Canyonlands National Park, Maze District – Southern Utah.
A veritable feast for the eyes, with a plethora of pictographs, rock spires, mesas, slot canyons. And trails to make any rock-crawling, off-roading enthusiast quiver!
Depends on what you do
5 hours to Hans’ Flat
Pack plenty of extra, just in case.
Early spring or Late fall.
Open year round
Moderate to High
Cairns on bare rock. The road is soft sand, dirt, and solid rock.
None. Pack it out.
Hans’ Flat (not much of a visitor’s center)
Pack extra! There is not much to subsist on out there.
At LEAST one full size spare tire
At LEAST 5 gallons extra gas.
Tools (whatever is needed to work on your truck)
So, you are thinking about heading into the Maze. Good choice. The Maze District has always had a certain appeal to me. It is the south west section of Canyonlands, tucked below the confluence of the Colorado and Green river. The area is rugged, remote, and packed full of twisting sandstone slot canyons and spires of standing rock. There are arches, bridges, hoodoos, towers and a generous peppering of indian ruins and paintings.
Be warned: It is an isolated, empty, and very rough territory. It gets virtually no rain. The land is parched, arid, and noticeably devoid of animal life. The rangers warn there is NO reliable water source other than the Colorado (not easy to reach, see our Spanish Bottom Guide).
Also expect no help in case of injury or breakdown. From the Hans’ Flat Ranger station it can take six hours to reach The Doll House. There is no cell service. There are no random rangers. There are usually no other visitors. Once you enter the Maze, you are on your own, totally and completely. Backpacker Magazine just listed it as one of the top ten most remote and dangerous places in the continental United States. The National Park Service puts the number of annual visitors at less than 2,000. And of those ninety percent or more raft in on the Colorado and only visit the Dollhouse and Granary.
So be prepared. We’ll give you a few ideas of what to expect and how to prepare. Read this, then go have some fun!
Reviews by Others:
The Hans Flat Ranger Station is two and one-half hours from Green River, Utah. From I-70, take Utah Highway 24 south for 24 miles. A left hand turn just beyond the turnoff to Goblin Valley State Park will take you along a two-wheel-drive dirt road 46 miles (76 km) southeast to the ranger station.
The Alternate Hite (Highway 95) Route takes you down past Hanksville, towards the Lake Powell Hite boat ramp. This is longer by far, but stays lower elevation and is a good bet in winter or early spring.
Expect no less than 9 hours to really get into the Maze. Once you get past the Water Hole Flat, the road becomes increasingly rough. Rock-crawling rough. This is why the Maze has been called one of the most remote and dangerous places in the continental United States.
Bring everything you could possibly need to repair your vehicle. There will be no help coming quickly. The Park Service warns that towing your vehicle from within the Maze will cost easily $1000.
4 hours or so in, you get incredible views overlooking the Maze. Chimney Rock campsite allows some spectacular views allowing to truly take in your isolation.
The Maze is well worth the effort! We loved it and will be back. We finished our trip bumping and bouncing our way along the rocky road. Going in had been quick. Going out seemed to take forever. The truck rattled, our teeth rattled, and the engine began to make odd noises as if in protest. We decided to go as far as we could that night just in case the engine wouldn’t start in the morning.
The night was warm again, and we all slept out under the stars outside of the National Park. We had made a great fire, the first on the trip, and went to bed watching it burn down to embers.
In the morning we saw our first people. Two ratty pickups rushed by heading towards Canyonlands. The drivers waved amiably. We waved back, though there was a tangible change in my emotions realizing that our intense solitude was now officially over. It was back to ‘civilization’ for us.
We cranked up the music as we reached the paved road. I sat and pondered upon how odd it felt to suddenly be traveling so fast and so smoothly. It was so foreign after the last four days of terrible dirt road. And even in four days my heart had grown used to the true isolation of the Maze.
For more off road adventure visit these other Canyonlands Districts: