape can be incredibly unforgiving. The weather can be extreme, you probably won't have cell service, and the terrain is incredibly challenging. So why visit this region of Utah? Because accomplishing this bucket list hike is rewarding on a variety of levels.

However, the endeavor should not be taken lightly. You will need to properly plan in order to execute a journey into The Maze safely, and be honest about your abilities. While this can be a dangerous trek, if you're well-prepared and have the right equipment, it can be more memorable than hazardous.


The risks and the rewards of hiking The Maze

This locale is far removed from services such as gas, repairs, or supplies, so make sure you have everything you need before you head out of town. You'll also need a 4WD vehicle with high clearance and an experienced driver to maneuver the terrain. It will take three to six hours of high-clearance, 4x4 driving to get into the canyons from the ranger station. 


While the extreme weather is responsible for the erosion that formed this dynamic landscape, it's also the primary danger for visitors. Expect temps that reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and sink to near zero in the winter. Even within the same day, you might see temperature variations of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The risk of dehydration is high, and The Maze has few water sources. Locating the few natural springs is essential since seasonal sources are unreliable, and always bring more water than you think you'll need. Navigation is also an issue in the backcountry. Be prepared with a good local map rather than relying on GPS. To complicate matters, you probably won't get cell service, so consider carrying a location device.


While The Maze is frequently listed as one of the most dangerous hikes in the country, the rewards for overcoming the challenges involved is what makes it worthwhile. And those rewards are many. Complete and utter solitude, stargazing devoid of light pollution, pictographs, and expansive landscape views are just a few.

The bigger picture of this gorgeous Utah park

Canyonlands National Park encompasses 528 square miles, and it is the largest national park in the state. It's divided into three regions. The easiest to access is the high mesa of The Island in the Sky, offering views of the confluence of the Green River and the Colorado River below. To the east you can take in the colorful sandstone formations, striking walls, and grassy stretches via The Needles, which takes longer to get to. Then there's The Maze. All of the regions within Canyonland National Park can be reached from the nearby cities of Green River or Moab. To get to the ranger station closest to The Maze, take I-70 west to Utah 24 south from Green River. Then head south until you see the marked road that travels 46 miles to Hans Flat Ranger Station.


For another way to behold the beauty of The Maze, book a boat tour on the Colorado River to see the sites from below. You can also catch a shuttle that will take you to Spanish Bottom, where you can hike into The Maze without the drive. But however you get there, be sure to get a permit if you'll be staying overnight. When you've knocked The Maze off your bucket list, head two hours west for more wild west outdoor adventures at Goblin Valley State Park.