Outdoors + Nature

Secrets of the National Parks

by Brook Wilkinson

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

The setting: This red-rock wonderland is far less touristed—and much bigger—than neighboring Arches National Park.

The inside scoop: Utah resident Cate O'Hare Adams has visited Canyonlands over a dozen times with her family. Her favorite memory of the park comes from a multiday rafting trip through Cataract Canyon with Western River Expeditions. After running 100 miles through the park to Lake Powell—floating calmly down the canyon most of the time, but with one thrilling day of riding more than 30 white-water rapids—guests board a small plane for the scenic flight back to Moab. "My pilot was the former head park ranger for Canyonlands," says Adams, "and he showed us from the air all of the places we had hiked to and camped at the past few days."

Plan B: Bike the White Rim Road, a 100-mile Jeep trail that loops around the "Island in the Sky," a high mesa with endless views. You can reserve permits to camp along the way, or book a guided trip through Rim Tours (from $675 for three days).

Money-saving tip: Adams shares a condo at the Moab Springs Ranch with another family to make the trip more affordable. "They have streams and pools, and hammocks hanging in the trees that are wonderful after a day of mountain biking or hiking," she says. A two-bedroom condo, which can sleep up to eight, goes for just $240 per night. For more advice on visiting this region, including the Grand Canyon, read Condé Nast Traveler's "10 Perfect Days in the American Southwest."

When to go: If you're heading to the park in the heat of summer, book a river tour—where the air is cool and the water even cooler—or plan to get out early and spend the middle of the day by your condo's pool.

Next: Looking for lava >

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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